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Future of the Nuclear Security Environment in 2015: Proceedings of a Russian—U.S. Workshop
underestimation of safety issues.
By the end of the 1980s, analysis of previous industry experience led N.A. Dollezhal Research and Development Institute for Power Engineering (NIKIET) physicists and designers, under the direction of the Director Evgeny Adamov, to abandon the ‘fast breeder’ in favor of the ‘fast reactor of natural safety’166 (BREST). Based on advances achieved since the 1950s–1960s, these physicists proceeded with engineering designs for the following:
equilibrium FR operation with breeding ratios (BR) of approximately 1 (the advantages of which were understood as early as the 1960s)
the use of nitride, rather than the oxide fuels used in the early FR (e.g. metal fuel used at ANL)
on-site dry reprocessing (Scientific Research Institute of Atomic Reactors; Idaho National Laboratory) instead of the aqueous process used in military applications
non-combustible, molten Pb coolants (based on experience with Pb-Bi for submarines) rather than Na
By the end of the 1990s, Minatom prepared the Nuclear Power Development Strategy and the technical basis for the Initiative of the Russian President at the United Nations with a brief political statement of objectives.167
Compared to other countries, Russia is better prepared to create a fast reactor capable of resolving fuel and energy problems. The technical and financial issues are manageable; more difficult to overcome are the negative connotations and unfavourable economics that came to prevail in the industry during the decades of stagnation.
Although a great deal of Pu has accumulated already and its breeding, in the short-term, will not be necessary, it will be difficult to move forward without revising the ‘fast breeder’ concept. This could be done by simple estimation, but it would be improper and inconclusive without referring first to the greatest primary source–Fermi.168
THE ORIGIN OF THE FAST BREEDER STEREOTYPE
In April 1944, the separation plant at Oak Ridge was not yet in operation, and in his first outline for fast reactor-based nuclear power Fermi decided against the energy-consuming and expensive separation of uranium isotopes. Fast reactors would not run on natural uranium, so he started with a parent graphite or heavy-water-moderated thermal reactor, which would rapidly consume uranium and produce little Pu. Then, as fast reactors were brought into operation, they would initially run on the Pu from these thermal reactors and then ‘multiply’ or ‘breed’ their own
Equivalent to ‘inherent safety’ extended to waste and proliferation. In the 1970s, Alvin Weinberg predicted a “moratorium” for construction of new nuclear power plants in the U.S. and later envisioned a new start of nuclear power with inherently safe nuclear plants; in reality, however, the whole effort was reduced to the development of “passive” reactor safety features. “Continuing the Nuclear Dialogue: Selected Essays,” American Nuclear Society, 1985.