Return of the Breeder; January 1996; Scientific American Magazine; by Zorpette; 1 Page(s)
Once upon a time, when fuel prices were high, nuclear fast-breeder reactors enjoyed brief fame based on a singular claim. While producing energy by splitting some uranium atoms, they could create an even larger number of plutonium atoms. This plutonium could then be turned into fuel to generate much more energy.
Economics and politics, though, have not been kind to breeder reactors. With oil prices at historic lows and former cold war adversaries awash in plutonium and uranium, the idea has seemed to lose considerable luster. In February 1994 Secretary of Energy Hazel R. O'Leary ended U.S. research into breeder technology--after some $9 billion had been spent on it.