A May 6, 1971 memorandum from Domestic council staff member Will Kriegsman to Council of Economic Advisors Chair Paul McCracken, describes a meeting between the coal industry and representatives of President Nixon’s administration about the crash program for the establishment of a network of Breeder Reactors.
Personal commitment on behalf of President Nixon’s administration in conjunction with the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) attempted to demonstrate the commercial feasibility of the Breeder Reactor by 1980. The coal industry, who produces the majority amount of energy/electricity found this to be competition to their two centuries of American dominance. The coal industry largely agreed on research for nuclear energy but cautioned about the need for new technology in developing coal resources to handle near future crisis. Big Coal cautioned President Nixon’s administration to take time in developing nuclear fuel while keeping the cost of the facilities and to the people within reason. To initiate the Breeder Program, the Atomic Energy Commission asked the White House for $26 million in 1972 to build demonstration plants across the country and display the economic and environmental benefits of nuclear energy.
This meeting between the coal industry and Nixon administration officials shows how much the coal industry feared nuclear power challenging its dominance in market share and production technology. The cheap cost of producing nuclear power is significant to its rapid expansion on the energy market, and coal companies didn’t deny the viability or economic benefits to domestic consumption. Their argument was about public safety, suggesting that it would take 25 to 30 years of research before it could be used as an alternative source of energy. The AEC countered with the need for a 10-12 year program or the U.S. would not achieve the goal of an economical Breeder Reactor. Action on this decision was subject to consultations with the Joint Committee on Atomic Energy (JCAE).