b'P ROVING THE P RINCIPLEIn September 1964, the EBR-II reactor thing to a perpetual energy machine beginning. The concept still had a longoperators removed spent fuel pins from that had been invented. The political way to go before it could safely scalethe reactornow containing fission outlook for Argonnes breeder research up to a size competitive with fossil fuelproducts and uranium. About one per- looked as promising as the scientific. power plants. 27cent of the fuel had burned up. After When the AEC abandoned the organic-letting it cool for two weeks, they sent cooled concept in 1962, it elevated the Thus, the AEC had authorized Argonneit through the FCF, the special argon- breeder concept at the same time. The to design a third-generation testingatmosphere recycling facility attached Federal Power Commission (FPC) esti- breeder reactor in Idaho. The Fast-to the reactor building. (Argon gas was mated that American energy consump- Reactor Test Facility (FARET) wouldused to prevent sodium fires that were tion would double by 1990. It figuredpossible in ordinary air.) At a series of that the nations fossil fuel supplieswork stations arranged around the large would be depleted within two hundredcircular cell, technicians removed spac- years. The FPC believed nuclear energyer wires and chopped the pins into con- couldand shoulddisplace fossilvenient sizes. Safe behind shielding fuels and supply as much as two-thirdswindows, they manipulated their tools of the countrys electricity by the yearand ran the small furnace, heating the 2000. Under this scenario, the AECmetal to 1,400C and refining it. accelerated its work on breeder reac-Finally, they vacuum-cast new pins in tors. The success of EBR-II was only aVycor glass molds. The fission productwaste ended up in a crucible as a blobvaguely resembling a skull, which iswhat they were called. New fuel pins, Right. Inside the FCFs argon atmosphere hot cell.however, were ready for a trial run in Note manipulators at right. Below. The view in thethe reactor. 25 working corridor outside the hot cell windows.Argonne National Laboratory-West H5673The pins performed well, as expected.EBR-II proved the principle. It contin-ued running with recycled fuel from1964 to 1969. By 1969, Argoenn would raise the burn-up rate to 1.8 per-cent. During those years, there hadbeen no shipping costs. No transitrisks. No wasting of good enricheduranium. No storing of spent fuelunder water for months and months.No liquid wastes that might leak. Justblobs of hazardous waste to manage.For those who worried about terroristsstealing plutonium, the set-up off e red little opportunity. 26 Of all of the reactor research done thusfar by the AEC, EBR-II and its fuelrecycling operation was the closestArgonne National Laboratory-West G526416 6'