Environment News Service

Environment News Service: AmeriScan: August 8, 2000

DOE CRITICIZED FOR FAILURE TO SHUT DOWN IDAHO REACTOR

WASHINGTON, DC, August 8, 2000 (ENS) - In reaction to a critical report by the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Inspector General, 37 public interest organizations are condemning the DOE’s failure to close the Experimental Breeder Reactor II (EBR II) in Idaho. In 1994, Congress directed EBR II closed "as soon as possible," but that directive has not been carried out. The Inspector General found that just $55 million of the $444 million that Congress has allocated for termination activities went toward shutting down the reactor. The Congressional directive, supported by the Clinton administration, was to end the Advanced Liquid Metal Reactor (ALMR) program and close EBR II. EBR II is a sodium cooled reactor that "breeds" more plutonium than it consumes.

In an August 7 letter to Energy Secretary Bill Richardson, the public interest organizations echoed the sharp criticism of the DOE’s own Inspector General. Included in the groups signing the letter were the Snake River Alliance, U.S. Public Interest Research Group, the Nuclear Control Institute, Natural Resources Defense Council, Federation of American Scientists, Physicians for Social Responsibility, and the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability. Frank von Hippel, Professor of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University, signed the organizations’ letter and explained that "It is U.S. policy not to undertake or encourage reprocessing because it increases the danger of diversion of plutonium to weapons use." Tom Clements, executive director of the Nuclear Control Institute, said, "The U.S. wisely rejected plutonium breeder reactors and associated reprocessing of spent fuel, but the DOE has failed to ensure that both Congressional directive and U.S. non-proliferation policy are followed and that EBR II be shut down."

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