TABLE 2.1C Radiological Attacks

Threat Category

Threat Description

Threat Level

Potential Consequences

Nuclear power plants (NPPs)

Ground or air assaults on civilian NPPs

High—Over 100 potential targets exist in the United States

Variable, ranging from reactor shutdowns to core meltdowns with very large releases of radioactivity

Research reactors

Ground or air assaults

High—there are 36 operating reactors

Little or no release of radioactivity likely

Spent nuclear fuel in wet or dry storage

Ground or air assaults on spent fuel pools or dry storage casks

High—Potential targets exist at all commercial NPP sites

Little or no release of radioactivity likely

Radiological sources

Attacks with dirty bombs or placement of radioactive sources in public places

Very high—radiation sources are numerous and highly dispersed worldwide

Few deaths likely, but potential for economic disruption and panic is high

Radioactive waste

Same as for radiological sources

Very high—radioactive waste is abundant worldwide and not well protected

Trivial—most types of radioactive waste potentially available to terrorists have low specific activity

Spent Nuclear Fuel in Wet or Dry Storage

All civilian NPPs contain storage facilities for spent nuclear fuel and, with few exceptions, all of the spent fuel produced by those reactors is being stored at the sites where it was produced. Approximately 42,000 metric tons of spent fuel are currently stored under water in large spent fuel storage pools for cooling and shielding purposes. These pools are constructed of steel-reinforced concrete and are typically located adjacent to reactor containment buildings.

At some NPP sites spent nuclear fuel also is being stored outside the power-plant buildings in dry casks on concrete pads. At present, about 3,000 metric tons of spent fuel are being stored in this fashion. The casks are constructed of one or more layers of stainless steel and steel-reinforced concrete. The spent fuel is stored in the casks in an inert atmosphere at low pressure. A consortium of

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