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Project on Government Oversight

Expert Cautions that 30 Million Spent Nuclear Fuel Rods Are Unsafely Stored in United States, Could Cause Fukushima-like Disaster

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May 24, 2011

The nation’s stockpile of radioactive spent fuel is stored in such unsafe conditions that the lives of millions of people who live near nuclear power reactors in this country are at risk, according to a new analysis released today by the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS), with support from the Project On Government Oversight (POGO).

The report by Robert Alvarez, IPS senior scholar for nuclear policy, indicates high risks of radioactive contamination or even nuclear chain reaction or explosion due to the unsafe storage of spent nuclear fuel.

An interactive map created by the Physicians for Social Responsibility, with new data from the IPS report, makes it easy to determine the threat of nuclear catastrophe for specific regions in the U.S., including sites in New York, Los Angeles, Miami, Dallas, Atlanta, and nuclear storage facilities across the U.S.

“Unprotected spent nuclear fuel pools pose an enormous threat to the public,” Alvarez said. “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.”

The report provides data for the first time on the amount of radioactivity in spent power reactor fuel at all individual sites in the United States. The report also details serious incidents that have occurred at U.S. reactor and storage sites containing these enormous amounts of radioactive materials, and examines dry cask storage as a means of reducing the risks of nuclear waste storage.

“The crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi plant in Japan should be a wake-up call for U.S. policymakers,” said POGO Executive Director Danielle Brian. “We hope the IPS report will shine a light on a serious safety risk at our nation’s nuclear power facilities, and spur action to secure spent fuel rods.”

Founded in 1981, the Project On Government Oversight (POGO) is a nonpartisan independent watchdog that champions good government reforms. POGO’s investigations into corruption, misconduct, and conflicts of interest achieve a more effective, accountable, open, and ethical federal government.

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