New England Coalition on Nuclear Pollution
VT       .      NH       .       ME       .       MA       .       RI       .       CT        .         NY     

April 25, 2007


Contact: Raymond Shadis, NEC Consultant – 207-882-7801
Diana Sidebotham, NEC president – 802-387-5817

Coalition Seeks Intervention in Support of MA. AG.  Nuclear Waste Fuel Suit- “Waste Fuel Fire More Like Chernobyl Than Three Mile Island” Says NEC Consultant

The New England Coalition announced today that earlier this week the group’s attorneys filed a petition in Federal Court seeking party status in a suit that would force the US. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, when considering nuclear plant license renewal, to assess the potential environmental impact of accidents or acts of terror at spent fuel storage facilities.

The suit was brought by the Massachusetts Office of Attorney General after NRC refused to hear evidence on spent fuel storage risk in license renewal proceedings currently underway for the Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Plant on the Western Massachusetts border in Vernon, Vermont and the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station in Plymouth, Massachusetts.  Both plants went online in the early 1970’s with 40-year licenses and both have applied for license extensions that would permit operation for an additional twenty years.

Safety advocates question the wisdom of adding more waste nuclear fuel to facilities that are already packed with seven to ten times more fuel than that for which they were originally designed.  At Vermont Yankee and Pilgrim (near identical plants) the highly radioactive fuel is stored in roughly 40 by 40 by 40 foot deep steel-lined concrete pools at the same elevation as the top of the reactor- nearly eight stories from the ground.  Advocates claim that the pools are vulnerable to seismic shock, aircraft impact, and explosives.

Once nuclear waste fuel is exposed to air, safety advocates claim, radioactive decay heat will raise fuel temperatures until the fuel’s thin zirconium metal cladding begins to glow, rapidly absorbing oxygen and resulting in a meltdown of the fuel- a nuclear waste fuel fire.

According to Raymond Shadis, technical consultant to the New England Coalition, “A nuclear waste fuel fire would be more like Chernobyl than it would be like Three Mile Island. In the Chernobyl fire the heat of burning graphite carried nuclear fuel particles high into the wind, in a nuclear waste fuel fire, burning zirconium would carry nuclear fuel particles high into the wind.  That is why” said Shadis,  “NRC studies predict thousands of latent deaths from a fuel fire up to hundreds of miles downwind even with near perfect 10-mile evacuation.[NUREG-1738]”

“Nuclear waste fuel” said Diana Sidebotham, president of New England Coalition, “is among the most dangerous substances on earth. That is why, short of a cessation in its manufacture, it must be contained and protected as perfectly as possible”

Shadis added, “ It will be some time before this issue is heard. It is our understanding that that Massachusetts has moved that their federal suit be held in abeyance pending further NRC action on a proposed rulemaking regarding nuclear waste fuel storage. Now, Shadis quipped, “ If only we can get the terrorists to hold off or take a vacation.”

NEC is represented in this matter by the Burlington law firm of Shems, Dunkiel, Kassel, and Saunders.