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Safety and Security of Commercial Spent Nuclear Fuel Storage: Public Report
sessions at three of its meetings to obtain comments from interested organizations and individuals. Public comments at these meetings were encouraged and considered.
Subgroups of the committee visited several nuclear power plants to learn first-hand how spent fuel is being managed in wet and dry storage: the Dresden and Braidwood Nuclear Generating Stations in Illinois, which are owned and operated by Exelon Nuclear Corp.; the Indian Point Nuclear Generating Station in New York, which is owned and operated by ENTERGY Corp.; and the Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station in Arizona, which is operated by Arizona Public Service Corp. A subgroup of committee members also traveled to Germany to visit spent fuel storage installations at Ahaus and Lingen and to talk with experts about the safety and security of German spent fuel storage. The German government has been concerned about security for a long time, and the German nuclear industry has made adjustments to spent fuel storage designs and operations that reduce their vulnerability to accidents and terrorist attacks. A summary of the trip to Germany is provided in Appendix C,
The statement of task for this study directed the committee to examine both the safety and the security of spent fuel storage. It is important to recognize that these are two sides of the same coin in the sense that any event that results in the breach of a spent fuel pool or a dry cask, whether accidental or intentional, has the potential to release radioactive material to the environment. The committee therefore focused its limited time on understanding two issues: (1) Under what circumstances could poots or casks be breached? And (2) what would be the radioactive releases from such breaches?
The initiating events that could lead to the accidental breach of a spent fuel pool are well known: A large seismic event or the accidental drop of a cask on the pool wall that could lead to the loss of pool coolant. The condition that could lead to an accidental breach of a dry storage cask is similarly well known: an accidental drop of the cask during handling operations. Current Nuclear Regulatory Commission regulations are designed to prevent such accidental conditions by imposing requirements on the design and operation of spent fuel storage facilities. These regulations have been in place for decades and have so far been effective in preventing accidental releases of radioactive materials from these facilities into the environment.
The initiating events that could lead to the intentional breach of a spent fuel pool or dry storage cask are not as well understood. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has had long-standing requirements in place to deal with radiological sabotage (included in the “design basis threat”; see Chapter 2), but the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks provided a graphic demonstration of a much broader array of potential threats. As described in the following chapters, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission is currently sponsoring studies to better understand the potential consequences of such terrorist attacks on spent fuel storage facilities.
Early on in this study, the committee made a judgment that it should focus most of its attention concerning such initiating events on the security aspects of its task statement. Many of the phenomena that follow an initiating event (e.g., loss of pool coolant or cask breach) would be the same whether it arose from an accident or terrorist attack, as noted previously. While the mitigation strategies for such events might be similar, they would require different kinds of preparation.
Given the relatively short time frame for this study, the committee focused its efforts