analysts have suggested that spent fuel more than five years old be removed from the pool and stored in dry casks, and that the remaining younger fuel be reconfigured in the pool to allow more space for air cooling in the event of a loss-of-pool-coolant event.
The committee that was appointed to perform the present study examined the vulnerability of spent fuel stored in pools and dry casks to accidents and terrorist attacks. 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 pools or casks be breached? And (2) what would be the radioactive releases from such breaches?
To address these questions, the committee performed a critical review of the security analyses that have been carried out by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and its contractors, the Department of Homeland Security, industry, and other independent experts to determine if they are objective, complete, and credible. The committee was unable to examine several important issues related to these questions either because it was unable to obtain needed information from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission or because of time constraints. Details are provided in Chapters 1 and 2.
The committee’s findings and recommendations from this analysis are provided below, organized by the four charges of the study task. The ordering of the charges has been rearranged to provide a more logical exposition of results.
CHARGE 4: RISKS OF TERRORIST ATTACKS ON THESE MATERIALS AND THE RISK THESE MATERIALS MIGHT BE USED TO CONSTRUCT A RADIOLOGICAL DISPERSAL DEVICE
The concept of risk as applied to terrorist attacks underpins the entire statement of task for this study. Therefore, the committee examined this final charge first to provide the basis for addressing the remainder of the task statement. The committee’s examination of Charge 4 is provided in Chapter 2, On the basis of this examination, the committee offers the following findings and recommendations numbered according to the chapters in which they appear
FINDING 2A: The probability of terrorist attacks on spent fuel storage cannot be assessed quantitatively or comparatively. Spent fuel storage facilities cannot be dismissed as targets for such attacks because it is not possible to predict the behavior and motivations of terrorists, and because of the attractiveness of spent fuel as a terrorist target given the well known public dread of radiation. Terrorists view nuclear power plant facilities as desirable targets because of the large inventories of radioactivity they contain. While it would be difficult to attack such facilities, the committee judges that attacks by knowledgeable terrorists with access to appropriate technical means are possible. It is important to recognize, however, that an attack that damages a power plant or its spent fuel storage facilities would not necessarily result in the release of any radioactivity to the environment. There are potential steps that can be taken to lower the potential consequences of such attacks.