be made. The offloading of the reactor core into the spent fuel pool during reactor outages substantially raises the decay-heat load of the pool and increases the risk of a zirconium cladding fire in a loss-of-pool-coolant event. Of course, any actions that increase the time a power reactor is shut down incur costs, which must be considered in cost-benefit analyses of possible actions to reduce risks.

  • Development of a redundant and diverse response system to mitigate loss-of-pool-coolant events. Any mitigation system, such as a spray cooling system, must be capable of operation even when the pool is drained (which would result in high radiation fields and limit worker access to the pool) and the pool or overlying building, including equipment attached to the roof or walls, is severely damaged.

FINDING 3D: The potential vulnerabilities of spent fuel pools to terrorist attacks are plant-design specific. Therefore, specific vulnerabilities can be understood only by examining the characteristics of spent fuel storage at each plant.


As described in the classified report, there are substantial differences in the design of PWR and BWR spent fuel pools. PWR pools tend to be located near or below grade, whereas BWR pools typically are located well above grade but are protected by exterior walls and other structures. In addition, there are plant-specific differences among BWRs and PWRs that could increase or decrease the vulnerabilities of the pools to various kinds of terrorist attacks, making generic conclusions difficult.


FINDING 3E: The Nuclear Regulatory Commission and independent analysts have made progress in understanding some vulnerabilities of spent fuel pools to certain terrorist attacks and the consequences of such attacks for releases of radioactivity to the environment. However, additional work on specific issues listed in the following recommendation is needed urgently.


The analyses carried out to date for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission by Sandia National Laboratories and by other independent organizations such as EPRI and ENTERGY have provided a general understanding of spent fuel behavior in a loss-of-pool-coolant event and the vulnerability of spent fuel pools to certain terrorist attacks that could cause such events to occur. The work to date, however, has not been sufficient to adequately understand the vulnerabilities and consequences. This work has addressed a small number of plant designs that may not be representative of U.S. commercial nuclear power plants as a whole. It has considered only a limited number of threat scenarios that may underestimate the damage that can be inflicted on the pools by determined terrorists. Additional analyses are needed urgently to fill in the knowledge gaps so that well-informed policy decisions can be made.

RECOMMENDATION: The Nuclear Regulatory Commission should undertake additional best-estimate analyses to more fully understand the vulnerabilities and consequences of loss-of-pool-coolant events that could lead to a zirconium cladding fire. Based on these analyses, the Commission should take appropriate actions to address any significant vulnerabilities that are identified. The analyses of the BWR and PWR spent fuel pools should be extended to consider the consequences of loss-of-pool-coolant events that are described in the committee’s classified report.



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