Those Magnificent Men and their Atomic Machines
Burning Metal: The Los Alamos Molten Plutonium Reactor Experiment and the History of the Fast Breeder
With special thanks to Prof. R. M. Kiehn
Note on Notation
Money is going to be talked about a lot, but the value of the dollar has been different from year to year. In each case, unless otherwise specified, values will be given in the amount for the year in question, followed in parentheses by the equivalent value in 2011 dollars.
Change of Plans
But, as Los Alamos was preparing the third LAMPRE fuel loading, the nuclear energy landscape was changing.
In 1958 the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) had set a target of making nuclear electricity cost-effective in regions with high fuel costs. In 1962, they decided they had just about reached that goal. Four private nuclear reactors and two joint public-private projects were producing power by 1962, and another ten were under construction, most of them Light Water Reactors (LWRs). In a landmark report to the president on civilian nuclear power in 1962, the AEC recommended that light water technology be handed over to the private sector. There were obviously further improvements to be made, but they would be evolutionary and incremental, and thus the domain of private enterprise rather than the AEC labs. Properly encouraged by the government, the light water reactor would be cost-competitive with coal and gas by the 1970s except in very low fuel cost areas. The AEC would focus instead on advanced reactor concepts, particularly breeders.