State of Vermont resists Entergy's attempts to eliminate emergency preparedness for high-level radioactive waste storage pool fire
As reported by Vermont Digger, a U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Atomic Safety and Licensing Board (ASLB) panel has just denied a petition by the State of Vermont demanding NRC require Entergy Nuclear to maintain emergency monitoring data systems on its high-level radioactive waste (HLRW) storage pool at the recently permanently shutdown Vermont Yankee (VY) atomic reactor. VY's pool currently holds nearly 3,000 highly radioactive, thermally hot irradiated nuclear fuel assemblies.
As also reported three months ago by Vermont Digger, Entergy also wants to do away with emergency response planning by April 2016, even though HLRW will remain in the storage pool for several years beyond that. The State of Vermont wants emergency preparedness kept in place as long as HLRW is stored in the pool.
Whether due to a fast breaking drain down (as from the drop of a heavy load, natural disaster, insider sabotage, or terrorist attack), or a slower motion boil down (as from loss of offsite electricity to run circulation pumps), the loss of the cooling water in the storage pool would lead, within hours, to the ignition of the zirconium metal cladding on the fuel rods. A catastrophic radioactivity release over a wide region would follow, as the pool is located outside of robust containment structures.
Before later becoming NRC Chairman, Dr. Allison Macfarlane, et al., warned in a Jan. 2003 report about the catastrophic risks of pool fires. Robert Alvarez of Institute for Policy Studies, one of her co-authors, documented shortly after the Fukushima nuclear catastrophe began that VY's pool holds around 100 million curies of hazardous, radioactive Cesium-137. As cited in the 2003 Macfarlane et al. study, NRC has admitted that up to 100% of the volatile Cs-137 could escape into the environment in a pool fire.