b'P ROVING THE P RINCIPLEvariety of operational transients and technical source of data about the The only corner at INEL engaged in theaccident scenarios associated with behavior of pressurized-water nuclear development of new reactor conceptsthem. Whereas PBF had focused on power plants during an accident. The was Argonne-West. Ronald Reagansfuel behavior during the accident, INEL found that its advanced computer election in 1980 brought fresh politicalLOFT tests focused on the cooling codes, simulators, instrumentation labs, support for the nations nuclear enter-water. By December 1980, LOFT man- damage analysis capabilities, risk eval- prise, despite a wave of doubt arisingagers had designed a series of tests to uation techniques, and training methods from many citizens after the TMI acci-simulate the TMI accident and verify continued to be in demand. 15 dent. Reagan supported the continuedpredictive computer codes. Taken as a commercial development of nuclearwhole, these tests persuaded former Since the very beginning of the com- power. He wanted the breeder reactor todoubters that INEL safety test results mercial nuclear power industry, the move toward its destiny as a safe, eco-could be scaled to commercial-sized engineers and scientists at the INEL nomically viable solution to energypower plants. One of the tests success- had been among the strong proponents shortages. At Hanford, the FFTF wentfully duplicated an incident that had of the idea that the nations nuclear critical for the first time in 1980 andoccurred at an Arkansas power plant. 13 power plants must operate with an reached full power in 1982. Supportingimpeccable safety record. They had felt it, EBR-II had earlier been transformedThe INELtest programs attracted world- that their work could make important into a materials testing reactor, irradiat-wide interest. At first financed by the contributions to the safe design and ing candidate fuels and doing relatedNRC, sponsorship shifted to the interna- operation of these plants. At times, they safety testing.tional Organization of Economic had met with resistance in WashingtonCooperation and Development in along the way by those who felt that Reagan urged Congress to continue toJanuary 1983, which contributed to a commercial plants already had adequate support the construction of a larg e$93 million test program that continued safety designs. In the end, the nuclear demonstration plant at Clinch River,from 1983 to 1986. The nuclear tests reactor safety codes designed and Tennessee. This project was to beconcluded in July 1985 with a deliberate proved at INEL, known by such names financed by the joint effort of DOE andmelting of the LOFT re s test-fuel as RELAP5, TRAC-BD1, and FRAP- contributions from more than seven actor bundle, somewhat fulfilling LOFTs CON, were in widespread use by the hundred utility companies. The projectoriginal destiny as a meltdown reactor. nuclear industry that initially had been would finally, it was hoped, demon-One purpose of the test, aside from com- so skeptical. 16 strate the commercial feasibility andparing actual results with the predicted safety of the Liquid Metal Fast Breederresults, was to trace the path of fission By the time LOFT ran its simulation of Reactor (LMFBR). In its beginning,products released in the melt. The results the TMI accident in 1985, the course of the concept promised to breed plutoni-suggested that a failure of the contain- nuclear research at the Site was rapidly um fuel at a rate to double the initialment vessel was not likely to create diminishing. The SPERT series of fuel loading in eight to ten years ofnearly the radioactive exposures to the experiments had ended in 1970, and o p e rat i o n . 1 8 public as the most extreme, but theoreti- PBF went on standby status in 1985. Atcal, scenarios had imagined. 14the Test Reactor Area, the ETR joined The impact of Ronald Reagans presi-the MTR in retirement in 1981, leaving dency was felt in a number of otherBecause of the PBF, LOFT, Semiscale, only the ATR to serve the Navy fuel ways at the Site. In 1983 Reagan under-and other safety testing facilitiesa examination and materials testing pro- took the Strategic Defense InitiativeTwo-Phase Flow Loop, for example, grams. Computer power had displaced (SDI), a research and development pro-which examined in minute detail the many types of experiments formerly gram to devise a defense against inter-relationships between steam and water accomplished with the help of low- continental ballistic missiles. More thanduring an accidentthe INEL had power and test reactors. 17 the breeder program, the SDI offeedracquired a global reputation as the best opportunities to expand the INEL. The 22 6'