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PILGRIM STATION: Fire danger in nuclear pools underestimated, scientists say via Wicked Local Plymouth

A fire in just one of the 90 densely-packed spent fuel pools at U.S. nuclear reactors could release considerably more radiation than the 2011 reactor meltdowns at Fukushima Daiichi, according to a policy paper published in a recent Science magazine.

PLYMOUTH — A fire in just one of the 90 densely-packed spent fuel pools at U.S. nuclear reactors could release considerably more radiation than the 2011 reactor meltdowns at Fukushima Daiichi, according to a policy paper published in a recent Science magazine.

The solution, say the scientists who wrote the paper, is to reduce the amount of radioactive fuel now in pools and store it instead in heavy duty dry casks.

[…]

The researchers say the NRC staff’s analysis of the fallout from a simulated fire in a densely packed pool like Pennsylvania’s Peach Bottom Nuclear Power Plant didn’t factor in terrorist attacks, and it assumed no contamination beyond 50 miles of the plant.

The NRC study concluded that about 4 million people would be displaced. While the consequences of a pool fire were high, the probability of one occurring was low, so the cost of transferring all spent fuel into dry casks was not justified, concluded the NRC. The NRC estimated the cost at about $50 million per plant.

Based on their own study, Lyman, Schoeppner and von Hippel contend that a fire in the spent fuel pool at Peach Bottom could release enough radioactive material to contaminate an area twice the size of New Jersey.

[…]

Pilgrim’s pool, originally designed to hold 880 spent fuel assemblies, currently holds about 3,000, tightly packed on racks under about 40 feet of water. Making public concern even greater is the known deterioration of several hundred Boraflex panels needed to prevent fission from occurring in the pool.

[…]

“Overcrowded spent nuclear pools like the one at Pilgrim are a disaster waiting to happen,” Markey wrote in a statement.

Along with U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, D-Vermont, Markey has once again filed the Dry Cask Storage Act that would require plant owners to transfer spent fuel into casks within seven years of submitting a plan for fuel management.

On the state level, Sen. Vinny deMacedo, and Rep. Mathew Muratore, both Plymouth Republicans, sponsored a bill that would require owners of closed plants to complete decommissioning, including spent fuel transfer to casks, within five years of the reactor’s shutdown or pay a yearly assessment of $25 million until decommissioning is complete.

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