Pools of Danger

The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear crisis has underscored the dangers of storing highly radioactive spent fuel in pools of water that are susceptible to breaches from natural disasters and hydrogen explosions from accidents. Unfortunately, spent-fuel storage has been an afterthought for government and industry leaders.

WASHINGTON, DC – The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear crisis in Japan has underscored the dangers of storing highly radioactive spent fuel in pools of water that are susceptible to breaches from natural disasters and hydrogen explosions from accidents. The crisis should serve as a wake-up call for governments and industry to take action to reduce the risks of spent-fuel storage.

Unfortunately, spent-fuel storage has been “an afterthought,” as Ernest Moniz, Director of the Energy Initiative at MIT, puts it. In dozens of countries, tens of thousands of tons of highly radioactive material has been kept in buildings that provide little of the usually rigorous protection surrounding radioactive material in reactors’ cores.

Pools have become overcrowded in many countries, owing to the lack of permanent repositories for nuclear waste. No country has opened such a repository, although Sweden has made significant progress in doing so.

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