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Report: 'Unacceptable threat' from spent-fuel pools at US nuclear power plants

Overcrowded spent-fuel pools at US nuclear power plants pose an 'unacceptable threat to the public,' says risk assessor. Much of the leaked radiation from Japan's stricken Fukushima Daiichi came from spent-fuel pools.

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Workers replace the fuel rods in a spent-fuel pool at the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant in Vernon, Vt., in this 1985 file photo. Entergy Corporation has filed a lawsuit to keep Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant open past 2012. The New Orleans-based company has federal approval to keep the plant running until 2032, but it so far has been unable to secure state approval.

Toby Talbot / AP / File

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A spent-fuel pool fire at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant made headlines after March’s earthquake and tsunami – but the threat may be worse in America.

Spent nuclear fuel stored in water-filled pools at many nuclear reactor sites in the US far surpasses in volume and radioactivity the threat posed by such material at Fukushima, according to a new study.. The huge hazard could be largely eliminated by moving older materials from the pools into dry cask storage, it said.

“Unprotected and crowded spent nuclear fuel pools pose an unacceptable threat to the public,” said Robert Alvarez, a senior scholar for nuclear policy at the nonpartisan Institute for Policy Studies (IPS), as well as a former Department of Energy official in the Clinton Administration, in a statement.

“Dry cask storage is a much safer alternative to pools. Some people say they are too expensive, but considering the extreme risks, the cost of doing nothing is incalculable,” he added.

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