Storage of nuclear waste poses threat to U.S., scientists warn
The reluctance of U.S. federal regulators to require operators of nuclear reactors to spend $5 billion to enhance the security of spent fuel rods stored underground threatens the country with a potential catastrophe, scientists warned on Friday.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission greatly underestimated the risk and potential contamination of a nuclear waste fire triggered by a quake or a planned attack, experts writing in the journal “Science” said.
In 2014, the NRC found the chance of a disaster caused by leaving radioactive waste in storage pools was too remote to warrant the cost of moving it to safer dry casks.
An earthquake that could trigger a radiation leak was likely less than once every 10 million years, hardly justifying the cost of about $50 million per reactor to transfer spent fuel, the NRC said in that report.
An accident at Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant in 2011 was triggered by a tsunami after an earthquake.
“We think the NRC gamed their analysis essentially to get the answer they want,” said Edwin Lyman, a senior scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists and one of the authors of the article in “Science,” a magazine published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
Michael Schoeppner and Frank von Hippel of Princeton University were co-authors.
On average, such a disaster could force 8 million people to evacuate and cause $2 trillion in damage in the United States, the world’s largest producer of nuclear energy, according to the report.
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