Why did Jimmy Carter essentially ban breeder reactors?
Answer Actually, Jimmy Carter banned reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel, which is part of the breeder reactor life cycle. Reprocessing spent fuel creates two product streams: uranium and plutonium. The fear was that it would be easier for “bad people” to steal the plutonium once it has been separated from the uranium. This was a central concept in past US nonproliferation policy. However, we have seen the spread of nuclear weapons to North Korea, Pakistan, India, etc without using reprocessing. Therefore, one might ask if reprocessing isn’t such a bad idea. Actually, someone did. Ronald Reagan reversed Carter’s ban on reprocessing, but US technology is so far behind, it is currently non economical. Reprocessing spent nuclear fuel is the best way to reuse the energy left over in uranium and plutonium. This also closes the fuel cycle and generates much less waste.