chapter  7
15 Pages

Burning plutonium in reactors: implications for disposition

WithWilliam J. Weida

The use of plutonium in reactors has been proposed for two reasons - first, to use the energy in plutonium to generate power and second, to make plutonium unusable as weapon-grade material. Since existing fast breeder reactors can only burn a limited amount of plutonium, any effective program to dispose of plutonium through burning would require a massive reactor construction program - a very expensive proposition. Proponents of plutonium use in breeder reactors acknowledge that these reactors are currently very uneconomical. However, they also claim that breeder reactors will be necessary in the future when other fuels become scarce. In the Former Soviet Union, the breeder reactor was originally planned as a source of plutonium for bombs. Thus, plutonium burning, which is not attractive economically, requires complex fuel fabrication, and is feasible for one or two cycles only is an unlikely solution for the disposition problem.