NAS Report on NRC’s Deficient Spent Fuel Pool Regulation Echoes UCS Criticisms

NRC Needs to Reconsider Moving Bulk of Spent Fuel from Cooling Pools to Dry Casks

Published May 20, 2016

WASHINGTON (May 20, 2016)—Today, the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) released its long-awaited report on the safety of the cooling pools that store some 75 percent of the spent nuclear fuel at reactor sites across the United States. The NAS concluded that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s (NRC) activities to address spent fuel pool risks since the 9/11 attacks and the March 11, 2011, Fukushima disaster have been deficient in serious respects.

The NAS report clearly found fault with NRC’s approach to protecting spent fuel pools from severe accidents and terrorist attacks, and largely confirmed the Union of Concerned Scientists’ (UCS) longstanding concerns about the agency’s inadequate response to the danger of spent fuel pool fires. Significantly, the report criticized the regulatory analysis the NRC used to justify rejecting a proposal to expeditiously transfer spent fuel from pools to dry casks.

According to UCS Senior Scientist Edwin Lyman, the NRC needs to revisit that analysis to address the committee’s concerns. An analysis that gives proper weight to the potentially catastrophic consequences of a spent fuel pool fire, he said, would lead the NRC to rightly conclude that the benefits of expedited transfer would greatly outweigh the costs.

“The National Academy of Sciences has confirmed many of the concerns that we have expressed regarding the danger of spent fuel pool fires that could cause massive and long-term radioactive land contamination, whether caused by accidents or terrorist attacks,” said Lyman. “Now it’s time for the NRC to act decisively to protect Americans from a disaster that could dwarf the horrific consequences of the Fukushima accident.”