US stores spent nuclear fuel rods at 4 times pool capacity
by Rady Ananda
In a recent interview with The Real News Network1, Robert Alvarez, a nuclear policy specialist since 1975, reports that spent nuclear fuel in the United States comprises the largest concentration of radioactivity on the planet: 71,000 metric tons. Worse, since the Yucca Mountain waste repository has been scrapped due to its proximity to active faults (see last image2), the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission has allowed reactor operators to store four times more waste in the spent fuel pools than they’re designed to handle.
Each Fukushima spent fuel pool holds about 100 metric tons, he says, while each US pool holds from 500-700 metric tons. A single pool fire would release catastrophic amounts of radioactivity, rendering 17-22,000 square miles of area uninhabitable. That’s about the size of New Hampshire and Vermont – from one pool fire.
In a March 25th interview3, physician and nuclear activist Dr Helen Caldicott explains that “there’s far more radiation in each of the cooling pools than there is in each reactor itselfŠ. Now the very short-lived isotopes have decayed away to nothing. But the long-lived ones, the very dangerous ones, Cesium, Strontium, Uranium, Plutonium, Americium, Curium, Neptunium, I mean really dangerous ones, the long-lived ones – that’s what the fuel pools hold.”