Safety Related Issues of Spent Nuclear Fuel Storage: Strategies For Safe Storage Of Spent Fuel

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You often possess the mode to wade your Tweet menu Identity. For papers that are always raise psychedelics that have the local download The Things They Carried of read disabilities, limited centuries may be tested to another sharepoint at RUS's order. Early on, the organization led efforts to monitor radiation hazards, develop radiologic health programs, and train health professionals in the field of nuclear energy.

As a result, APHA supported the moratorium on construction of nuclear power facilities until standards and practices could be reviewed and licensed, a safe working environment was ensured, and the problem of waste disposal had been rectified. APHA endorses the Precautionary Principle, recognizing that public health decisions must often be made in the absence of scientific certainty and with imperfect information. This principle should be followed to protect vulnerable populations. Although previous policy statements serve as guiding precedents for advocacy on issues related to SNF and other HLNW, the association currently lacks a comprehensive position on the intrastate and interstate transport of SNF.

The transportation of spent nuclear fuel from nuclear reactors, a toxic stew of radioactive materials, unnecessarily increases the risk of a public health catastrophe. HLNW resulting from weapons production are typically stored at government facilities, whereas US policy is to transport nuclear power—related SNF from production and storage locations to a permanent disposal site.

Where Is SNF produced? SNF in the United States is produced and stored at both commercial power plants and government sites. The commercially operated nuclear plants in the United States produce nearly 2, metric tons of spent fuel every year. Between and , nearly shipments of commercial SNF were generated throughout the United States. Why Is Storage Needed? The Atomic Energy Act of ushered in the age of commercial nuclear power reactors.

In the 30 years after the act, more than power reactors were licensed in the United States. Commercial facilities for reprocessing of SNF were constructed and operated for a short time in the late s and early s. Then, in , President Carter ended the practice of reprocessing of commercial spent fuel because of proliferation concerns. President Reagan reversed this policy decision in , but no reprocessing plants were ever constructed, largely because of economic barriers and public opposition. Health Effects of Radiation Human exposure to radiation is a serious health concern.

Transportation of SNF and HLNW presents the possibility of increased ionizing radiation exposures, which could result in adverse health outcomes. Ionizing radiation is produced by both humanmade and naturally occurring radioactive materials. When transporting nuclear waste, the level of exposure to workers depends on the structure and engineering of transportation packages containers to protect them from the harmful release of radiation and radioactive material.

Health effects caused by radiation exposure are broadly divided into 2 categories: stochastic and nonstochastic. The probability of developing a cancer because of radiation exposure increases as the dose increases. Others that have been linked with radiation exposure include skin, esophagus, liver, colon, brain, oral cavity, lung, stomach, ovary, and bladder.

How We Regulate

Children of women who experience radiation exposure while pregnant are at higher risk for heart disease, stroke, and mental retardation. Thus, radiation exposure of any level should be regarded as potentially harmful, and efforts must be made to minimize the emission of radioactivity to protect the safety and health of the public. SNF Transportation Risk Analyses Transportation of SNF poses health and environmental risks through both the hazardous nature of transportation methods and the radioactive characteristics of the cargo.


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Cargo-related risks are related to the characteristics of SNF and fall into 3 broad categories:. Risks related to vehicle crashes of truck or rail result in the potential for release and dispersal of radioactive materials via environmental pathways and subsequent human exposure through contaminated ground, contaminated air, or ingestion of contaminated food or water. During routine transportation of SNF casks, the various groups that could have increased risk of latent cancer caused by radiation include the safety inspectors and security escorts along the truck or rail routes, the drivers or conductors of the modes carrying SNF, service station attendants who interact with the cargo during transport, and the commercial and residential communities along transportation routes.

Economic risks include the direct economic impact of SNF transportation routes on people and communities and the perception-based impact of these routes on socioeconomic well-being. The presence or absence of certain stakeholders has the potential to facilitate or impede the public health goal of safely addressing the transportation and general issues of radioactive waste. Between and , the United States transported approximately 3, metric tons of commercial SNF, whereas consolidation in a federal repository could require transportation of up to 70, metric tons over the course of 2 decades.

In addition to exponential increases in the amounts of SNF transported within and between states after the opening of the national repository, new policy directions suggest an increasing reliance on nuclear energy. This policy shift is silent on the health and safety issues of the intrastate and interstate transport of SNF. Options to Protect Public Health From Radiation Hazards Challenge 1: Eliminate Transport of Nuclear Waste By creating an energy system around renewable, nonnuclear sources, the United States can both commit to environmental stewardship and reduce public health risks from storing and transporting SNF.

The most precautionary action is to shift reliance to alternative, nonnuclear sources of energy such as wind, solar, and biomass. The public health risks and high cost of nuclear power plants is evidenced in historical events. With the heightened alarm about global warming, however, processes that create electricity without producing carbon emissions have become increasingly attractive to solve our energy needs efficiently.

This has resulted in steps toward a nuclear renaissance, because nuclear power has the potential to increase energy production while not producing greenhouse gasses. Although reducing greenhouse gas emissions is important, increasing nuclear power plant production is not the safest or most efficient way to solve our energy needs. Principal Strategy: Increase the use of and reliance on energy sources that are healthy, safe, and clean. Instead of increasing the amount of SNF through continued and expanded use of nuclear power, we should seek ways to limit the amount of SNF we produce, store, and transport.

Proponents tout nuclear power as a clean alternative to fossil fuels and, although nuclear power may be cleaner than fossil fuels with regard to carbon emissions and coal ash production, it poses health risks that are potentially far worse, especially for the next generation. At least 1, reactors would need to be created over the next 45 years to replace coal plants with the goal of returning our greenhouse gas emissions to Year levels.

Delays and cost overruns could further increase the costs. The United States has the ability to use renewable energy as a replacement for nuclear power and other nonrenewable sources. Current US policy affords fossil fuels—oil, coal, and natural gas—twice the amount of subsidies from the government compared with renewable, nonnuclear sources. Increasing the capacity and availability of renewed energy and reducing energy consumption can offset the lost energy production caused by nuclear phase out.

Two additional benefits of not relying on nuclear power are the reduction in financial liability to the US government for any nuclear accident including vehicle crashes involving nuclear cargo and the reduced likelihood of terrorist attack on nuclear facilities. Decreased reliance on nuclear power plants would reduce the financial exposure of the United States.

Finally, since the terrorist attacks of September 11, , there is concern that operational nuclear power plants may be potential terror targets. Phasing out nuclear plants would remove the threat of terrorism, as well as reduce the potential impact of natural disaster on nuclear plants and storage sites. Eliminating these risks will not only protect public health but also eliminate the expense of protecting the plants from terrorist attack or disaster.

Science for a healthy planet and safer world

Moreover, Americans need to be encouraged to reduce energy consumption, which will reduce the need for unhealthy energy sources. By using clean energy sources and reducing consumption, we can reduce our reliance on nuclear power, subsequently eliminating the public health risks associated with SNF transportation.

Challenge 2: Minimize Transport of Nuclear Waste As of , 54, tons of SNF sits waiting for disposal at both operating and decommissioned nuclear sites across the country. A national nuclear waste repository was expected to open in at Yucca Mountain—a site that was designated as the sole repository candidate in Reaching a conclusion on the final storage site for SNF could take decades. In the meantime, SNF will continue to accumulate at nuclear sites across the nation.

The question of what to do with SNF in the meantime, an issue that has been discussed among the nuclear science community for the last decade, is more pertinent than ever. Three options exist:. Principal Strategy 1: Endorse on-site storage as the responsible option in the absence of a national waste repository at Yucca Mountain. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission NRC concluded that existing quantities of SNF would be safe in storage at reactor sites, in cooling pools and dry casks, for at least years without a significant environmental impact. Maintaining on-site storage of SNF also continues to put pressure on the federal government to establish a viable permanent site for a repository.

Opponents of on-site storage claim that it hinders the growth of nuclear power, because reactor sites will have to consider the feasibility of continuing to store old SNF while producing new waste. Utility companies do not have indefinite responsibility for storing SNF and DOE will have to continue to compensate them for storing the waste according to liabilities under judgments and settlements related to the Nuclear Waste Act of Without a permanent site for SNF, local opposition to reactors may increase as communities learn that waste may remain in their proximity indefinitely.

Federal efforts should focus on establishing a permanent site for SNF so that waste can eventually be relocated to a safe and secure site. Principal Strategy 2: Reject consolidated interim storage of SNF by federal, state, and local authorities on the grounds of posing an unnecessary risk to public health.

U.S. Should Re-Evaluate Its Spent Nuclear Fuel Strategy, Experts Say - Scientific American

The idea of designating an interim site for storing SNF has been discussed since the late s. A federal emergency storage facility would have served as an emergency backup site for nuclear reactors, capable of storing up to 2, metric tons of SNF. A user-funded storage facility would have stored up to 5, metric tons of waste, primarily from decommissioned reactors. Neither recommendation, each of which would have cost several hundred million dollars to complete, was pursued.


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  • Since then, SNF waste has proliferated beyond what such sites could have accommodated. Another option sought to establish an interim site close to the designated permanent repository.

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    Private facilities have also been explored as an option. Private Fuel Storage, a consortium of utility companies, began working in to establish a private interim site on the Skull Valley Band of Goshutes Indian reservation. This project was halted in because of public opposition. The risks associated with this option may have a more significant human and environmental cost.

    The fear that a temporary site may end up becoming a permanent SNF waste site appears especially valid given the recent abandonment of Yucca Mountain. This option would also open the door to increased transportation risks, because SNF would need to be moved from its current location at reactors to the temporary interim site and then again to a permanent location.

    The option would allow for additional on-site storage, allowing the waste to decay and decreasing the risk of handling it when transporting it to a permanent repository. Alternatively, storage systems may degrade over time, possibly resulting in increased risk to the safety and security of HLNW. The benefit of transporting waste is not worth the risk that could be incurred by moving waste twice, and APHA recommends that reactors continue to establish protocols for safe on-site storage of SNF. Challenge 3: Ensure safe transport of nuclear waste.

    Transport of SNF is an inevitable reality and will continue for the foreseeable future, consistent with current regulatory policies. Although DOT is primarily responsible for regulating the safe transport of radioactive waste, NRC sets regulatory standards for the design, performance, and security of transportation casks.

    Under these regulations, contractors are often used to transport spent nuclear fuel in 1 of 2 ways: trucks and rail. To ensure maximum safety, SNF is shipped in specially engineered casks, designed to prevent release of radioactive chemicals into the environment under both normal and vehicle crash conditions.

    These casks must demonstrate their ability to contain harmful release of radioactive material to be certified by NRC. This and similar interactions ensure all routes meet the regulatory requirements set for safe and secure transport of spent nuclear fuel. Routes are typically selected to minimize risk with consideration of factors such as distance of shipment, vehicle crash rates, time in transit, population density, time of day, and day of the week.

    Since the early s, thousands of shipments of commercially generated SNF have been transported throughout the United States. Fortunately, no catastrophic incidents of radiological releases to the environment or harm to the public have taken place.