How Safe is Storing Decades of Nuclear Waste at Peach Bottom, PA?

"Nuclear waste is piling up in our backyard—and it's not stored as safely as it could be....

     "Nuclear power plants produce large amounts of waste, in the form of spent fuel assemblies, which are collections of fuel rods. These 12-foot-long metal tubes contain uranium, plutonium, and other metals and byproducts, and are extremely hot and radioactive.

     "The United States has not fulfilled its commitment to move spent fuel from reactor sites to long-term storage. As a result, well over 65,000 metric tons of spent fuel assemblies have piled up at our nation's nuclear power plants—and the pile is growing."

     -- From this current Union of Concerned Scientists site:
http://www.ucsusa.org/nuclear_power/making-nuclear-power-safer/handling-nuclear-waste/infographic-dry-cask-cooling-pool-nuclear-waste.html#.Va06D3hH0h8

 

Since starting commercial operation in 1974, the Peach Bottom Atomic Power Station has used two costly, hazardous ways to do the extra handling and securing of unplanned amounts of spent fuel on site:

1. Wet storage of radioactive fuel rods at the bottoms of pools of constantly cooled water inside the Peach Bottom plant

     "A fire in a densely packed spent fuel pool at the Peach Bottom plant could contaminate thousands of square miles with radioactive material, force the long-term displacement of millions of people, and cause tens of thousands of cancer deaths."

     -- From “New NRC Study Shows Benefits of Transferring Spent Fuel to Dry Casks,” by David Wright, at this June 26, 2013 Union of Concerned Scientists/All Things Nuclear site:
http://allthingsnuclear.org/new-nrc-study-shows-benefits-of-transferring...

If for any reason electric power to the plant is cut off, as happened following the earthquake and tsunami at Fukushima, the water in the pool can heat up and boil away. (Union of Concerned Scientists)

 

2. Dry storage of radioactive fuel rods in concrete casks now accumulating outside the Peach Bottom plant

Additional security and weathering challenges

Security:

     "The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has issued Peach Bottom Atomic Power Station an "escalated enforcement action" after observing a security violation during an inspection the NRC conducted in May.

     "NRC official correspondence to Exelon Nuclear, the company that owns the Peach Bottom plant in southeastern York County, stated that the violation concerns a piece of electronic security equipment at the power plant's dry cask storage facility, where the plant's used nuclear fuel is stored."

     -- From “NRC ups enforcement of Peach Bottom nuclear plant after violation,” by Brett Sholtis, at this November 6, 2014 York Daily Record/Sunday News site:
http://www.ydr.com/ci_26879604/nrc-ups-enforcement-peach-bottom-nuclear-plant-after

Weathering:

     "At the Peach Bottom plant, plant operators responded to a cask seal pressure monitoring system low pressure alarm in October 2010 and found rust on the underside of a protective cover and water or signs of moisture around more of the bolt lid holes and bolts....

     "Water seeped in through the protective cover's pressure monitoring system access plate, and the water caused rust when the presence of moisture created a galvanic cell where the aluminum clad cask lid seal and the stainless steel clad cask body sealing surface met.

     -- From “NRC notes water damage potential to dry cask storage,” by David Perera, at this April 29, 2013 Fierce Homeland Security site:
http://www.fiercehomelandsecurity.com/story/nrc-notes-water-damage-potential-dry-cask-storage/2013-04-29

 

More about Peach Bottom is at this important Three Mile Island Alert site:
http://www.tmia.com