Indian Point: spent fuel pools are the greatest risk of all

“Indian Point spent fuel storage has about three times more radioactivity than the combined total in the spent fuel pools at the four troubled Fukushima reactors,” according to a new report, Spent Nuclear Fuel Pools in the U.S.: Reducing the Deadly Risks of Storage (Robert Alvarez of the Institute for Policy Studies).

New York State and a statewide coalition of environment and public service watchdog groups have filed legal motions with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission challenging the re-licensing of Indian Point. They cite, among a list of safety hazards, the leaks and other risks presented by spent fuel storage at Indian Point. The current licenses for the plant’s two reactors expire in 2013 and 2015.

“The NRC continues to ignore not one, but two 800 lb gorillas in the room, namely the fundamental risk posed by poorly protected spent fuel pools overfilled with highly radioactive nuclear waste, and the patent inadequacy of a 10 mile emergency evacuation zone for Indian Point,” said Phillip Musegaas, Hudson River Program Director at Riverkeeper (Ossining, NY).

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation denied Entergy, Indian Point’s corporate owner, a water quality permit to continue operating the plant based on multiple issues (see link below) that include leaks from spent fuel pools. The DEC cites the lack of a containment structure for the pools, which, like fuel pools at many other nuclear power plants, are housed in warehouse type buildings with sheet metal siding, and are not under a dome.

Leaks containing tritium, strontium 90, and cesium-137 have contaminated groundwater and the nearby Hudson River.

A leak discovered in 2005 contaminated groundwater with tritium levels as high as 200,000 picocuries per liter of water (about ten times the EPA drinking water standard). In 2006, the discovery of strontium-90, cesium-137, and nickel-63 in groundwater was traced to a leak in the Unit 1 spent fuel pool. In 2007, a report disclosed that strontium-90 was detected in four our of twelve Hudson River fish tested.

Over the past 30 years, there have been at least 66 incidents at U.S. reactors in which there was a significant loss of spent fuel water, according to Alvarez’s report. The report warns that “significant corrosion has occurred of the barriers that prevent a nuclear chain reaction in a spent fuel pool — some to the point where they can no longer be credited with preventing a nuclear chain reaction.”

More here:

Spent Nuclear Fuel Pools in the U.S., Reducing the Deadly Risks of Storage, Robert Alvarez, Institute for Policy Studies.

Radioactive Waste and Pollution, Riverkeeper.

DEC Position on Indian Point Relicensing, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

This entry was posted in General. Bookmark the permalink.