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Report on Spent Fuel Pool Fires by Nuclear Safety Analyst Mark Leyse


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In response to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s recent “waste confidence” EIS, Mark Leyse, a nuclear safety analyst wrote a report outlining numerous deficiencies with the NRC’s computer simulations of spent fuel pool fires. Mr. Leyse’s analysis reveals that the NRC has significantly under-predicted the severity and magnitude with which the zirconium cladding of spent fuel rods would burn, degrade, and result in the release of large quantities of radiation, in the event of a spent fuel pool fire. (Download Report)

This includes the fact that the NRC’s computer safety models neither simulate how nitrogen gas in air would accelerate fuel-cladding degradation and oxidation (burning) nor how the progressive generation of heat from the chemical reaction between nitrogen and zirconium would affect the severity of a spent fuel pool fire. By not considering such factors, the NRC has presented misleading conclusions that drastically underestimate the magnitude of the radiological releases that would result from spent fuel pool fires.

A number of instigating accident scenarios could occur as toxic nuclear waste sits and accumulates at reactor sites like Indian Point for hundreds of years, if not indefinitely. Seismic and other natural-disaster events could cause long-term electric grid failures, leading to the densely-packed nuclear waste stored in Indian Point’s spent fuel pools heating up and igniting. Nuclear power plants depend on a supply of offsite alternating current (AC) power for daily operation and preventing severe accidents. Many of the safety systems that are required for cooling spent fuel pools (that is, for removing decay heat, which is the heat generated by the radioactive decay of the nuclear fuel’s fission products) need AC power to operate. It is, thus, critical for the NRC to accurately assess the magnitude of the radiological exposures that communities in the vicinity of nuclear power plants would incur in the event of a spent fuel pool fire.

Download Report – Zirconium Fires in Pools of Spent Nuclear Fuel


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