Over its 1968–1988 life, PSCo relicensed the Fort St. Vrain (FSV) High-temperature Gas Reactor (HTGR) for light water reactor (LWR) technology requirements. Estimates of the financial losses associated with the plant range from $500 million to $2 billion in 1980 dollars. Colorado ratepayers, the shareholders of Gulf General Atomics and its corporate successors — General Atomics, GA Technologies or just GA and Public Service Company of Colorado (PSCo) bore these losses. Two critical plant issues required solution for the plant’s economic success — (1) the high-cost of 93% enriched uranium fuel and (2) low unit availability. While fuel costs were beyond utility control, low availability was controllable, yet remained unresolved. Commercially isolated for twenty years, PSCo shut the plant down in 1988. Economic success of future HTGRs depends upon avoiding similar complications. This paper examines the issues that made FSV uneconomic, including those fundamental to HTGR technology and others attributable to the utility operator and its culture. Knowing the history of FSV and HTGR design, designers should anticipate reasonable challenges. Preparations will help manage future HTGR risks, costs, and assure operating success. Regulators and industry can assure more effective, economic operations in the next round of HTGR designs.

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