Stored nuclear fuel seen as U.S. risk

May 25, 2011 at 12:00 PM
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WASHINGTON, May 25 (UPI) -- The threat of released radioactive materials from a spent fuel pool at Japan's Fukushima plant is dwarfed by the risk posed by similar U.S. pools, a study says.

At one plant, the Vermont Yankee facility on the border of Massachusetts and Vermont that is almost a twin of the Fukushima Daiichi plant, the spent fuel in a pool at the solitary reactor is greater than the amount in all four of the damaged Fukushima reactors combined, the report by the non-profit Institute for Policy Studies said.

The report recommends the United States move most of the country's spent nuclear fuel from the pools filled with cooling water to dry sealed steel casks to limit the risk of an accident, The New York Times reported Tuesday.

"The largest concentrations of radioactivity on the planet will remain in storage at U.S. reactor sites for the indefinite future," senior institute researcher Robert Alvarez, the author of the report, wrote. "In protecting America from nuclear catastrophe, safely securing the spent fuel by eliminating highly radioactive, crowded pools should be a public safety priority of the highest degree."

Nearly all U.S. reactors, particularly older ones, are storing far more spent fuel at their locations than was anticipated at the time of their design, Alvarez wrote.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission says pool storage is safe, although it has said it will re-examine the pool issue in light of events at Fukushima, the Times reported.

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