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Don't Blame President Carter

June 16, 2008 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 86, ISSUE 24

A letter to the editor by Elliott Doane concludes with a weak endorsement of the Integral Fast Reactor (IFR) but asserts that, research was halted by President Jimmy Carter in 1977, (C&EN, May 19, page 6). This is false, and must be corrected.

Retired Argonne National Laboratory nuclear reactor physicist George Stanford states, “At the Clinton Administration’s urging, Congress terminated the research on Oct. 1, 1994,” which was about three years from finishing. Also, an interview on the PBS show “Frontline” in 1996 with Charles Till, a codeveloper of IFR, stated that “it was an outgrowth really of the studies that were caused by the Carter Administration in the late ’70s.”

It is unacceptable and morally wrong to blame former president Carter for the extremely unwise act of President Clinton 15 years later. It is also morally wrong for C&EN to print a long article about “Forever Waste” without any reference to IFR as the proven way to eliminate the problem. And it would be inadmissible to try and justify the omission; IFR R&D was terminated not for technical reasons but purely based on politics.

I would have expected C&EN to take an interest in the significant chemical aspect of IFR, which is that by purely chemical means the inhibitory fission products are removed from the mixture of heavy fissionable elements burned by IFR. This means that isotope separation by gas centrifuges is not done, and the fissionable mixture is absolutely unusable for bomb-making. This deserves a feature article in C&EN. And IFR deserves a major, accelerated “Manhattan-style” project to design and build these reactors at the absolutely earliest time technically possible. It is urgent.

George Tiers
St. Paul, Minn.


May 19, page 36: The article on drugs used in lethal injections should have included potassium chloride, not potassium chlorate.



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