Experimental Breeder Reactor II—the Path Not Taken

Experimental Breeder Reactor II was a liquid metal (sodium) cooled fast breeder nuclear reactor and power generation station with integral fuel reprocessing built at the U.S. National Reactor Testing Station in Idaho. The installation incorporated an integral fuel reprocessing plant, which allowed it to operate in a closed-loop fashion, with only natural uranium as input and fission product nuclear waste as output. At full power, the reactor produced 62.5 megawatts of heat and 20 megawatts of electricity, which were used by facilities of the Testing Station.

The reactor went critical in 1965 and operated through 1969 in the original breeder configuration, and then was converted to serve as a prototype for the Integral Fast Reactor concept. The reactor continued to operate, providing electricity and heat, until it was shut down and decommissioned in 1994 after the United States decided its “bridge to the twenty-first century” did not have abundant, safe, and carbon-free electrical power on the other side.

The reactor was designed for passive safety: unlike water-moderated reactors used in most civil nuclear power plants, complete failure of the cooling system would not result in a meltdown or other damage to the reactor. This was demonstrated in two tests run in 1986, when first the primary and then the secondary cooling systems were turned off while the reactor was running at full power: no damage occurred. There were no nuclear accidents or radiation release over the reactor’s 30 years of operation.

This video provides an excellent overview of the breeder fuel cycle, plant design, and fuel reprocessing operations. For the rationale behind fast breeder reactors as a source of electrical power, see the 2022-04-25 post “Nuclear Fission Fuel is Inexhaustible”.


Why this path was not widely pursued, is inexplicable, if not suicidal. Soon, sweating citizens - whose “sustainable” A/C units can’t work for lack of electric generation capacity - will congregate in the moving shade of giant windmills to cool off, even as they try to avoid the bird carcasses scattered throughout the rotating shadow field.


There is an ancillary message implied in this film: it reminds me of some of the (few) educational films I watched during my K - 12 schooling. This film, like those, is clear and concise in educating the audience. Further, this suggests how we might better educate today’s students. I suspect that producing a comprehensive series of films - according to a sensible and non-ideological curriculum (I know this is impossible nowadays) - could replace most of the state’s propagandists/social revolutionaries and all of the administrators (today’s students are, after all, very likely to pay attentions to anything on a video screen). There is no doubt such an undertaking would save a massive amount of money. Just as failure to create sufficient carbon-free electric generation, failure to educate succeeding generations is suicidal. As I think about it, this apparent coincidence is obviously intentional. Collapse will inevitably augment the power of the most extreme statists. The remaining subjects will not merely tolerate the tyranny, they will beg for it. The present oligarchy is evil; nonetheless it knows how to increase it power and control and is in the process do so - right before our eyes - regardless of the human cost.


I spent a fair bit of time in the industrial wastelands of wind power fields. I saw no dead birds. What I remember is the eerie whoop-whoop sound along with the shadows being cast miles away, with the dirt roads and power lines carving through the previously idyllic farmland. At night, blinking red lights that makes it seem like an alien invasion.


What about LFTR?


I wrote about Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors (LFTR) on the now-defunct Ratburger site. The technology was successfully demonstrated in the 1960s by the Molten-Salt Reactor Experiment, which like EBR-II, went critical in 1965. It was a smaller reactor, just 7.4 megawatts thermal, and just demonstrated the reactor core and inherently safe cooling mechanism. It did not include the thorium blanket or processing plant required to extract bred U-233 from the blanket and add it to reprocessed fuel elements from the core. The reactor ran until 1969 when the experiment was concluded with all objectives met. There were no accidents or problems with the reactor.

The thorium fuel cycle was not pursued in the U.S. because the uranium fuel cycle was far more mature at the time and, with breeder technology, considered adequate for centuries to come. A major advantage of the thorium fuel cycle is that it provides less opportunity for diversion into nuclear weapons, but this was not seen as of great importance in the 1960s.

There are a number of projects pursuing this technology today, but none has progressed beyond design and small scale demonstrations.


What with the blind panic now underway to capture all, even semi-organic, natural language data that hasn’t been locked down (in the face of attempts to lock it all down before it is captured by anyone else) it is very sad that it is not possible to keyword search “lftr” in conjunction with archive.org’s URL provision of various versions.

Has anyone done any research on why the Library of Congress hasn’t taken it upon itself to subvert attempts by Google (dejanews) and archive.org (blocking certain domain names captured by what amount to censorship by squatters) to rewrite history? I mean it isn’t as though this wouldn’t be an obvious function of the Library of Congress, even to Beltway idiocracy, after a generation has passed giving us “the gift” of section 230.


Quite likely. But “collapse” is a very short-term way for the extreme statists to maintain their power. History suggests that collapsing powers … collapse and disappear. Where now is the Austro-Hungarian Empire?

It may be that our Political Class is so wrapped up in their own complacency that they simply cannot imagine that their actions will ever cause a collapse that affects themselves. After all, they can always print some more fiat.

As for nuclear power – the Usual Suspects did an effective job of demonizing it from the 1970s onwards. But the world moves on. China and Russia are clearly picking up that baton. A hundred years from now, nuclear-generated electric power will be the norm in the civilized parts of that future world, and the human race really will not miss fossil fuels.


I strongly suspect that one of the primary drivers of the current explosion in money supply is the realization by the more virulent of our Pathogen Class that the host is about to die and that they’d better liquidate the USD as World Reserve Currency so that they can skim a few percent off the top to buy into foreign governments with gold or other tangible assets, in preparation for flight. Some are already visibly doing so.

During the DotCon era, the gold coins dealer I used in Palo Alto said that every flight back to India was loaded with the legal personal limit of gold.

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Trying to find figures on how fast a LFTR economy can expand its power production is like pulling teeth. The closest I’ve found to an actual number is a single passage from a government paper at Sorensen’s Flibe site:

The core neutron power density was chosen to give a moderator life of about four years, based on the irradiation tolerance of currently available grades of graphite. The specific inventory of the plant, including the processing system, is 1.47 kg of fissile material per MWe, which, together with the breeding ratio of 1.06, gives an annual fissile yield of 3.3%. The heat-power system has a net thermal efficiency of over 44%, which makes a reactor plant of about 2250 MWt ample for a net electrical output of 1000 MWe.

That’s a doubling time of about a quarter century. So there would need to be a lot of additional neutron sources to meet the demand for U233 – specially given that Oak Ridge is, quite perversely, on a rampage to get rid of all U233 in a form where it can’t be recovered. “rampage” is no exaggeration. It is the DoE’s highest priority for Oak Ridge.

You really have to wonder what they’re “thinking”.


Apparently the way to do this is “kickstart” each reactor with U235 or Pu – both of which provide a path to rapid growth.

As an aside, my brother who is a physician who went through cancer treatment had been for some time a LFTR enthusiast in part because it would remove a major material bottleneck to cancer treatment: alpha-emitting isotopes. After going through cancer treatment, he’s even more enthusiastic about LFTR for obvious reasons. He’s of the opinion that death rates due to cancer would be dramatically reduced if the thorium economy took off.