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In response to a request from Congress, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the Department of Homeland Security sponsored a National Academies study to assess the safety and security risks of spent nuclear fuel stored in cooling pools and dry casks at commercial nuclear power plants. The information provided in this book examines the risks of terrorist attacks using these materials for a radiological dispersal device. Safety and Security of Commercial Spent Nuclear Fuel is an unclassified public summary of a more detailed classified book. The book finds that successful terrorist attacks on spent fuel pools, though difficult, are possible. A propagating fire in a pool could release large amounts of radioactive material, but rearranging spent fuel in the pool during storage and providing emergency water spray systems would reduce the likelihood of a propagating fire even under severe damage conditions. The book suggests that additional studies are needed to better understand these risks. Although dry casks have advantages over cooling pools, pools are necessary at all operating nuclear power plants to store at least the recently discharged fuel. The book explains it would be difficult for terrorists to steal enough spent fuel to construct a significant radiological dispersal device.

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Suggested Citation

National Research Council. 2006. Safety and Security of Commercial Spent Nuclear Fuel Storage: Public Report. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. https://doi.org/10.17226/11263.

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Publication Info

126 pages | 8.5 x 11 | Paperback
ISBN: 978-0-309-09647-8
DOI: https://doi.org/10.17226/11263
Chapters skim
Front Matter i-x
NOTE TO READERS 1-2
SUMMARY FOR CONGRESS 3-4
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY 5-5
CHARGE 4: RISKS OF TERRORIST ATTACKS ON THESE MATERIALS AND THE RISK ... 6-6
CHARGE 1: POTENTIAL SAFETY AND SECURITY RISKS OF SPENT NUCLEAR FUEL STORED IN POOLS 7-8
CHARGE 3: POTENTIAL SAFETY AND SECURITY ADVANTAGES, IF ANY, OF DIFFERENT DRY CASK STORAGE DESIGNS 9-9
IMPLEMENTATION ISSUES 10-11
1.1 CONTEXT FOR THIS STUDY 12-12
1.2 STRATEGY TO ADDRESS THE STUDY CHARGES 13-15
1.4.1 Nuclear Fuel 16-18
1.4.2 Storage of Spent Nuclear Fuel 19-19
1.4.3 Spent Fuel Inventories 20-20
1.4.4 History of Spent Fuel Storage 21-24
2.1 BACKGROUND ON RISK 25-27
2.2 TERRORIST ATTACK SCENARIOS 28-29
2.2.1 Air Attacks 30-30
2.2.2 Ground Attacks 31-32
2.2.4 Terrorist Theft of Spent Fuel for Use in a Radiological Dispersal Device (RDD) 33-33
2.3 RISKS OF TERRORIST ATTACKS ON SPENT FUEL STORAGE FACILITIES 34-35
2.4 FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS 36-37
3 SPENT FUEL POOL STORAGE 38-39
3.1 BACKGROUND ON SPENT FUEL POOL STORAGE 40-43
3.2 PREVIOUS STUDIES ON SAFETY AND SECURITY OF POOL STORAGE 44-46
3.3 EVALUATION OF THE POTENTIAL RISKS OF POOL STORAGE 47-47
3.3.1 Could a Terrorist Attack Lead to a Loss-of-Pool-Coolant Event? 48-48
3.3.2 What would be the Radioactive Releases if a Pool Were Drained? 49-54
3.3.3 Discussion 55-56
3.4 FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS 57-59
4 DRY CASK STORAGE AND COMPARATIVE RISKS 60-60
4.1 BACKGROUND ON DRY CASK STORAGE 61-63
4.2 EVALUATION OF POTENTIAL RISKS OF DRY CASK STORAGE 64-64
4.2.1 Large Aircraft Impacts 65-66
4.2.3 Discussion 67-67
4.3 POTENTIAL ADVANTAGES OF DRY STORAGE OVER WET STORAGE 68-68
4.4 FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS 69-74
5.2 COMMUNICATION ISSUES 75-76
5.3 FINDING AND RECOMMENDATION 77-78
REFERENCES 79-82
A.2 SECOND MEETING, MARCH 46, 2004, ARGONNE, ILLINOIS 83-83
A.5 FOURTH MEETING, MAY 1012, 2004, WASHINGTON, D.C. 84-84
A.11 NINTH MEETING, NOVEMBER 2930, 2004 85-85
REFERENCES 86-86
B BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES OF COMMITTEE MEMBERS 87-91
C.1 GERMAN COMMERCIAL NUCLEAR POWER PLANTS 92-93
C.2 SPENT FUEL STORAGE 94-96
C.4 TESTS ON GERMAN CASKS 97-98
REFERENCE 99-99
D.1 DESIGN FOR A CLOSED FUEL CYCLE 100-100
D.2.2 Effect of Reversal of U.S. Fuel Reprocessing Policy 101-102
D.3.1 Pressurized Water Reactors 103-103
D.3.2 Boiling Water Reactors 104-104
D.3.3 Reactor Fuel and Reactor Control 105-105
REFERENCES 106-107
E GLOSSARY 108-114
F ACRONYMS 115-116

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