A new report from the IPS, "Spent Nuclear Fuel Pools in the US: Reducing the Deadly Risks of Storage", written by Dr. Alvarez, details for the first time how much radioactivity is contained in spent nuclear fuel at all individual reactor sites in the United States – and the threat they pose.
Today, some 65,000 metric tons of spent fuel is stored at reactor sites around the country, 75 percent of it in US spent-fuel pools, according to data from the Nuclear Energy Institute cited in the report. The other 25 percent is in dry cask storage. Each pool contains spent-fuel rods that give off about 1 million rems of radiation per hour at a distance of one foot – a fatal dose in seconds, the report says. The radiation is kept in check by tons of water continually flowing around the rod assemblages.
Some 30 million such rods are stored in spent-fuel pools at 51 sites around the country that "contain some of the largest concentrations of radioactivity on the planet," the study said. The rods are usually kept in tightly-packed racks submerged in pool water, which requires a steady flow of electricity to keep from overheating. If water drains from a spent-fuel pool, it can lead to a catastrophic fire that emits dangerous radioactive elements like Cesium 137.
Typically, spent-fuel pools are rectangular, about 40 to 50 feet deep, and made of reinforced concrete walls four to five feet thick, with stainless steel liners. Those without liners may crack or corrode more often, the report says.