Dave Lochbaum, Director of UCS’s Nuclear Safety Project, is testifying again this morning, this time to the Senate Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee. His testimony on the threat posed by spent fuel storage in the US and what can be done about it is available here.
Today, tens of thousands of tons of irradiated fuel sits in spent fuel pools across America. At many sites, there is nearly ten times as much irradiated fuel in the spent fuel pools as in the reactor cores. The spent fuel pools are not cooled by an array of highly reliable emergency cooling systems capable of being powered from the grid, diesel generators, or batteries. Instead, the pools are cooled by one regular system sometimes backed up by an alternate makeup system.
The spent fuel pools are not housed within robust concrete containment structures designed to protect the public from the radioactivity released from damaged irradiated fuel. Instead, the pools are often housed in buildings with sheet metal siding like that in a Sears storage shed. I have nothing against the quality or utility of Sears’ storage sheds, but they are not suitable for nuclear waste storage.
The irrefutable bottom line is that we have utterly failed to properly manage the risk from irradiated fuel stored at our nation’s nuclear power plants. We can and must do better.