Pool Near U.S. City Contains More Radioactive Cesium than Released By Fukushima, Chernobyl and All Nuclear Bomb Tests COMBINED

George Washington's picture

Radioactive Fuel Fires: Not Just a Japanese Problem

The spent fuel pools at Fukushima are currently the top short-term threat to humanity.

But fuel pools in the United States store an average of ten times more radioactive fuel than stored at Fukushima, have virtually no safety features, and are vulnerable to accidents and terrorist attacks.

If the water drains out for any reason, it will cause a fire in the fuel rods, as the zirconium metal jacket on the outside of the fuel rods could very well catch fire within hours or days after being exposed to air. See this, this, this and this. (Even a large solar flare could knock out the water-circulation systems for the pools.)

The pools are also filling up fast, according to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission:

fig044 Fuel Pool 35 Miles from Major American City   which Is Highly Vulnerable to Earthquakes   Contains More Radioactive Cesium than Released By Fukushima, Chernobyl and All Nuclear Bomb Tests COMBINED

The New York Times notes that squeezing more rods into pools may increase the risk of fire:

The reactor operators have squeezed spent fuel more tightly into the pools, raising the heat load and, according to some analyses, raising the risk of fire if the pools were ever drained.

Indeed, the fuel pools and rods at Fukushima appear to have “boiled”, caught fire and/or exploded soon after the earthquake knocked out power systems. See this, this, this, this and this.

Robert Alvarez – a nuclear expert and a former special assistant to the United States Secretary of Energy – notes that there have also been many incidents within the U.S. involving fuel pools:

Even though they contain some of the largest concentrations of radioactivity on the planet, U.S. spent nuclear fuel pools are mostly contained in ordinary industrial structures designed to merely protect them against the elements. Some are made from materials commonly used to house big-box stores and car dealerships.




All spent fuel pools at nuclear power plants do not have steel-lined, concrete barriers that cover reactor vessels to prevent the escape of radioactivity. They are not required to have back-up generators to keep used fuel rods cool, if offsite power is lost.




For nearly 30 years, Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) waste-storage requirements have remained contingent on the opening of a permanent waste repository that has yet to materialize. Now that the Obama administration has cancelled plans to build a permanent, deep disposal site at Yucca Mountain in Nevada, spent fuel at the nation’s 104 nuclear reactors will continue to accumulate and are likely remain onsite for decades to come.


According to Energy Department data:

  • The spent fuel stored at 28 reactor sites have between 200-450 million curies of long-lived radioactivity;
  • 19 reactor sites have generated between 100-200 million curies in spent fuel; and,
  • 24 reactor sites have generated about 10-100 million curies.

Over the past 30 years, there have been at least 66 incidents at U.S. reactors in which there was a significant loss of spent fuel water. Ten have occurred since the September 11 terrorist attacks, after which the government pledged that it would reinforce nuclear safety measures. Over several decades, significant corrosion has occurred of the barriers that prevent a nuclear chain reaction in a spent fuel pool — some to the point where they can no longer be credited with preventing a nuclear chain reaction. For example, in June 2010, the NRC fined Florida Power and Light $70,000 for failing to report that it had been exceeding its spent fuel pool criticality safety margin for five years at the Turkey Point reactor near Miami. Because of NRC’s dependency on the industry self-reporting problems, it failed to find out that there was extensive deterioration of neutron absorbers in the Turkey Point pools and lengthy delays in having them replaced.


There are other strains being placed on crowded spent fuel pools. Systems required to keep pools cool and clean are being overtaxed, as reactor operators generate hotter, more radioactive, and more reactive spent rods. Reactor operators have increased the level of uranium-235, a key fissionable material in nuclear fuel to allow for longer operating periods. This, in turn, can cause the cladding, the protective envelope around a spent fuel rod, to thin and become brittle. It also builds higher pressure from hydrogen and other radioactive gases within the cladding, all of which adds to the risk of failure. The cladding is less than one millimeter thick (thinner than a credit card) and is one of the most important barriers preventing the escape of radioactive materials.




I co-authored a report in 2003 that explained how a spent fuel pool fire in the United States could render an area uninhabitable that would be as much as 60 times larger than that created by the Chernobyl accident. If this were to happen at one of the Indian Point nuclear reactors located 25 miles from New York City, it could result in as many as 5,600 cancer deaths and $461 billion in damages.


The U.S. government should promptly take steps to reduce these risks by placing all spent nuclear fuel older than five years in dry, hardened storage casks — something Germany did 25 years ago. It would take about 10 years at a cost between $3.5 and $7 billion to accomplish. If the cost were transferred to energy consumers, the expenditure would result in a marginal increase of less than 0.4 cents per kilowatt hour for consumers of nuclear-generated electricity.


Another payment option is available for securing spent nuclear fuel. Money could be allocated from $18.1 billion in unexpended funds already collected from consumers of nuclear-generated electricity under the Nuclear Waste Policy Act to establish a disposal site for high-level radioactive wastes.

This situation cannot be blamed on the nuclear industry alone (which wouldn’t exist without government subsidization of the nuclear industry). The U.S. government promised to come up with a permanent storage solution more than a decade ago, but has failed to do so. As nuclear affairs chief Terry Pickens for Xcel Energy correctly says:

We were able to get it where we thought we could make it to 1998, and they are still not performing. And now we still want to refuel and operate our reactors, so we have to make more space in the pools.

The New York Times noted in 2005:

Most of the plants now operating were designed to store fuel for only a few years, because engineers expected that it would either be recycled or buried. The Energy Department was supposed to begin accepting fuel for burial in 1998 but has not yet done so.




The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has repeatedly said that cask storage and pool storage are equally safe. On March 14, the commission’s chairman, Nils J. Diaz, told reporters that the pools ”are not easily breached structures.”


After an attack, they would be very easy to cool, he said. ”You get a couple of fire hoses, and spray them, and you have many, many hours,” he said, before there could be any radiological release, giving officials time to contain the problem.

That isn’t working out so well at Fukushima.

Single Pool Near Major American City Holds More Cesium than Fukushima, Chernobyl and all Nuclear Tests … Combined

Nuclear engineers David Lochbaum and Arnie Gundersen provide a stunning figure on the amount of radioactive fuel stored in the fuel pools at Pilgrim nuclear power plant in Plymouth, Massachusetts:

[There is] more radioactive Cesium in the Pilgrim Nuclear Plant’s spent fuel pool than was released by Fukushima, Chernobyl, and all nuclear bomb testing combined.


(And listen to this new must-hear interview with Gundersen).

The Pilgrim Nuclear plant is only 35 miles from downtown Boston.

According to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Pilgrim has the second highest risk of damage from an earthquake of any American nuclear facility.

What could possibly go wrong?

Nuclear power can be safe, or it can be cheap … but it can’t be both. For example, we’ve previously noted:

Apologists for the nuclear power industry pretend there are no better alternatives, so we just have to suck it up and suffer through the Japanese nuclear crisis.


But this is wholly illogical. The truth is that we can store spent fuel rods in dry cask storage, which is much safer than the spent fuel rod pools used in Fukushima and many American reactors.


As the Nation pointed out:

Short of closing plants, there is a fairly reliable solution to the problem of spent fuel rods. It is called “dry cask storage.”




But there is a problem with dry cask storage: it costs money….

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nothing can go wrogn's picture

It's all relative I guess.

The permian extinction "The Greay Dying" is estimated to have wiped out 70% of all terrestrial species and 96% of all marine species. It occured over thousands of years, and is believed to be caused by the "Siberian Traps." Massive volcanism and possbily "mantle plumes."

In our case, if we lose our nuclear reactors and spent fuel pools, I'm guessing a similar and severe extinction event. However within 20 to 40 thousand years. Much of the radioactive isotopes will have decayed away.

Factor in plate tectonics, volcanism, and glaciation, and in about 40,000 years the earth will be fresh as the morning dew!

There won't be any central banks, nuclear power plants, pyramid schemes. Manhattan? Not a trace. Subducted deep in to the mantle of the earth. Washington D.C.? Buried under 2000 feet of ice.

It will be quiet. Just the sounds of birds chirping, wind blowing through the trees.

I like nature.

Money Squid's picture

Plate tectonics is a myth. Everyone knows the plates rest on the backs of millions of turtles swimming in a pool of molten lava. Stupid.

geekgrrl's picture

"Factor in plate tectonics, volcanism, and glaciation, and in about 40,000 years the earth will be fresh as the morning dew!"

Thanks for this. I think about this often and it's the one thing that makes me feel better. The world will still be a harsh place, but at least there won't be assholes fucking-over their own species for a percentage.

Life after people

gnomon's picture

Dry cask it and ship it to Yucca Mountain, ASAP.

And those of you who righteously have stymied the Yucca option are as culpable as the management at TEPCO.  There is no difference in your disregard for avoiding catastrophe.

And you closet Marxists who want civilization to exist mainly on Solar and Wind Power will have to oversee the planned execution of billions of "useless eaters".

There is little honor on both sides.  And that is why we are now on the verge of extinction.  A pox on both your houses. 

geekgrrl's picture

I'm not following how advocating for increased solar means one is a marxist. I'm an anarchist, and I think that any technology that requires the State for regulation/protection is a technology that simply shouldn't exist. I'm also not following how moving towards decentralized power production means it is necessary to have a planned execution of billions of people. Talk about scare-mongering.

Regarding Yucca Mountain, my understanding is that the locals don't want the country's nuclear waste. Can you blame them? You seem pretty comfortable with telling other people what they should be forced to accept, and that comes across to me as a very statist position. Without the power the of the Federal government, how would you convince these people to accept risks created by the beneficiaries of nuclear energy? Where is the upside for them? Why should they care that nuclear operators have painted themselves into a corner due to lack of a place to safely store their waste?

geekgrrl's picture

What about storing the waste at NORAD? It's already excavated and should hold up for a good long time.

Money Squid's picture

Send that crap to Hanford. Its a 400-square-mile nuclear waste dump. They have millions of gallons of highly radioactive waste safely burried in giant underground tanks that began leaking shorty after the waste was being pumped in. Why dirty up another area when you can dirty a little more waste to a huge pile that already there?

geekgrrl's picture

By that logic it might as well be sent to Fukushima.

blue's picture

They spent billions on that damn Yucca project let's ge it in there ,write barney frank

Westcoastliberal's picture

Thanks GW once again for setting the record straight.  One good EMP or Solar CME and we're glowing in the dark.  Kinda makes you wonder what the "War on terror" is good for, since as far as we know we're sitting ducks for this kinda crap.

carlnpa's picture

The link below is to an excellent factual document and reference on fuel pools for those that aren't properly horrified by reading the above.


Synopsis 767 hitting spent fuel pool = worse than Chernobyl.

Think above ground and truly overhead spent fuel pools.  Shit happens.

pies_lancuchowy's picture

This 'George Washington' character is a disgrace to this -otherwise great- website. Even the rare points where he IS right, it's all based on primitive propaganda

carlnpa's picture

Many here are missing GW's main points.

The primary risks of nuclear failure are in the spent fuel pools.

The spent fuel pools have precious little protection from outside events, not feet, not inches, think light weight sheet metal.  Use your imagination for the outside event.

The cost to store the fuel in "dry casks" is very low, a few hours worth of Benny Bucks printing.

"The U.S. government should promptly take steps to reduce these risks by placing all spent nuclear fuel older than five years in dry, hardened storage casks — something Germany did 25 years ago. It would take about 10 years at a cost between $3.5 and $7 billion to accomplish."

We shouldn't even be having the conversation about "dry cask" storage.

Friggin Gates could pay for this out of pocket change and do more to protect the safety of the people than anything else he has ever done.

lolmao500's picture

After the revolution, all these plants need to be shut down and dismantled... and new THORIUM ones built safely.

DizzySailor's picture

Why is it that Thorium is the Red Haired Step Child of alternative energy??  Guess the wrong people own the technology and source.

Lost Word's picture

The Washington website suggested that Thorium was not used because the Government cannot make bombs out of it.

smiler03's picture

This is a good site for a critical thinking look at Thorium, what's happening where in the world, the pros and cons, and history of Thorium reactors that have actually been built (in the USA).


OpenThePodBayDoorHAL's picture

we just need some zircon-encrusted tweezers (you need to be a pothead over 40 to get that one...)

AldousHuxley's picture

There  is a reason why they don't test nuclear missiles near New York City.....and reasons why NYC real estate is more expensive than New Mexico or Arizona....


Stay with the rich and you will be alright.

DaveyJones's picture

There's a pool of people in DC that contain more toxic waste than can be measured 

Jack D. Ripper's picture

Thank you President Obama!

In Obama's 2011 budget proposal released February 1, all funding for nuclear waste disposal was zeroed out for the next ten years and it proposed to dissolve the Office of Civilian Waste Management required by the NWPA.

pauhana's picture

Forty one miles north of Boston you'll find the Seabrook Nuclear Power Plant which was built - like the one I live next to here in SC (Oconee) - on an earthquake fault.  Seems like first they find a fault and then they decide to build on it.

Jim in MN's picture

That's a nice plant.  I've been in that control room.  Like the space shuttle.  $6.5 billion for that.  They abandoned Unit 2 at about $1.2 billion, half built containment dome and all.

When I was there they had yellow rope around some machinery in the coolant circulation system, they told me 'yeah, that's too hot to get near because the radioactive water mixed with the steam feed.  Last week you couldn't have come in this room at all.'  Niiiiiiice.

Money Squid's picture

Space Shuttle Challenger or Columbia?

This whole fear thing about nuclear energy is way overblown. Your post proves it. Last week you could not even enter the room, now only a yellow caution rope is all that is needed. See how fast things clean themselves up? Now really, why do we need all this hoopla?

Jim in MN's picture

Er, maybe space shuttle isn't the right comparison....or maybe...it is.....hmm.

Dr Benway's picture

Go ahead and fear unlikely calamities, all the while stuffing your face with food as your arteries clog.


Which do you think will kill you? 

geekgrrl's picture

How is death due to nuclear-induced cancer different from murder, or genocide?

W10321303's picture



Nuclear radiation!

Radioactivity – who needs it? No one – but we’ve got it – inside ourselves – and
it looks as if it will be with us for some time to come, so perhaps we’d best get on
with the best possible strategies to neutralize its assault.
More than any other source – due to its ability to induce massive free-radical
cascades – nuclear radiation is potentially the greatest destroyer of all things
good, all things living. It is the single most decisive game changer – free-radical
generator, and so, disease-creator. In comparison to it, all other dangers to our
well-being loom as inconsequential – marginal at best – even wars, natural
catastrophes, and terrorism combined.

The infant mortality rate following the arrival of the Chernobyl fallout in early
May of 1986 showed a 54% increase in June 1986 in the Pacific region of the
United States. Washington State had the highest rate in the region with a 245%
increase in deaths per thousand live births. California was next highest with
a 48% increase in infant mortality as compared to June of the year before. These
high rates lasted for July and August. Massachusetts led the nation in post-
Chernobyl increase of infant mortality rate with an increase of 900% per thousand
live births! Massachusetts also had a decline of 70% in newborns. The rate of live
births also decreased throughout the country in response to the Chernobyl
fallout. The US fertility rate decreased 8.3% in July and August to the lowest level
ever observed in United States history."

Even a brief perusal of the website,
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4fCCVU4y7oE, will reveal pathologies and
disfigurement in Chernobyl child victims so extreme as to make one weep –
defects which earth’s natural fields have never and could never begin to

And just how does radiation wreak its particular havoc on the human system?
Free radicals are atoms that have lost electrons because of the effects of radiation
or chemical pollutants. They are unstable, causing chemical chaos and tearing
through the surrounding tissues. They can join with fat compounds in the body,
causing fat molecules to oxidize and go rancid, producing more free radicals.
They can disrupt the formatting abilities of DNA and RNA, producing protein
molecules which are then reacted to as foreign substances, and attacked by the
immune system, weakening the body in a battle with itself.
It forces molecules, hydrogen and oxygen in particular, to be torn into two
halves, leaving one side with an unpaired electron, and the other with a
scavenging free radical, which will then proceed to recklessly tear through tissue
in a mad quest for bonding.


Bunga Bunga's picture

Pool's heated, come in bitchez!

W10321303's picture

I am soooo glad there is one place that is not being intimidated on this subject. As far as the apologists etc. who continue to parrot for the MIC....

Can we say free radicals boys and girls?

Did you see the smoke coming out of the Fukishima reactor? You know where there was supposed to be water 'containing' the radioactive elements from being emitted?

Can we say Mutant Virus boys and girls?

Why did they design these things to 'contain' radioactive emissions anyway?

What % of children in the Ukraine can't go to school because they are too sick?  (Ans:80%)


"Five years ago I visited the still highly contaminated areas of Ukraine and the Belarus border where much of the radioactive plume from Chernobyl descended on 26 April 1986. ...

Chernobyl: Consequences of the Catastrophe for People and the Environment, which is the New York Academy of Sciences report that Caldicott cited, is only available for subscribers, or those who buy the book. It isn't really an NYAS report, though:It was grim. We went from hospital to hospital and from one contaminated village to another. We found deformed and genetically mutated babies in the wards; pitifully sick children in the homes; adolescents with stunted growth and dwarf torsos; foetuses without thighs or fingers and villagers who told us every member of their family was sick.

This was 20 years after the accident but we heard of many unusual clusters of people with rare bone cancers. One doctor, in tears, told us that one in three pregnancies in some places was malformed and that she was overwhelmed by people with immune and endocrine system disorders. Others said they still saw caesium and strontium in the breast milk of mothers living far from the areas thought to be most affected, and significant radiation still in the food chain. Villages testified that "the Chernobyl necklace" – thyroid cancer – was so common as to be unremarkable; many showed signs of accelerated ageing.

The doctors and scientists who have dealt directly with the catastrophe said that the UN International Atomic Energy Agency's "official" toll, through its Chernobyl Forum, of 50 dead and perhaps 4,000 eventual fatalities was insulting and grossly simplistic. The Ukrainian Scientific Centre for Radiation, which estimated that infant mortality increased 20 to 30% after the accident, said their data had not been accepted by the UN because it had not been published in a major scientific journal.

This is a collection of papers translated from the Russian with some revised and updated contributions. Written by leading authorities from Eastern Europe, the volume outlines the history of the health and environmental consequences of the Chernobyl disaster. According to the authors, official discussions from the International Atomic Energy Agency and associated United Nations' agencies (e.g. the Chernobyl Forum reports) have largely downplayed or ignored many of the findings reported in the Eastern European scientific literature and consequently have erred by not including these assessments.

Konstantin Tatuyan, one of the "liquidators" who had helped clean up the plant, told us that nearly all his colleagues had died or had cancers of one sort or another, but that no one had ever asked him for evidence. There was burning resentment at the way the UN, the industry and ill-informed pundits had played down the catastrophe"


Offtheradar's picture

I'm pretty sure the words "free" and "radical" will get your name pulled up by the NSA.  HA!

Dr Benway's picture

Absolute claptrap. Fear of radiation is magnified to an irrational degree.


Of the atomic bomb survivors in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, how large a proportion do you think subsequently died from cancer attributed to radiation in the fifty years after the bomb?


Take a guess?


The answer is less than 2%. And these are people who got a dirty atomic bomb dropped on their head. 

geekgrrl's picture

"Fear of radiation is magnified to an irrational degree."

Is it? I don't think so. And either way, who are you to decide what is "safe" for me? Your arrogance is just off-the-charts.

Let me be blunt: I DO NOT CONSENT!

BlackholeDivestment's picture

...a few years back, think it was after the Sumatra Tsunami, I noticed there was a push for nuclear power and actually ended up having a conversation about it with a person of the highest standing. I mentioned earthquakes as a cause for grave concern. As usual my prophetic offer(s) of concern was rejected by conventional thinking and the person of higher standing later forgot that conversation when I reminded  them of it post Fukushima. Lol.  I was met with the usual dismissive response back then and the ''I don't recall'' the conversation later. Lol. Now here you are, just like that person, shoving crap down peoples mouth post Fukushima. You do this 24hrs after a quake swarm that peaked at 8.9 in a place that already proved the point of ''warning sign'' in 2004. Benway! You have a Japanese picture under your name that defines your offer(s). LMAO. Your responses define your own fear well Ben, like a typical ass talking their book or pushing the agenda behind it, the agenda which represents the interests of morons that have exposed the public to their stupid notions of security that crash and burn in the face of foreseeable future problems. I'm in your face Ben. Try reading the signs in front of your dusty ass for once and keep your craptrap shut, you may actually be able to heal yourself based on a secure principle that maps out a future beyond your blindness. Lol. Your offers are not relevant based on the trend, that being disasters and war.

Uh, how many people died because of the nuclear bomb? You dipshit.


Dr Benway's picture

OK I didn't understand all of that but I'll try to respond.


Look, Fukushima was poorly designed, maintained and operated. That should be taken as a rallying calll to improve the safety of nuclear energy, which has the potential of being clean, cheap and safe. It should NOT be an excuse to get rid of a great energy source.


As to the radiation issue, what we were discussing were the longterm effects of extreme doses of radiation post-bomb blast. The Radiation Effects Research Foundation has done studies on this, concluding that there were around 1,900 excess cancers per 100,000 survivors of Hiroshima/Nagasaki in the years 1950 to 2000. See link below.


geekgrrl's picture

You do sound like a used nuke salesman, but not a very good one.

Fukushima was hardly an outlier, the same kind of practices happen in many places and we have 23 identical plants in the US. You are using the same arguments that were trotted out after TMI, and again after Chernobyl.  No more.

It is time we shut down these plants forever.

BlackholeDivestment's picture


Ben, you sound like a used nuclear plant salesman. Lol. 

P.S. I lived in Japan, and as a result have in the past read about what happened to people. I made an effort to listen to the testimonies of victims of radiation exposure. You are barking up the wrong tree Ben. Lol.

lolmao500's picture

You dumbass. The nuke dropped on Hiroshima had about 140 lbs of nuclear material. And it was only uranium. Nuclear fuel pools contain HUNDREDS OF TONS of that stuff and more. There's MOX, plutonium, uranium, americanium... etc... stuff way more deadly.

Comparing the nukes dropped on Japan and spent nuclear rods fuel pools is just pure fucking idiocy.


Dr Benway's picture

What we are discussing in this thread is Fukushima and similar.


Are you SERIOUSLY saying that the radiation effects from Fukushima on the public are worse than the radiation incurred by atomic bomb survivors?


Then you are a monumental fool, LOL! The radiation amounts suffered by the public in the aftermath of Fukushima is nothing compared to having a nuclear bomb go off in your vicinity. I mean, seriously...

BeetleBailey's picture

Great post GW. Many thanks for the vigiliance.

q99x2's picture

Now the cat's out of the bag. Won't be long before the FBI and ATF move in to start providing their NWO services.


tony bonn's picture

thank you george for this expose of a problem about which i was unaware. unlike jamie dimon, i feel that you are indeed doing the lord's work....

non_anon's picture

like all state sponsored businesses, failures

johnjb32's picture

-- Sobering beyond words. The situation at Fukushima and globally is so dire that the only conceptual way to approach it is as a human problem, rather than a national problem. Human activity begs for destruction while our words are empty vessels expressing only wishful thinking and impotent good intent. -- Michael C. Ruppert



steelhead23's picture

What the tsunami and resultant meltdowns should make clear is that Black Swans do happen.  We should acknowledge that an event that would empty a water-cooled spent fuel pool could happen and take action to minimize both that potential and the resulting disaster.  For example, we could determine that the risk posed in disposing of spent fuel at Yucca Mountain, while not risk free, is of a lesser risk than storing fuel in water pools near major metropolitan areas.  NIMBY be damned.

donsluck's picture

With that logic, someone will be damned for sure. Are you volunteering some of your real estate?

Matt's picture

I don't understand why these nuclear experts, and the chemists they consulted with, don't understand how hydrogen + oxygen can cause detonation.

"Flames in and around a collection of pipes or structures can create turbulence that causes a deflagration to evolve into a detonation, even in the absence of gross confinement."



smiler03's picture

"I don't understand why these nuclear experts, and the chemists they consulted with, don't understand how hydrogen + oxygen can cause detonation.".

Perhaps you can arrange to educate them, after all, you're clearly a Nuclear Physicist.