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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.

 

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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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Thu, 04/12/2012 - 10:39 | 2337762 rufusbird
rufusbird's picture

Hi Doctor Benway,

I love your stuff!!!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VgpfmehW7iE

 

Thu, 04/12/2012 - 19:00 | 2339791 Dr Benway
Dr Benway's picture

Since that demonstration I have refined my operating technique.

Thu, 04/12/2012 - 10:02 | 2337568 earleflorida
earleflorida's picture

yeah, the same was said about the titanic, and the world trade center

it ain't the fire that kills ya,... it's dah  smoke

Thu, 04/12/2012 - 08:54 | 2337318 Ratscam
Ratscam's picture

airplane aluminum at 700 miles per hour on a width of 100 feet
vs.
RPG uranium depleted amunition at 1500 miles per hour on a width of 1 foot loaded with high velocity explosives
Dr. Benway, I hope you,re not a physics professor.

Thu, 04/12/2012 - 16:44 | 2339331 Dr Benway
Dr Benway's picture

Are you seriously saying that an RPG would cause more damage to a large structure than a fully tanked Boeing 767? I am literally laughing as I type this.

Thu, 04/12/2012 - 15:57 | 2339139 NotApplicable
NotApplicable's picture

9/11 changed everything!

Especially physics

Speaking of which, I'm assuming Bldg #2 has collapsed by now, right?

Thu, 04/12/2012 - 08:47 | 2337288 Bicycle Repairman
Bicycle Repairman's picture

"Nuclear power plants can withstand the impact of a 767 jet."

Can you cite something on this?

Thu, 04/12/2012 - 16:39 | 2339305 Dr Benway
Dr Benway's picture

Analysis of Nuclear Power Plants Shows Aircraft Crash Would Not Breach Structures Housing Reactor Fuel

WASHINGTON—Structures that house reactor fuel at U.S. nuclear power plants would protect against a release of radiation even if struck by a large commercial jetliner, according to analyses conducted over the past several months by the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI).

The independent analyses were conducted at the request of the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI).

State-of-the-art computer modeling techniques determined that typical nuclear plant containment structures, used fuel storage pools, fuel storage containers, and used fuel transportation containers at U.S. nuclear power plants would withstand these impact forces despite some concrete crushing and bent steel.

The computer analyses, which cost more than $1 million, are summarized in a report entitled, “Deterring Terrorism: Aircraft Crash Impact Analyses Demonstrate Nuclear Power Plant’s Structural Strength.” A summary of the study’s findings is accessible on NEI’s web site at http://www.nei.org.

Thu, 04/12/2012 - 19:10 | 2339832 Bicycle Repairman
Bicycle Repairman's picture

Thanks for the info.  Computer modeling is all well and good.  I'd like to see a real world test.  Just to be sure.

Thu, 04/12/2012 - 19:14 | 2339843 Dr Benway
Dr Benway's picture

A real world test?

 

As in actually flying a fully tanked 767 into a nuclear power plant?

 

LOL...

Thu, 04/12/2012 - 19:51 | 2339948 geekgrrl
geekgrrl's picture

Yes, it's called verification and validation, a formal process of verifying designs.

I think the Crystal River plant with its cracked containment building might not hold up as well, and I think it is extremely unlikely that these simulations have modeled the performance of cracked containment buildings. So, what the NEI have created is a mathematical lie, rather than the usual verbal lies. Fail.

Thu, 04/12/2012 - 20:07 | 2339987 Dr Benway
Dr Benway's picture

You cannot seriously be suggesting that we are to start testing structural integrity by flying tanked 767s into things?!?

Thu, 04/12/2012 - 23:45 | 2340603 geekgrrl
geekgrrl's picture

Nuclear weapons were not considered proven until they were tested. Real life testing, not computer modeling.

Thu, 04/12/2012 - 23:30 | 2340570 Bicycle Repairman
Bicycle Repairman's picture

An obsolete military plane of simliar size could be flown into a concrete shell in the desert somewhere.  It'scalled "proof of concept."  No big deal really.

Thu, 04/12/2012 - 23:40 | 2340586 geekgrrl
geekgrrl's picture

Exactly. Routine testing. 

The reason "Dr" Benway scoffs at the idea is because his position is ideological, not based on scientific evidence.

Thu, 04/12/2012 - 21:01 | 2340114 geekgrrl
geekgrrl's picture

That would be necessary to validate the model, yes. Lacking empirical verification, there is no proof, just a hypothetical mathematical model. (Oh, and it's secret, so we can't even check the basic assumptions)

This is the mathematical equivalent to "trust us."

Thu, 04/12/2012 - 18:11 | 2339639 geekgrrl
geekgrrl's picture

Is this the same state-of-the-art modeling technique used by NIST in their WTC reports?

Thu, 04/12/2012 - 18:24 | 2339671 geekgrrl
geekgrrl's picture

From your link: "... full analytical details will not be released to the public for security reasons ..."

Haha. Yea, trust us says the propaganda arm of the nuclear industry.

Ummm, no. The nuclear industry is not trustworthy.

Thu, 04/12/2012 - 17:22 | 2339471 lolmao500
lolmao500's picture

Please. The NEI is as credible as TEPCO, the Japanese government or the NRC.

Thu, 04/12/2012 - 20:54 | 2340102 Jim in MN
Jim in MN's picture

Right.  The nuclear trade lobby commissioned this from the electric power industry's pet research lab.  I bet if they asked for a study of a nuclear plant surviving a magnitude 9 earthquake and tsunami it would turn out exactly the same. 

NEI is far less credible than the others you mention. 

Thu, 04/12/2012 - 18:19 | 2339658 Dr Benway
Dr Benway's picture
LOL you conspiracy buffs are all the same! You ask for proof. Then when provided with proof, you ask for proof for the proof. Repeat ad infinitum. Its like when a five year old starts asking you "why?"
Thu, 04/12/2012 - 20:53 | 2339964 geekgrrl
geekgrrl's picture

How is this proof? You mock the idea of actually performing the experiment, and then make the claim that a mathematical model that has never been verified and validated constitutes "proof"?

You can't even argue honestly, the universal trademark of a nuclear shill.

Thu, 04/12/2012 - 07:25 | 2337127 non_anon
non_anon's picture

the banksters and pols have their getaway plans in hand, we are just muppets

Thu, 04/12/2012 - 07:22 | 2337120 connda
connda's picture

Oh Geoge W. dear!  You ARE such a purveyor of pessimism porn, don't you think?  We all know that a good dosing of radiation is GOOD for a body.  I'm almost sad that I don't have to walk through the TSA scanners due to my celebrity status.  I'm so disasppointed when I walk by the little people on the way to the private jet.  So I'm hoping for a "little spill" out Boston way sometime.  It will just make folks glow!

Signed,

Ann Coulter

Thu, 04/12/2012 - 15:53 | 2339135 NotApplicable
NotApplicable's picture

Now, just what kind of heartless bastard could downvote this?

Thu, 04/12/2012 - 07:07 | 2337097 lakecity55
lakecity55's picture

So, somebody finally discovered the Elite plan for "Depopulation." I wonder what would happen if you held a geiger counter near the Georgia Guidestones?

So it's been hiding in plain sight all these years. Somebody call Alex. He'll have a cow.

Long Iodine.

Thu, 04/12/2012 - 16:47 | 2339347 Silver Dreamer
Silver Dreamer's picture

Iodine is a scam.  It only protects you from one of the isotopes.  What about the others?  We are surrounded by snake oil salesman. 

If you want to survive a nuclear disaster, you cannot be immediately downwind from it.  If you want to survive a nuclear blast, you cannot be within the blast area or immediately downwind from it.  Nuclear blasts are preferrable, since most of the material is "burned up" during the event.  The fallout that remains quickly loses its lethal dose too.  Nuclear disasters on the other hand spew lethal dose radioactive particles for extended periods. 

The bottom line is this:  Save your money for a quality mask, filters, and other protective gear.  Build a house with a "cold storage" room.  Make sure you can survive within it for at least a month.  Do not live immediately downwind from a nuclear facility, do not share a water source with one, and be 30 miles from any high value target.   Make sure you have a geiger counter that is running 24/7 that will also give audible alarms when there's a spike in alpha, beta, or gamma particles. 

That's the best you can do to prepare.

 

Thu, 04/12/2012 - 17:47 | 2339565 RECISION
RECISION's picture

Umm... NO.

Nuclear blasts are preferrable, since most of the material is "burned up" during the event.

Thu, 04/12/2012 - 06:52 | 2337088 LasVegasDave
LasVegasDave's picture

Red Sox Suck

Red Sox Suck

Red Sox Suck

Thu, 04/12/2012 - 15:14 | 2338979 Rattling Bones
Rattling Bones's picture

What's with all the thumbs down? The Red Sox do suck, look at their record.

Go Celtics.

 

 

Thu, 04/12/2012 - 23:31 | 2340558 geekgrrl
geekgrrl's picture

My downvote was due to the fact that his post is completely irrelevant to the topic.

I am, however, interested in what LasVegasDave thinks about Yucca Mountain.

Thu, 04/12/2012 - 07:34 | 2337142 LongSoupLine
LongSoupLine's picture

stay in tardvegas...

 

go Sox and Pats!

Thu, 04/12/2012 - 10:09 | 2337609 Gene Parmesan
Gene Parmesan's picture

Seconded.

Thu, 04/12/2012 - 06:47 | 2337085 Silver Alert
Silver Alert's picture

We are so eff'ed.

Thu, 04/12/2012 - 06:37 | 2337080 Freeman-S-Stratos
Freeman-S-Stratos's picture

Or... let's just move away from Nuclear energy. Force the shadow govt. into releasing suppressed energy technologies: http://www.thrivemovement.com/

Thu, 04/12/2012 - 07:30 | 2337134 mick_richfield
mick_richfield's picture

Move away from uranium energy, starting one year ago.

But we have to get that goddamned waste out of those goddamned storage pools as though our species depended on it.

The existence of those pools is a species-intelligence test.

And it's Pass/Fail.

Thu, 04/12/2012 - 10:34 | 2337741 rufusbird
rufusbird's picture

I think the money spend chasing down a few Afghan guerrillas could be better spent protecting the American Public from a threat that is more real and closer to home. Of course the lobby that represents the nuclear power industry would not support such a move, even though the American Pubic wants it.

What is wrong with this picture? What is wrong with our congressmen. It will take a disaster to get their attention. I expect I will live to see an American disaster from nuclear fallout, either from our own or the effects from Japan.

Thu, 04/12/2012 - 15:48 | 2339114 NotApplicable
NotApplicable's picture

What is wrong is your idea that there are such things as "our congressmen."

The instant you recognize it's nothing but the most orgainzed form of crime, ALL of the actions taken by the office holders make perfect sense.

Simply put, criminals cannot provide efficient goods and services, even if they desired to do so (which of course, they don't).

Thu, 04/12/2012 - 07:37 | 2337150 spinone
spinone's picture

Finished basements are a species intelligence test, and look how many people have those.

Don't underestimate rationalization.

Thu, 04/12/2012 - 03:12 | 2337006 Negro Primero
Negro Primero's picture

 

"9 High-Profile Champions Of Nuclear Power"

 

And the first prize goes to...  

http://www.mnn.com/earth-matters/energy/photos/9-high-profile-champions-...

Thu, 04/12/2012 - 08:35 | 2337242 steve from virginia
steve from virginia's picture

 

Pretty funny, scroll down to the bottom of the MNN website and see their sponsors:

Georgia-Pacific, AT&T, GE, AFLAC, SC Johnson Co., CSX Railroad, Southern Company, Miller-Coors, Mercedes-Benz, etc.

http://www.mnn.com/earth-matters/energy/photos/9-famous-champions-of-nuc...

Left out Goldman-Sachs and Exxon ...

 

 

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