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A new article in Science magazine suggests that the nuclear industry’s lobbying activities in Washington have resulted in the disapproval of a measure that would have protected Americans’ from the harmful effects of a nuclear-waste fire at reactor sites across the nation.
Princeton University researchers say in the article that the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s inaction regarding spent-nuclear-fuel cooling pools near reactors leaves the public at high risk. The pools in question contain radioactive fuel rods and are densely packed with harmful nuclear waste. If set aflame, the radiation from its contents could affect an area two times the size of New Jersey.
A large earthquake or a terrorist attack using the pools could cost $2 trillion in damages and force eight million people to relocate.
"The NRC has been pressured by the nuclear industry, directly and through Congress, to low-ball the potential consequences of a fire because of concerns that increased costs could result in shutting down more nuclear power plants," said Princeton research physicist Frank von Hippel, who co-wrote the paper. "Unfortunately, if there is no public outcry about this dangerous situation, the NRC will continue to bend to the industry's wishes."
The end result of the Fukushima incident, in which a 9.0 magnitude earthquake triggered a tsunami that disabled cooling systems necessary to maintain reactor cores, would have been much worse if the pools had been damaged, the researcher said, pushing Congress to pass a regulation on the matter since the NRC had declined to do so.
"In far too many instances, the NRC has used flawed analysis to justify inaction, leaving millions of Americans at risk of a radiological release that could contaminate their homes and destroy their livelihoods," said Edwin Lyman at the Union of Concerned Scientists. "It is time for the NRC to employ sound science and common-sense policy judgments in its decision-making process."
By Zainab Calcuttawala for Oilprice.com
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Zainab Calcuttawala is an American journalist based in Morocco. She completed her undergraduate coursework at the University of Texas at Austin (Hook’em) and reports on…