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Spent Fuel Pools
“The largest concentrations of radioactivity on the planet will remain in storage at U.S. reactor sites for the indefinite future,” the report’s author, Robert Alvarez, a senior scholar at the institute, 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.” Robert Alvarez
NYTimes l Matthew Wald 24 May, 2012
WASHINGTON — The threat of a catastrophic release of radioactive materials from a spent fuel pool at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi plant is dwarfed by the risk posed by such pools in the United States, which are typically filled with far more radioactive material, according to a study released on Tuesday by a nonprofit institute.
The report, from the Institute for Policy Studies, recommends that the United States transfer most of the nation’s spent nuclear fuel from pools filled with cooling water to dry sealed steel casks to limit the risk of an accident resulting from an earthquake, terrorism or other event.
Excellent, factual, article about the spent fuel problem faced by the U.S. Including some background on the deliberate undermining of the NRC's regulatory ability by Pete Domenici and the Republican-controlled Congress:
In his autobiography, Domenici proudly notes that he sought to cut 700 jobs at the NRC in 1999, effectively gutting its regulatory efforts. “While many NRC requirements had questionable impact on safety,” Domenici said, “their impact on the price of nuclear energy was far more obvious.”
The pro-nuclear lobby has always put profit over safety considerations. Now, the U.S. faces the consequences of those decisions. This is an industry-wide problem. The U.S. is not alone. The events at Fukushima nuclear station, and the inability of TEPCO and the Japanese government to control them have showed that quite clearly.
Robert Alvarez l The Nation 20 June, 2011
In March 1992 George Galatis, a nuclear engineer at the Millstone nuclear power station in Waterford, Connecticut, became alarmed during a refueling. The reactor had to be shut down and the full radioactive core of the Unit 1 reactor, which held thousands of rods, was removed and then dumped into the spent fuel pool—a blatant violation of Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) safety requirements.
The pool was already quite full. It wasn’t designed to suddenly hold those very radioactive and thermally hot fuel rods, which give off so much radiation that an unshielded person nearby would receive a lethal dose in seconds. In a previous incident around that time, a worker’s boots melted during this procedure. Because the pool could overheat, and possibly cause the pumps and cooling equipment to fail, the NRC had required reactor operators to wait for sixty-five hours before performing this task—with good reason. NRC studies over the past thirty years have consistently shown that even partial drainage of a spent fuel pool that exposed highly radioactive rods could release an enormous amount of radioactivity into the environment. Arnie Gundersen, a nuclear engineer with many years of experience at US nuclear reactors, describes this kind of accident as “Chernobyl on steroids.”
Northeast Utility (which sold the Millstone reactors to Dominion Power in 2000) was standing to lose about $500,000 a day for replacement power if it followed the rules calling for a shutdown that would last more than two months. It had taken this shortcut for many years, while the NRC deliberately looked the other way.
Conscious Being l Keith Harmon Snow 17 March, 2011
As the sun set over quake-stricken Japan on Thursday 17 March 2011, we learned that four of six Fukushima nuclear reactor sites are irradiating the earth, that the fire is burning out of control at Reactor No. 4's pool of spent nuclear fuel, that there are six spent fuel pools at risk all told, and that the sites are too hot to deal with. On March 16, Plumes of White Vapor began pouring from crippled Reactor No. 3 where the spent fuel pool may already be lost. Over the previous days we were told: nothing to worry about. Earthquakes and after shocks, tidal wave, explosions, chemical pollution, the pox of plutonium, contradicting information too obvious to ignore, racism, greed -- add these to the original Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse:Conquest, War, Famine and Death. The situation is apocalyptic and getting worse. This is one of the most serious challenges humanity has ever faced. By Thursday night, March 17, officials in India and Europe are concerned it may be worse than Chernobyl, and the U.S., Italy and France are evacuating their nationals on specially chartered airplanes. Friday, March 18, the threat level rates six on a seven point international scale of gravity for nuclear accidents.
The U.S. nuke industry is blaming Japanese experts, distancing itself from the monster it created. Instead of sending nuclear or health experts to assistance the Japanese people in their time of desperate need, US President Barack Obama first sent teams of intelligence agents and FEMA trained military grunts with special security clearances. The Pentagon floated a naval strike force led by the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier Ronald Reagan off the coast of Japan: advertised as a 'humanitarian' operation, the strike force was repositioned after it was partially irradiated. Can we trust officials and the corporate news media to tell us what is happening in an honest, timely, transparent manner? Are there precedents to the nuclear crisis in Japan? What is the U.S. defense establishment really concerned with here?
Humanity now faces a deadly serious challenge coming out of Japan -- the epicenter of radiation. Intentional efforts to downplay or dismiss this catastrophe reveal the immaturity of western civilization and some of our most acute human pathologies, including our worship of technology and our psychopathology of denial. The widespread distortion and cover-ups to protect private profits, national and corporate interests, to fool and betray the people, are unacceptable. Here are some of the deeper whats and whys and hows -- some technical issues and the kinds of questions people need to ask -- about the nuclear apocalypse unfolding on planet earth. Prayers are not enough. It's time to question everything, to put politics aside, to take personal action to halt nuclear expansion and defend ourselves from this industrial juggernaut.