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How Can We Protect Our Communities from Nuclear Terrorism?
Hardened On-Site Storage at Nuclear Reactor Sites

What Risks Do Reactors Pose?

• There are 65 reactor sites with spent fuel pools across the nation.

• These sites are located in 31 states.

• Reactor sites contain more than 1,000 times the radiation released in one Hiroshima sized atomic bomb in their spent fuel storage pools.

• Most spent fuel storage pools are not structurally protected.

• In the event of a fuel pool fire, land and property would remain useless for decades. Significantly, neither homeowner's nor business insurance policies cover nuclear disasters, leading to potential economic devastation.

Can Nuclear Sites Be Protected?

The priority with security must be to protect nuclear reactors and waste sites. The awful truth is that nuclear waste will always be vulnerable to terrorism. The US must adopt a new focus on reducing this threat and establishing a comprehensive plan, including federalizing security. A first priority is hardening and protection of nuclear reactors and waste sites. Creating Hardened On-Site Storage (HOSS) of high-level nuclear waste must be at the top of the list.

Hardened On-Site Storage (HOSS)

• HOSS would reduce the risk and consequences of an attack.

• HOSS is necessary at both operating and closed reactors because irradiated (spent) fuel is stored at both.

• Presently, most nuclear fuel is stored in pools of water that could not withstand a terrorist attack. These pools are not designed to limit radioactive releases.

• Because the US does not have a viable long-term solution to the waste problem, the industry has stored ever-greater quantities of waste in overpacked pools.

The first step is to reduce the density of nuclear fuel in storage pools. If attackers drained water from a fuel pool, the fuel could spontaneously ignite and burn uncontrollably. A fuel pool fire could release many times more radioactivity than a reactor meltdown, contaminating thousands of square miles. The now over-packed pools must be unloaded into protected dry cask storage.

Existing versions of dry-cask storage are also vulnerable since the casks, which were never designed to withstand attack, are stored close together in the open air. HOSS would spread the casks apart and offer added protection from attacks.

Except on the smallest sites, waste would not be stored below ground, to protect reactor communities from becoming permanent waste dumps.

What Would HOSS Look Like?

Rather than storing dozens of vulnerable dry-casks next to each other in the open air, HOSS would involve:

• Reinforced concrete and steel structures around each waste canister

• Protect these structures with mounds of concrete, steel, and gravel

• Spread out HOSS modules over a larger land area (60-70 feet apart, compared to 6 feet currently)

Such a design for HOSS would accomplish two things:

• The HOSS modules would be designed to withstand a range of weapons, explosives, and attacks - including anti-tank missiles, airliner impacts, and car bombs.

• Increased spacing between modules would mean that no more than a few casks could be damaged at once, even in the scenario of a nuclear attack.

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