The International Panel on Fissile Materials (IPFM) has condemned Fast Breeder Reactors. ‘After six decades and the expenditure of the equivalent of tens of billions of dollars,’ it says, ‘the promise of breeder reactors remains largely unfulfilled and efforts to commercialize them have been steadily cut back in most countries.’

In a damning judgement, the IPFM report says that the reactors are ‘plagued by high costs, often multi-year downtime for repairs (including a 15-year reactor restart delay in Japan), multiple safety problems (among them often catastrophic sodium fires triggered simply by contact with oxygen), and unresolved proliferation risks’.

Even the nuclear industry itself doesn’t seem particularly enthusiastic about them. Only this week India announced that its first commercial Fast Breeder Reactor (which is at least 40% over budget and a year late) will be delayed for at least a year. Japan’s experimental Monju Fast Breeder plant in Fukui Prefecture has been closed since 1995, following a series of safety scares. The last one in Europe, the Super Phenix, closed in 1996 after operating for just 53 months in the 11 years it was open.

One US Admiral Hyman Rickover said that fast breeder reactors are…

…expensive to build, complex to operate, susceptible to prolonged shutdown as a result of even minor malfunctions, and difficult and time-consuming to repair…

Who was Hyman Rickover? He was the man who invented the nuclear submarine. He offered that criticism of fast breeder reactors in 1956. That’s 60 wasted years and 50 billion wasted dollars ago.

More information on the report is over IPFM website.