Nuclear Whistleblower: “Spent Fuel Pools In US Are A Potential Timebomb, Situation Can Get Worse Than Chernobyl”

Tyler Durden's picture

Nuclear Whistleblower: “Spent Fuel Pools in US are a potential timebomb, situation can get worse than Chernobyl”

Interview by Tuur Demeester

George Galatis became world famous in 1996, when Time Magazine
featured him in its cover article “Nuclear Warriors”. Today, he warns
that that the situation in the USA may soon become much graver than that
in Japan.

Working as a Senior Engineer at Northeast Utilities company (NU) in
Connecticut, Galatis noticed that across the country, high-level
radioactive waste was being stored in overfull spent-fuel pools,
creating the kinds of risk that could lead to a nuclear disaster with
radiological consequences greater than those in Japan today, graver than
even the Chernobyl disaster. Indeed, along with a host of other safety
related issues, his 1992 memo specifically mentioned that some of the
pool’s cooling pipes weren’t designed to withstand an earthquake as they
were required to.

After a lengthy legal battle, and dealing
with an uncooperative Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), the Northeast
Utilities Company was eventually convicted of 25 federal felonies, was
forced to sell all of its nuclear plants, and lost over $3 billion in
what company CEO Bruce Kenyon called “the largest management turnaround
in the history of the nuclear industry”. Eventually, NU grudgingly made
the fuel pool cooling system changes that Galatis had suggested. Though
treated as a hero by the public, collegues continued intimidation and
threats, according to Galatis, which eventually killed his career in the
nuclear industry.

In light of the Fukushima nuclear disaster, where spent fuel rods are
in effect melting down in the aftermath of an earth quake and
subsequent tsunami, these sentences of the 1996 Time article have a
prophetic ring to them:

“Because the Federal Government has never created a storage site for high-level radioactive waste, fuel pools in nuclear plants across the country have become de facto nuclear dumps—with
many filled nearly to capacity. The pools weren’t designed for this
purpose, and risk is involved: the rods must be submerged at all times. A
cooling system must dissipate the intense heat they give off. If the
system failed, the pool could boil, turning the plant into a lethal
sauna with clouds of reactive steam. And
if earthquake, human error or mechanical failure drained the pool, the
result could be catastrophic: a meltdown of multiple cores taking place
outside of the reactor containment, releasing massive amounts of
radiation and rendering hundreds of square miles uninhabitable.
” (Emphasis added.)

So what does whistleblower George Galatis make of the global nuclear
crisis that developed since the earthquake and tsunami of March 11?

George Galatis: “Since
the start of the Japanese nuclear crisis, I have been very concerned
about its consequences to the Japanese people, to the general public,
about the lack of attention to what I perceive as being the real issue.”

Tuur Demeester: What is the real issue at stake, in your opinion?

GG: “The real issue is that
of nuclear safety. Right now the true risk to public health and safety
associated with the generation of nuclear power is intentionally kept
from the public. Because of misplaced trust, these enormous risks are in
effect being enforced on the public without their knowledge or consent.
People need to know about and agree to accept the real risks involved
so that when a scenario like Fukushima—or worse—arises here, there is
already a degree of acceptance. Without this formal public acceptance,
nuclear power will never be cost effective nor will it survive.”

“And despite many years of hard work of
the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) and others such as Robert
Alvarez of the Institute for Policy Studies, the risks associated with
nuclear power and in particular, the storage of spent fuel in the spent
fuel pools, have not been properly addressed by the nuclear industry and
its Federal regulator. Without appropriate action, the nuclear tragedy
in Japan may very well be reproduced on American soil at some point in
the near future.”

TD: Why were these risks kept hidden from the public?

GG: “The reason for
this, in my opinion, is that the radiation dose limits of a spent fuel
pool accident would now exceed the limits set by Congress and originally
agreed to by the public when the license to operate or build a nuclear
plant was approved. Had the radiological consequences or risks
associated with a spent fuel pool accident been communicated to the
public prior to the NRC and the nuclear industry opting to
perform full core off loads and store vast amounts of spent fuel in the
pool, the public would not have accepted them. So, the NRC opted instead
to ignore this change “from original operation” and its radiological
impact by offering this as their official position: “the agency [NRC]
analyzes dose rates at the time a plant opens—when its pool is empty.
The law does not contain a provision for rereview.” Unfortunately, the
industry also went along with this line of reasoning, even though it
blatently contradicts reality.”

TD: Could you name some specific risks the public is facing today?

GG: “For example, one of
the big surprises the public has become aware of is that the spent fuel
pools in the Japanese nuclear power plants do not have a containment
structure over them to prevent the escape of radioactive contaminants.
People today can not believe how the design of a plant could so grossly
compromise the health and safety of the general public. Yet this is one
of the key safety issues we have right here in the USA as well: 23
American reactors are based on the same ‘Mark I’ blueprint as the
Fukushima plant, and all 33 US Boiling Water Reactors share the same
spent fuel pool design.”

TD: What are the safety issues with the spent fuel pools?

GG: “These pools
were originally designed to hold less than half of a reactor’s core of
fuel as a normal mode of operation, and that on a temporary basis. They
were never intended to serve as a long-term nuclear fuel storage
facility. However, today most nuclear plants in the USA contain more
than five cores, which is at least ten times their original design for
normal operation, and at least 2-3 times more than the amount held at
the Fukushima unit 4 spent fuel pool.
This means the US power
plants, especially those with elevated spent fuel pools, are potential
ticking timebombs, waiting for earth quakes, human error, acts of
malice, or terrorism to cause a radiological crisis.”

TD: Your success as a nuclear whistleblower did not turn the tide?

GG: “Only
temporarily, but I knew that beforehand. Many warnings to the industry,
the nuclear industry regulators, and Congress, have not been heeded at
all. For example, after the 9/11 attacks here in the USA, a
Congressional Commission was formed and one of the issues was how
vulnerable the nuclear plants were to terrorist attacks, especially
airplane attacks. In response, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission issued a
public proclamation that the plants are safe because of the concrete
dome protecting the ‘reactor’. Their initial answer was entirely beside
the question, and the issue of the spent-fuel pools remained unanswered,
in my opinion intentionally.”

TD: Worldwide, there are sixty
reactors under construction in 15 countries, with most in Asia, the USA,
and eastern Europe. According to the Council of Foreign Relations,
the USA currently has 25 reactors in the planning stages, with $8.33
billion in loan guarantees for the construction of two nuclear reactors
in Georgia. What are your thoughts about this expansion of nuclear power

“In the USA, I would not consider any future expansion until the
current nuclear safety, national security, and long-term storage issues
have been addressed, approved by all stakeholders (public, industry,
regulators, legislators), implemented fully, and are fully functional. 
It would be premature and unwise to start building new plants when the
issues of the present plants haven’t been addressed yet, especially the
spent fuel and national security issues.  In addition, much can be
learned from from the current Japanese crisis which may need to be
incorporated into the new designs once that evaluation and analysis is
completed. “

TD: Do you have any final words of advice to share?

GG: “In my
experience, official sources of information are often confusing and of
little transparency. Given the enormous risks involved, it is vitally
important for everyone to do their own research and become more
informed. Fortunately today, thanks to the Internet, there are
sufficient resources available. As I mentioned before, I think the Union
of Concerned Scientists is doing an excellent job in addressing the
pressing issues at hand and educating the public. Hopefully, the
industry, the NRC, and Congress will heed their advice and remember
whose interests it is they are supposed to serve: those of the general

Recommended background articles:

Time Magazine 03/04/1996: “Nuclear Warriors

Time Magazine 03/17/1997: “Nuclear Safety Fallout

New York Times: “Experts Had Long Criticized Potential Weakness in Design of Stricken Reactor

The Boston Channel tv: Plants stockpiling nuclear waste?

All Things Nuclear: Internal NRC Document Reveals Doubts about Safety Measures

Union of Concerned Scientists: Nuclear Power Safety

Union of Concerned Scientists: Sabotage and Attacks on Reactors

CNN: “Nuclear Whistleblower Explains Design Flaws of Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant in Japan

Wikipedia: List of Boiling Water Reactors

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IQ 145's picture

 All thirty three boiling water reactors share the same spent fuel pool design--- well, fuck me mother. That's not a "design" that's a piece of in-exusable stupidity that was approved by the NRC. If you want to get mad at somebody, get mad at your federal government; please. they deserve it. I can't stand to think about this any longer so I'm signing off; bye now.

trav7777's picture

there's nothing wrong with that pool design; it wasn't designed to be a PERMANENT STORAGE repository for spent fuel rods.

It's like using cinder blocks for a jackstand

d_senti's picture

Yes but even when they're not permanent, you have hot nuclear fuel sitting without containment for up to 6 years until they're ready for dry storage. It is a design flaw, not with the pool itself, but with the idea that you wouldn't give it some sort of even minimal containment.

AUD's picture

Long term storage issues?

I thought that was already addressed in the form of turning radioactive waste into weapons & spraying them over 3rd world countries?

OldTrooper's picture

I see some don't appreciate dark humor.  Oh well, you can't please everyone.

FunkyMonkeyBoy's picture

Can we please stop mentioning this Japan earthquake/nuclear disaster non-story.

It is now a month post this event and you can clearly see than the S&P 500 and DOW are at higher levels than BEFORE the 'disaster'.

This means all is well, got it? Am i surrounded by imbeciles or something... are you lot dense? Which part don't you get?

NorthenSoul's picture

We congratulate the DOW and S&P500 for their outstanding expertise in nuclear physics and engineering.

What would we do without these 2 pillars of superhuman wisdom?

disabledvet's picture

rumor is "their expertise is in reverse engineering and not engineering per se. (italics possibly added--but that's i think how they put it so there.)"  now "you go get the help to clean up than thingermagoooey."

tonyw's picture

I don't know about these 2 pillars of superhuman wisdom but in the true Us tradition of dealing fairly with whistle blowers

George Galatis will probably be stripped and locked up like Bradley Manning just in case he "harms himself":-(


AldousHuxley's picture

Standard Safety Protocol


  1. Disregard any recommendation by experts
  2. Disregard any risks
  3. Profit privately
  4. When disaster strikes, put someone else in the spotlight to deal with it
  5. Pay off victims
  6. Wait until public is distracted by something else
  7. Come out pointing fingers at others
  8. Repeat


Substitute spent fuel rods with derivatives regulation and criminal characters on wall st. and DC, situation IS worse than Great Depression.


disabledvet's picture

what was number 5 again?  a "what" again?

Buck Johnson's picture

Truly truly amazing, eventually we may have our Fuchishima problem.

Dugald's picture

And you all thought your criminals were just in banking, Wall street and the mafia......

AldousHuxley's picture

Global earthquake activity since 1973 and nuclear power plant locations
Rodent Freikorps's picture
By Roberta Rampton and Ayesha Rascoe Roberta Rampton And Ayesha Rascoe – Thu Mar 31, 7:32 pm ET

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Republican lawmakers on Thursday pressed the Obama administration on its decision to stop work on a permanent nuclear waste storage site inside Yucca Mountain, Nevada, launching a formal probe and grilling the nuclear regulator on Capitol Hill.


"Nobody likes to spend $12 billion and see it washed down the toilet," he said, referring to the amount of money Congress has spent so far on the Yucca project.


Heroic Couplet's picture

Republican BS. The objection to Yucca Mountain in Nevada is coming from the insurance companies. Start with Yucca Mountain. Draw concentric circles. Eventually you come to a structure, a property holding, a shopping mall. There's an insurance company bearing all the risk if something goes wrong, and with nuclear waste, something always goes wrong.

The idea of safety I like is you don't need Yucca Mountain. You figure out the top 10 people who are going to profit, and you bury the nuclear waste in their basement. Then you know what safe really means.

I'm all for Jack Welch, Karl Rove, and Rush Limbaugh going to Japan and reporting from right in front of the reactors. That they haven't is all I need to know about Fukushima.

Rodent Freikorps's picture

No one thought of that before spending $12billion?

You are full of shit.

So, the insurance companies will cover the pools, but not a mountain in the desert?

Give me a break you Dem retard.

And I'll repost: pressed the Obama administration on its decision to stop work on a permanent nuclear waste storage...

Since you seem too stupid to have absorbed it the first time.

You, lame, lying crap weasel.

Commander Cody's picture

In addition to your astute assessment of the hero's condition, might I add that insurance companys already take exception to liabilities caused by nuclear accidents and attacks.  Check your homeowner's policy to verify.

OldTrooper's picture

Paying claims would be bad for business.

Encroaching Darkness's picture

THANK YOU SENATOR REID OF NEVADA, for preventing use of the Yucca Mountain facility that was designed and built over decades to store used nuclear fuel rods. Thanks to your selfless defense of an empty mountain in NV, we ALL can look forward to our own exposure to nuclear hazards!

If there ever was a case for TREASON and MALFEASANCE, Dingy Hairy is it!

Dugald's picture

Why is it you always assasinate the wrong people?

Encroaching Darkness's picture

(1) You are mistaken - I have not assassinated anyone.

(2) The blame for this rests squarely in Senator Reid's shoes - he represents NV, and in particular was responsible for delaying, denying and finally defeating the operating permits for Yucca Mtn. repository - I live next door in Utah, and had a good view of it from here. His "concern" that Yucca Mtn. was improperly designed was not due to any background as a nuclear engineer or designer - it came from his "NIMBY" supporters in Las Vegas, who raised all kinds of spurious claims that it would contaminate groundwater, and so forth.

(3) An empty mountain in NV would seem to be the IDEAL place to put nuclear waste, if you are not going to reprocess it - thank you, JIMMY CARTER for preventing that rational plan to deal with it. Since Carter denied reprocessing (and no one since has had the good sense to re-investigate it), we are stuck with storing it - and since Reid defeated the permits for Yucca Mtn., the rods sit in pools around the country, instead of in a secure facility DESIGNED TO HOLD THEM. Did you read the article above? Are you happy knowing that lots of rods sit all around the country, near LOTS of metropolitan areas instead of out in a desert inside a mountain?

Harry Reid will be responsible for the assassination of THOUSANDS or MILLIONS, unless you want to blame Carter for preventing a rational solution to the problem. Political payoffs are a bitch - when they make YOU glow in the dark.

disabledvet's picture

ironically President Carter really was a nuclear expert.  And "he was President when we had our biggest nuclear crisis."

Rodent Freikorps's picture

Never trust the MFM.

According to the Naval Historical Center, LT Carter was honorably discharged from the US Navy on October 8, 1953 so that he could return home to care for the family farm. He had only started his nuclear power training on March 1, 1953. The training, in those very early days of the Navy’s nuclear program before the start up of Navy training courses, was conducted at civilian colleges, and Union College was one of the locations. However, it was definitely not a place where one could earn a master’s degree in nuclear engineering in just 7 months. That is especially true when you understand a bit about the Navy and realize that LT Carter probably did not do too much studying after he found out that his father had passed away in July 1953. (Leaving the Navy is not as simple as walking out the door.)


OldTrooper's picture

And to think that all these years I've wondered how a nuclear enginer could be so dense.

goodrich4bk's picture

Of course you're right.  The creators of nuclear waste and those who profit from its power are not at all to blame for not having a good place to store it.  That's all Harry's fault and those damn NIMBY's and Eco Frauds.

How soon we forget.  The Eco Frauds were opposed to ANY nuke plants until the storage solution was found.  The profiteers and religious wing nut faction of the Republican Party who don't give a damn about what happens on our children's watch (their children will be long taken in the Rapture) successfully allowed plants to be built with storage solutions to come "later".

Well, now is later.  So while I bring you up short on your facile view of Harry, you are essentially correct: almost ANYWHERE would be a better storage solution than next to active plants that are prime terrorist targets.

My vote is either Yucca or a couple of miles deep in the Pacific Trench.  But do something NOW!

Encroaching Darkness's picture

Why are you ignoring reprocessing?

So-called "spent" nuclear fuel still has much useful uranium in it - which can be recaptured in a "reprocessing" scheme. Basically, you have to grind up the pellets, leach them out with acid, concentrate the useful uranium into new pellets and find a place to put the thorium, plutonium or whatever else until it decays. The VOLUME reduction from "spent rod" to "radioactive waste" is a decrease of A HUNDREDFOLD or more.

Yes, the residuals are more toxic than the spent fuel - but they can be encapsulated in glass, or stored in other ways because the reduced volume generates less heat - but such details as those don't matter to you, or to anyone else stuck in a NIMBY mindset; ALL nuclear waste is fearful, unmanageable DEATH to Gaia, or whatever environmental deity you're worshipping at the moment.

The Environmental Fundamentalist Religionists were NOT just opposed to any nuke plants UNTIL THE STORAGE SOLUTION WAS FOUND - they were opposed to them AT ALL, anywhere, under any circumstances. Gaia must be protected - and WE know how to protect her!

But I see no point in blaming the industry - back when these plants were on the drawing boards, they might have foreseen a viable reprocessing plant SOMEWHERE in America; before Jimmy Carter stopped any consideration of it, and all environmentalists since then have screamed bloody murder at the thought of new nuclear facilities of any kind.

I am not at all "brought up short on my facile view of Harry", as you put it - he is as opportunistic, short-sighted and CORRUPT as any other politician. Nor am I Democratic or Republican - they have both sold us out in so many ways it's impossible to count them all.

Ironic, really; more nuclear power might have saved the lives of quite a few coal miners, invalids with emphysema and tuberculosis and "black lung", and prevented the emission of quite a bit of mercury (by-product of coal burning) into the air, to be breathed by us all. In the last few years, the environmental fundamentalist religion has finally figured that out, and in order to protect Gaia are now SUPPORTING nuclear power, in some instances.

But yes, do something NOW - re-consider reprocessing, and use Yucca Mtn. to store whatever is left over - would probably be sufficient for centuries, until we discover even better ways to generate power with less waste of any kind.

Milestones's picture

Thank you for the thoughtful post. It was well said.        Milestones

Encroaching Darkness's picture

you're more than welcome - "thoughtful" is at least one of my goals! Also, informative, mildly entertaining, useful......

trav7777's picture that Cobalt Coal show on Spike or whatever. Talk about inbred hillbillies. They run over the power cord for the coal cutting machine it seems like almost daily and emerge from the mine with soot-covered faces. Not a great life but they sho is dumb.

Gaia worshippers should worship in the dark. No electricity.

MSimon's picture

Look up the rad waste problems from reprocessing. They are immense.

Hanford, Savannah River. Hanford is the biggest and most costly Superfund site in America.


Rodent Freikorps's picture

Reid is the reason I'm boycotting Vegas. They re-elected the worm.

disabledvet's picture

easy there tiger.  "when the Apocalypse finally comes" i know where I'm headin'.

samsara's picture

Just about 100 miles north of Yucca in the last week


Hmm.  Look on 4/11

y/m/d h:m:s
  MAP  3.3   2011/04/11 01:05:00    38.375   -118.739  6.0   NEVADA MAP  2.6   2011/04/11 00:31:09    38.305   -118.873  0.0   NEVADA MAP  2.6   2011/04/11 00:27:00    38.372   -118.736  16.1   NEVADA MAP  4.2   2011/04/11 00:22:21    38.379   -118.735  13.8   NEVADA MAP  4.0   2011/04/11 00:21:17    38.374   -118.739  15.3   NEVADA MAP  3.5   2011/04/11 00:20:17    38.363   -118.741  9.4   NEVADA MAP  3.3   2011/04/11 00:13:12    38.337   -118.746  10.2   NEVADA MAP  2.8   2011/04/11 00:01:09    38.374   -118.732  15.2   NEVADA

 about 10+ earthquakes a couple days ago in Nevada, 4.0  the biggest one.(so far)

How about we find one of those Tectonic subduction zones like the 7 mile deep maranis trench and have it subducted back inside?

Google images of Subduction Zones

Rodent Freikorps's picture

You have to admit the tsunami danger is minimal in Nevada.

Encroaching Darkness's picture

Perhaps a combination approach?

(1) Reprocess

(2) Encase waste in glass (prevent leaching into seawater if unsuccessful)

(3) Drop in Marianas Trench

(4) Install Geiger counters to track any "shipments" that are "diverted" instead of subducted

That might work; but geologic processes aren't my specialty; any takers?

squexx's picture

Dump it all in Detroit, it's not like anyone will notice or care!!!

trav7777's picture

whistleblower?  WTF...I have been saying the same thing for 4 weeks now!

DOE's paper that I repeatedly cited studied this exact accident scenario.

The complete abdication of responsibility for decisionmaking on permanent repositories for nuke waste is what is the "timebomb" and it bit Japan totally in the ass.  This accident would have been FAR easier to deal with had they not had this can kicked by government for 50 years.

Maxter's picture

I think the wisleblowing part is about the 1992 memo.

samsara's picture

"...I have been saying the same thing for 4 weeks now"


When this started some nitwit rube bragging to the effect that 'Our' waste was being managed properly in Yucca Mountain.

People hear sound byte news clips and piece together a reality that was never said.

Yes, we have a mountain, 

NO we haven't put a thing in it.

Like you I informed him that each reactor site has TONS and TONS literally that are in various places all around the site.

55 gallon drum sized containers with low level waste,  'Ponds' and 'Swimming pools'  filled with spent rods,

.... Just 'Waiting' for that mythical 'Someday'  when they will be transfered to that mythical location where they will 'Permanently'  be stored for 10,000-20,000 years. 

'We are just humans and Reality is WAY above our heads"

Collectively, We're playing WAY above our heads with our technology. 

High Plains Drifter's picture

oh yes, they do the same damn thing here that the japanese were doing with the spent fuel rod storage. accident looking for a place to happen. shut them all down and get out of this business..........

Commander Cody's picture

Immediately?  And replace 20% of the generating capacity in the US with what?  And just walk away leaving spent fuel pools and dry storage facilities at every plant while pretending there "might" be a solution down the road?  Wait for another blue ribbon panel to make recommendations that will be ignored?  Its fun and easy to be an idealist, yipee!  Not so much to be a realist with actual problems to solve.

honestann's picture

This is an accurate article, as far as it goes.  However, a great many other blatant frauds and fiascoes involving nuclear plant design, location and approval were also revealed by other nuclear engineers over the past several decades.

While nuclear power plants can probably be designed to be safe and still remain cost effective, the current designs are utterly and completely irresponsible in many ways, including those mentioned in the article.

The predators-that-be in the large corporations and government care zero about the consequences of their actions, especially in the world of today when they have absolute, total control of the so-called "legal system".  Everyone involved in TEMCO and GE should be arrested, locked up, tried for fraud, criminal malfeasance and crimes against humanity, then hung (or better yet, imprisoned in reactor building 3 until nature and justice takes their course).

Everybodys All American's picture

Does anyone know if there are nuclear facilities here in the US that have multiple reactors on the same site as are at the Fukishima plant site?

Encroaching Darkness's picture

Why, yes - they usually get numbers, such as Indian Point #1 and Indian Point #2. It appears from a quick perusal of the NRC website that the highest number of reactors on one site is 3 - as in Florida's Oconee #3. (Note that there's also a Turkey Point #4, but no mention of T.P. 1&2 - they may have been shut down).

Commander Cody's picture

Three US plants have 3 operating reactors: 1) Palo Verde in Arizona, 2) Browns Ferrry in Alabama, and 3) Oconee in South Carolina.  With applications under review by the NRC for additional plants to be added at existing sites, there is a possibility (remote in my view considering the economy and the lack of interest in financing anything worthwhile on Wall Street) that there may be a number of 4-unit sites in the future.  Turkey Point 1 and 2 are fossil units, while 3 and 4 are nukes.