NO ADVERTISING, GOVERNMENT OR CORPORATE FUNDING

  • Latest News
  • Pitch a Story
  • Work with a Journalist
  • Join the Blog Squad
  • Afghanistan
  • Africa
  • Asia
  • Baltimore
  • Canada
  • Egypt
  • Europe
  • Latin America
  • Middle East
  • Russia
  • Economy
  • Environment
  • Health Care
  • Military
  • Occupy
  • Organize This
  • Reality Asserts Itself
  • US Politics
  • US Spent Nuclear Fuel Largest Concentration Of Radioactivity On Planet


    Bob Alvaraz: US has 71,000 metric tons of spent nuclear fuel that is not properly protected -   March 26, 2011
    Members don't see ads. If you are a member, and you're seeing this appeal, click here

    Audio

      Share to Twitter
    Share to Facebook




    I support The Real News Network because it is not entertainment...it is real news. - David Pear
    Log in and tell us why you support TRNN

    Bio

    Daphne Wysham is a Fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies and founder and host of Earthbeat, now airing on 61 public radio stations in the US and Canada. Robert Alvarez is a Senior Scholar at IPS, where he is currently focused on nuclear disarmament, environmental, and energy policies. Between 1993 and 1999, Mr. Alvarez served as a Senior Policy Advisor to the Secretary and Deputy Assistant Secretary for National Security and the Environment. Prior to joining the DOE, Mr. Alvarez served for five years as a Senior Investigator for the U. S. Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs, chaired by Senator John Glenn, and as one of the Senate’s primary staff experts on the U.S. nuclear weapons program.

    Transcript

    US Spent Nuclear Fuel Largest Concentration Of Radioactivity On PlanetDAPHNE WYSHAM: Welcome to Earthbeat on The Real News Network. I'm Daphne Wysham. In the aftermath of the partial meltdown in Fukushima, Japan, attention is being turned to the role of spent fuel in the pools, both in Japan and here in the United States. To help us understand just how serious this problem is in the United States, we have in the studio with us here in Washington, DC, Bob Alvarez. Bob is a senior scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies. And in the interest of full disclosure, I also work at the Institute for Policy Studies. He has been a nuclear policy specialist since 1975 and a former policy adviser under the Clinton Administration in the Department of Energy. Welcome to Earthbeat.

    BOB ALVAREZ: Thank you for having me on.

    WYSHAM: So, Bob, let's begin the process with discussing just exactly how much spent fuel we have here in the United States at the 100-plus nuclear reactors around the country.

    ALVAREZ: Well, we have the largest inventory of spent fuel in the world. It's about--it's been recently reported to be at this time about 71,000 metric tons. And it really represents the largest concentration of radioactivity on the planet.

    WYSHAM: Now, you authored a report in 2003. You actually pulled together a report because you were very concerned about all this spent fuel lying around in the reactors in the aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attack.

    ALVAREZ: That's right.

    WYSHAM: Tell us about that report and what the response was to that report.

    ALVAREZ: Well, several of us, my colleagues and I, became concerned that these spent-fuel storage pools that are at the US reactors were vulnerable to acts of terror and that no one had sort of looked at what might happen if they were attacked. So we assembled a working group that included--my colleagues included people from academia, former nuclear industry executives, former government types like myself and other researchers, and took a very hard look at the safety literature regarding spent fuel pools, and basically took it to its logical extreme in terms of an act of terror. And what we found is that these pools are vulnerable, and that the United States for the last several decades has permitted the reactor operators to put as much as four times more in the spent fuel pools than their designs envisioned.

    WYSHAM: Four times.

    ALVAREZ: That's right.

    WYSHAM: So just relative to what's happening in Fukushima, do we have four times the quantity of what now is being stored at the reactors in Fukushima?

    ALVAREZ: Oh, easily, easily, and then more.

    WYSHAM: No, but I mean at each reactor.

    ALVAREZ: That's right, that's right. I mean, the Fukushima reactors that are now under--you know, sort of undergoing this crisis--and they're not yet out of the woods--and the pools are part of that problem. /tIp/, you know, basically on the average contain about 100 metric tons. Spent fuel pools in the United States contain as much as 500, 600, 700 metric tons.

    WYSHAM: Okay. So let's turn to the response from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to your report. What was it?

    ALVAREZ: What we reported, which I think is important, is that these pools were vulnerable, and that if they were caused to--something caused them to drain--they would lose their water--the temperature in the spent fuel, because of the radioactive material decaying, would get so high that it would cause, essentially, the cladding of the fuel to catch fire and release catastrophic amounts of radioactivity. And we estimated that a single pool fire in the United States at a typical reactor could render an area uninhabitable substantially greater than that created by the Chernobyl accident. The Chernobyl accident created an area of uninhabitability that's roughly the size of half of New Jersey.

    WYSHAM: So you're suggesting that this would be even greater than that, greater than half of New Jersey. And how much greater?

    ALVAREZ: Four to five times.

    WYSHAM: Four to five times.

    ALVAREZ: So we also recommended that this is a problem that can be fixed, or at least mitigated, and that these pools should not be holding anywhere near what they're holding. They should place about 75 percent of it, the stuff that has aged longer than five years, into dry, hardened storage containers, which we have now in the United States. But only 14 percent of our spent fuel is in these containers.

    WYSHAM: And Germany did this 25 years ago.

    ALVAREZ: That's right. Germany did this 25 years ago. And they have their spent pools under think containment. And their spent fuel is stored in these big concrete casks, and they have them buried in hillsides. Or if they can't do that, they have them in thick concrete buildings capable of withstanding aerial impacts. The response by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the nuclear industry was hostile, and they issued a lot of criticisms to our report. And it generated enough controversy at the time that the United States Congress asked the National Academy of Sciences to sort this out. In 2004, the National Academy basically agreed that you could not rule out this possibility, and that a terrorist attack might cause this to happen, and that they had to take this problem seriously. The report was released after the NRC attempted to suppress it.

    WYSHAM: Why do you think the NRC was so hostile to this report and its findings?

    ALVAREZ: I think that the NRC has become entirely too codependent on the nuclear industry which it regulates. And this is a problem that's been going on for the last 15 or 20 years. It's very similar to what's happened to the Securities Exchange Commission, in terms of what happened and their ability to oversee and regulate the financial services industry before the economic collapse.

    WYSHAM: Who appoints the members of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission?

    ALVAREZ: Well, they're nominated by the president and they have to be approved by the Senate. And the way it works is that the Congress also controls how the Nuclear Regulatory Commission spends its money. So what's happened over the last 15 or so years is that Congress has forced the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, through its power over spending, to greatly curtail its regulatory programs. And so now the NRC is very, very dependent, entirely too dependent on industry self-reporting of problems. So they've become codependent. And I think that their response to our report was an example of that codependence.

    WYSHAM: Now, Greg Jaczko is the current chair of the NRC, correct?

    ALVAREZ: That's right.

    WYSHAM: And he actually played a role in helping to push forward this report when it was released, correct?

    ALVAREZ: When he worked for Senator Harry Reid, he was very helpful in making sure that we were able to brief members of Congress and Hill staffers and was supportive of what we were doing at the time. And since then, he's become the chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. He would not have been put on the commission were it not for the fact that he worked for a very powerful number of Congress.

    WYSHAM: How responsive do you think he would be now, given the state of concern about spent fuel in this country?

    ALVAREZ: Well, I think he's responsive, but you have to understand that he's one of five members who vote, and while he's the chairman, he's not all-powerful.

    WYSHAM: And what are the--who are the other members?

    ALVAREZ: Well, the other members, the way it works is that in order to get these nominees through the Senate, there have to be at least one to two seats that are pleasing to the nuclear industry, or else nobody gets through. This is the way it's worked. So the industry has had a lot of say-so over who gets appointed to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. And chairman Yatzko is a rather major exception to that.

    WYSHAM: So what can be done to try to pressure the other members of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to actually act on these findings? I mean, it seems it's a no-brainer at this point to protect the American people from something like a Fukushima situation in the United States.

    ALVAREZ: Well, I mean, it's not a pretty picture in this country right now, because of the Congress dominated by politicians who want to take a meat ax to programs that protect our public safety, feed our children, reduce the hardship of the poor, and all these things. I mean, for example, the House passed funding legislation recently that cut off all fundings for the federal program to issue tsunami warnings. It's a very difficult environment right now. So--but I think that the public should do everything they can, if they have these nuclear power plants anywhere near their backyards, is to call their members of Congress to task about fixing this problem.

    WYSHAM: Okay. We're going to take a break right there. We'll come back with more from Bob Alvarez. Stay tuned. I'm Daphne Wysham. You're watching Earthbeat on The Real News Network.

    End of Transcript

    DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.


    Comments

    Our automatic spam filter blocks comments with multiple links and multiple users using the same IP address. Please make thoughtful comments with minimal links using only one user name. If you think your comment has been mistakenly removed please email us at contact@therealnews.com

    Comments


    Latest Stories


    Affirmative Action Ruling Will Further Racial Inequality
    Evidence for Russian Involvement in East Ukraine Based on Shoddy Journalism
    Ivy League Study: The General Public Has Virtually No Influence on Policy
    The Modern History of Venezuela and Popular Democracy - Edgardo Lander on RAI (9/9)
    An Asia "Pivot" Should Mean Cooperating with China to Solve the Global Environmental Crisis
    Assessing the U.S. Environmental Movement
    Intimidation and Political Interference Goes Unpunished in UAW Case
    Exclusive Investigation Uncovers How BP Uses Bribes To Do Business
    The Modern History of Venezuela, The Protests and Democracy - Edgardo Lander on RAI (8/9)
    Greek Politics 4 Years After The Financial Crisis
    CBO Report Confirms U.S. Deficit Back to Normal Level
    Israel Uses Refugees as "Currency" in Arms Trade with Africa
    Who Will Pay for Climate Change Disaster?
    Canada Shifts to Right Under Harper, Mimicking the United States
    The Savings and Loan Crisis Demonstrates the Importance of Glass-Steagall
    South African Platinum Miner's Struggle Challenges ANC Leadership
    TRNN Original Report: Manning Determined to Fight Back After Army Upholds 35- Year Sentence
    Hundredth Anniversary of the Ludlow Massacre
    The Bundy Ranch Standoff Demonstrates Values Shared by Corporations and the Far Right
    The Resegregation of American Schools
    The Modern History of Venezuela, Why Still So Much Crime? - Edgardo Lander on Reality Asserts Itself (7/9)
    What Role Has Russia Played in Eastern Ukraine?
    Can Johns Hopkins Afford to Pay A Living Wage? (2/2)
    University Sit-In Targets World's Largest Private Coal Company
    The Modern History of Venezuela and the Need for a Post-Oil Economy - Edgardo Lander on RAI (6/9)
    Can Johns Hopkins Afford to Pay A Living Wage? (1/2)
    One Percent of Environmentalists Killings Lead to Convictions
    Investigation Finds Former Ukraine President Not Responsible For Sniper Attack on Protestors
    The Modern History of Venezuela from 1973 to the Caracazo Massacre - Edgardo Lander on Reality Asserts Itself (3/9)
    Ukraine Transitional Gov't Moves Militarily To Reclaim Seized Buildings
    IPCC Report Flawed By Narrow Focus on Carbon Emissions
    The Modern History of Venezuela: The Bolivarian Revolution - Edgardo Lander on Reality Asserts Itself (5/9)
    Obama Signs Directives to Reduce the Gender Wage Gap
    Eastern Ukraine Lacks Political Representation in Kiev
    Demystifying the Role of Mitigation in the Most Recent IPCC Report
    Hypersurveillance State Won't Prevent Another Boston Marathon Bombing
    The Modern History of Venezuela from 1973 to the Caracazo Massacre - Edgardo Lander on Reality Asserts Itself (3/9)
    Univ. of Maine Faculty Reinstated After Students Protest Against Cuts
    The Modern History of Venezuela from 1908 to 1973 - Edgardo Lander on Reality Asserts Itself (2/9)
    IMF Will Address Global Inequality, Says Managing Director Christine Lagarde
    Raising Big Banks' Leverage Ratio Good, But Not Nearly Enough
    TRNN Replay: Austerity Road to 19th Century
    Has Palestinian Maneuvering Revived Peace Talks?
    Late Jackson Mayor Lumumba's Son Wins Primary to Replace His Father, Runoff Election Ahead
    Quebecers Reject PQ and Elect a Liberal Government Representing Big Business
    TRNN Debate: Decriminalization vs. Legalization
    The Beginning of the Chavez Era - Edgardo Lander on Reality Asserts Itself (4/9)
    "Off With His Head": Court Upholds Obama's Power to Kill
    Workers at Nation's Top Hospital Strike For Fair Wages
    From Exile to Radicalization in Venezuela - Edgardo Lander on Reality Asserts Itself (1/9)
    Rwanda 20 Years Later: Genocide, Western Plunder of Congo, and President Kagame
    Ukrainian Protesters in the East Demand More Autonomy From Kiev Government
    Hunger Strikers Demand President Obama Halt His Record 2 Million Deportations
    Indian Parliamentary Elections - A Primer With Vijay Prashad
    West Looks to Carve Up Ukraine & Privatize Industries Held by Kleptocrats
    Where Are Israeli-Palestinian Peace Negotiations Headed?
    The Multiple Kingdoms of Saudi Arabia (5/5)
    Do the Afghan Presidential Elections Signify Progress?
    Republican Presidential Hopefuls Pay Homage to Billionaire Casino Tycoon Sheldon Adelson
    Will Extremist Lieberman Become Israel's Next Prime Minister?
    Why do the Saudis Want the US to Attack Iran? (4/5)
    Immigrant Advocates and Families Tell President Obama 'Not One More'
    Elections, Pipelines, and Protests - The Canada Panel
    Chris Hedges on "Israel's War on American Universities"
    Baltimore Residents Decry Lack of Affordable Housing
    Yellen Talks the Talk But Will She Walk the Walk?
    Hopkins Hospital Workers Speak Out against "Poverty Wages"
    Will Venezuela's New Floating Exchange Rate Curb Inflation?
    The European Central Bank's War on Wages is Pushing Europe's Economy to the Brink
    Supreme Court Decision Opens Floodgates for More Campaign Cash
    Charles Keating, the Financier Behind the Savings and Loan Scandal, Dies at 90
    Saudi Arabia and the al-Qaeda Monster (3/5)
    Maryland Residents Voice Opposition to Natural Gas Fracking Export Facility
    Supreme Court Ruling Gives Wealthy Individuals More Influence Over Elections
    What are the Saudis Afraid Of? - Madawi Al-Rasheed (2/5)
    Baltimore's MICA Adjunct Professors Set to Vote on Unionization
    Boycott of Israel Moving to Next Level?
    Hypocrisy Dressed Up as "Realism" Justifies American Alliance with Saudi Dictatorship
    Immigration Reform in the Shadows of Cesar Chavez's Legacy
    Leaked Senate Report Shows Use of Torture As "Ineffective"
    UN Report Says Climate Change Will Threaten Food Production Worldwide
    The Hypocrisy of US Calling for Enforcement of International Law
    How the Ecuadorian Economy Grew in a Global Recession
    'Shadows of Liberty' Trailer
    Kristina Borjesson on Why CBS Shut Down Her investigation into Flight 800 (2/8)
    Glen Ford on Racism in the American Media (3/8)
    Paul Jay on What Drives Corporate Media and What Drive The Real News (4/8)
    Creating a New Media Paradigm After Citizens United (5/8)
    Should The Left Engage with the Mainstream Media? (6/8)
    What Is the Financial Backing For The Real News? (7/8)
    Standing up to Character Assassination (8/8)
    Oligarchs, Fascists and the People's Protest in Ukraine
    TRNN Debate: Is Obamacare In the Interest of Workers?
    Too-Big-To-Fail Advantage Remains Intact For Big Banks
    Obama and the Saudi Agenda
    TRNN Replay: Investigating the Saudi Government's 9/11 Connection and the Path to Disilliusionment - Sen. Graham on Reality Asserts Itself pt 1
    The Iraq War's Real Legacy
    Petitions with 100,000+ Signatures Call for Snowden's Passport to be Reinstated
    We Need to Harness People Power - Andy Shallal on Reality Asserts Itself (4/4)
    BC Pipeline Fight and Quebec Elections - The Canada Panel
    Jonathan Schell - 1943-2014: Board Member of TRNN on Why We Need The Real News
    Teachers on Strike from the UK to Argentina
    Connecticut Poised to Become First State with $10.10 Minimum Wage
    Oil Spill Threatens Wildlife and Local Economy
    DC School Test Scores Up, But Poor Black Kids Are Doing Worse - Andy Shallal on RAI (3/4)
    Obama's Proposal To End NSA Bulk Data Collection Won't Protect Privacy
    How Google, Apple & The Biggest Tech Companies Colluded to Fix Workers' Wages
    An American Should be One that Questions Their Government - Andy Shallal on RAI (2/4)
    What's Driving Putin & Obama's Posturing on Ukraine?
    Hundreds of Students & Faculty Occupy College Campus to Fight Cuts to Public Higher Ed
    Due Process 'Impossible' In Harsh Death Sentencing Of Over 500 Muslim Brotherhood Members
    Has Anglo-American Capitalism Run Out of Steam?
    Being the "Other" in America - Andy Shallal on Reality Asserts Itself (1/4)
    TRNN Debate: Should Baltimore 'Ban The Box'?
    How Fallujah Became the Iraqi Government's New Battleground
    Why I Decided to Blow the Whistle on the NSA
    NASA Climate Predictions Show Serious Threat To Humanity
    Professor Who Teaches Israel-Palestine Conflict Accuses College of Violating His Academic Freedom
    CIA and NSA Wrongdoing Requires Independent Investigation, Says Former Church Committee Staff
    Are Tuition Breaks Enough To Combat High Student Debt And Low Graduation Rates?
    Industries Across the U.S. Are Stealing Wages From Their Lowest Paid Workers
    Who In Ukraine Will Benefit From An IMF Bailout?
    NSA Recording All International Calls From U.S.
    Israel "Making Lives Miserable" for Africans, Hoping They 'Self-Deport' (2/2)
    BP Gets Green Light to Drill in Gulf, But Has Safety Improved?
    Residents Still Not Drinking Tap Water Two Months After West Virginia Spill (1/2)
    Libya's Descent Into Turmoil Three Years After NATO Intervention
    From Pipelines to Peladeau - Canadian Report
    Israel "Making Lives Miserable" for Africans, Hoping They 'Self-Deport' (1/2)
    Congressional Progressive Caucus Budget Strikes Back Against Austerity
    Libya Three Years Later - Chaos and Partition
    Why Was Gaddafi Overthrown?
    Should Ukraine and West Accept De Facto Crimea Joining Russia? (2/2)
    Tony Benn Saw Socialism as the Culmination of Democratization
    Why Didn't Bush/Cheney Attack Iran and Can Obama Make and Sell a Deal? - Gareth Porter on Reality Asserts Itself (3/3)
    After Late Mayor Lumumba is Laid to Rest, What's Next for Jackson, Mississippi? (2/2)
    Crimea Referendum: Self Determination or Big Power Manipulation? (1/2)
    Sen. Graham: President Must Side with Openness About CIA and 9/11
    Manufacturing a Narrative for War - Gareth Porter on Reality Asserts Itself (2/3)
    Protesters Hit the Streets of Brooklyn to Demand $15 Minimum Wage
    Hammer: 'Moral Bankruptcy' Behind Massive GM Recall
    White House Withholds Thousands of Documents from Senate CIA Probe
    I Grew Up Believing in Time Magazine's Version of America - Gareth Porter on RAI (1/3)
    Western European Banks Vulnerable to Ukrainian Sovereign Debt Crisis
    TRNN Debate: What's Driving Inflation in Venezuela? (2/2)
    CIA vs. Senate: Who Is Obama Protecting?
    Will Tipped Workers Get Excluded Again From Minimum Wage Hike?
    TRNN Debate: What's Driving Inflation in Venezuela? (1/2)
    After Late Mayor Lumumba is Laid to Rest, What's Next for Jackson, Mississippi?(1/2)
    TRNN Replay: A Look at Who's Poised to Become No.2 at the Fed
    How Right-Wing Nationalism Rose to Influence in Ukraine (2/2)
    Netanyahu Attacks Boycott As Campaign Enters New Phase
    Moving Towards a Police State - Michael Ratner on Reality Asserts Itself (7/7)
    Fighting Reagan's Secret, Illegal Wars - Michael Ratner on Reality Asserts Itself (6/7)
    Puerto Rican Independence Movement and Cuba Further Radicalized Me - Michael Ratner on RAI (5/7)
    The Butcher of Attica - Michael Ratner on Reality Asserts Itself (4/7)
    MLK and a Radicalizing Moment in American History - Michael Ratner on Reality Asserts Itself (3/7)

    RealNewsNetwork.com, Real News Network, Real News, Real News For Real People, IWT are trademarks and service marks of IWT.TV inc. "The Real News" is the flagship show of IWT and Real News Network.

    All original content on this site is copyright of The Real News Network.  Click here for more

    Problems with this site? Please let us know

    Linux VPS Hosting by Star Dot Hosting