Superphenix will not rise
PARIS — The French government's decision not to restart the controversial Superphenix plutonium "fast breeder" reactor (FBR) is the final curtain call for the plutonium economy, Greenpeace said on June 30.
The decision followed the publication of a leaked critical internal governmental safety report. The announcement came on the eve of Greenpeace's release of a public opinion poll showing that a majority of the French public does not believe that adequate safety has been guaranteed for the reactor's restart.
The Superphenix was opened in 1986 and was enthusiastically hailed as the prototype for a new generation of commercial-scale FBRs. FBRs were intended to use plutonium as fuel and produce more plutonium in the process of generating energy.
Constructed and operated at a cost over 50 billion francs, the reactor was so plagued with technical and safety problems that it was shut down nearly two years ago.
In preparation for this new generation of reactors, France and Britain opened plutonium production factories ("reprocessing plants") in which plutonium for FBRs has been extracted from the irradiated nuclear fuel from conventional reactors. Hundreds of tonnes of commercially unusable plutonium will be extracted by the decade's end and will cause, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency, "a major political and security problem worldwide". [From Greenpeace/Pegasus.]