Reducing the Hazards from Stored Spent Power-Reactor Fuel in the United States
No such event has occurred thus far. However, the consequences would affect such a large area that alternatives to dense-pack storage must be examined--especially in the context of concerns that terrorists might find nuclear facilities attractive targets. To reduce both the consequences and probability of a spent-fuel-pool fire, it is proposed that all spent fuel be transferred from wet to dry storage within five years of discharge. The cost of on-site dry-cask storage for an additional 35,000 tons of older spent fuel is estimated at $3.5-7 billion dollars or 0.03-0.06 cents per kilowatt-hour generated from that fuel. Later cost savings could offset some of this cost when the fuel is shipped off site. The transfer to dry storage could be accomplished within a decade. The removal of the older fuel would reduce the average inventory of 137Cs in the pools by about a factor of four, bringing it down to about twice that in a reactor core. It would also make possible a return to open-rack storage for the remaining more recently discharged fuel. If accompanied by the installation of large emergency doors or blowers to provide large-scale airflow through the buildings housing the pools, natural convection air cooling of this spent fuel should be possible if airflow has not been blocked by collapse of the building or other cause. Other possible risk-reduction measures are also discussed.
Our purpose in writing this article is to make this problem accessible to a broader audience than has been considering it, with the goal of encouraging further public discussion and analysis. More detailed technical discussions of scenarios that could result in loss-of-coolant from spent-fuel pools and of the likelihood of spent-fuel fires resulting are available in published reports prepared for the NRC over the past two decades. Although it may be necessary to keep some specific vulnerabilities confidential, we believe that a generic discussion of the type presented here can and must be made available so that interested experts and the concerned public can hold the NRC, nuclear-power-plant operators, and independent policy analysts such as ourselves accountable.
Document Type: Research Article
Affiliations: 1: Senior Scholar, Institute for Policy Studies, 733 15 St NW, Suite 1025, Washington, DC. E-mail: [email protected] 2: Consulting in the Public Interest, 53 Clinton St, Lambertville, NJ 08530. E-mail: [email protected] 3: 40 J.P. Melchiorstr., 40996, Ratingen, Germany. E-mail: [email protected] 4: 101-1005 Chunggu Apt., Jamwon-dong, Seocho-gu, Seoul, South Korea. E-mail: [email protected] 5: Nuclear Control Institute, Suite 410, 1000 Conn. Ave, NW, Washington, DC 20036. E-mail: [email protected] 6: Security Studies Program, Center for International Studies, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, E38-620, 292 Main Street, Cambridge, MA 02139. E-mail: [email protected] 7: Institute for Resource and Security Studies, 27 Ellsworth Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02139. E-mail: [email protected] 8: Program on Science and Global Security, 221 Nassau St, 2nd Floor, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ 08542-4601. E-mail: [email protected]
Publication date: January 1, 2003