34 GROUPS: REACTOR LICENSING SHOULD BE SUSPENDED UNTIL NRC ADDRESSES NEW FINDINGS ON NUCLEAR REACTOR POOL FIRE RISKS, COSTS
New NRC Study Shows Even a Small Reactor Pool Fire Could Displace 4.1 Million People; Make More than 9,000 Square Miles Uninhabitable.
In addition to the NRC’s new data on risks, the groups also pointed out that the Commission has concluded spent reactor fuel could be transferred out of high-density storage fuels (where the fire risk is the greatest) in a cost-effective manner.
The groups pointed to the findings of an unpublicized NRC study of spent fuel storage at Peach Bottom, a reactor in Pennsylvania. This investigation showed that if even a small fraction of the inventory of a Peach Bottom reactor pool were released to the environment in a severe spent fuel pool accident, an average area of 9,400 square miles (24,300 square kilometers) would be rendered uninhabitable for decades, displacing as many as 4.1 million people.
As the groups point out in their petition, the NRC has never before acknowledged such dire pool fire risks in its reactor licensing decisions. The information undermines the NRC’s conclusion in prior environmental studies for reactor licensing and re-licensing that the impacts of spent fuel storage during reactor operation are insignificant.
The NRC has concluded that the “safety” benefit of reducing the density of spent fuel in storage pools would not be great enough to justify an order requiring all operating reactor licensees to thin out their pools. But the NRC focused on the risk of cancer, which is only one effect of a pool fire. The groups contend that NRC must protect not only public health and safety but the environment as well. The environment includes a host of broader values, such as ecological health and socioeconomic well-being. The Fukushima accident illustrates the fact that land contamination and dislocation of people can have enormous effects on society and the environment, regardless of the number of deaths or cancers.
See full petition here.