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Institute for Policy Studies
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  • March 16, 2011

    CNN

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    "The water served to both cool the uranium fuel and shield it. But once the uranium fuel was no longer covered by water, its zirconium cladding that encases the fuel rods heated, generating hydrogen, said Robert Alvarez, senior scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies and a former official with the Department of Energy.

    "That caught fire, resulting in a situation that is 'very, very serious,' he told CNN. He said the next solution may involve nuclear plant workers having to take heroic acts. Asked to be more specific, he said, 'This is a situation where people may be called in to sacrifice their lives...It's very difficult for me to contemplate that but it's, it may have reached that point.'"

  • March 16, 2011

    The New York Times

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    “'We’re in uncharted territory here,' said Robert Alvarez, a nuclear expert and adviser to the secretary of energy during the Clinton administration. 'But in very general terms, the worst-case scenario would be a catastrophic release of radiation that will not necessarily happen all at once.'”

  • March 16, 2011

    The Washington Post

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    "Robert Alvarez, an analyst at the Institute for Policy Studies who has long warned of the dangers of spent fuel pools at reactors, said that — unlike the reactors themselves — the fuel pools typically do not have backup pumps to maintain water flow. 'They were so overwhelmed,' he said of the workers straining to contain the disaster, 'maybe they weren’t checking water levels, and water started heating up and boiling' in the pool. If the fuel pools are exposed to the air, the radiation doses coming from them could be life-threatening within 25 to 50 yards, Alvarez said."

  • March 16, 2011

    AOLNews

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    "'All evidence points to the fact that control is slipping out of their hands,' said Robert Alvarez, a nuclear expert and a senior scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies.

    "Alvarez, who has been critical of nuclear power, warned that the true impact of radiation from the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant may not be known for decades. 'We have to look at what's happening in Chernobyl right now and be honest about it,' he said. 'Twenty-five years after the disaster we're seeing that the magnitude of the harm that may have been caused to Russia and Europe is unimaginable. And in Japan, we're looking at the risk of multiple meltdowns. If it gets to that point, it could be worse than Chernobyl. It's just not something you don't want to think about.'"

  • March 16, 2011

    The Washington Times

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    "Robert Alvarez, senior scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies, added he thought the 'prospects are very dim' for the congressional authorization of loan guarantees to the industry. Without loan guarantees, analysts say no new construction would be viable."

  • March 15, 2011

    The PBS NewsHour with Jim Lehrer

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    "'Water not only provides cooling, but it provides shielding,' said Robert Alvarez, a nuclear expert and a senior scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies. '[Radiation] dose rates coming off from spent fuel at distances of 50 to 100 yards could be life-threatening.'"

  • March 15, 2011

    The Los Angeles Times

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    "'They do not have the situation under control,' said Robert Alvarez, a nuclear expert at the Institute for Policy Studies and a former Energy Department official.

    "Another serious risk involves the more than 200 tons of spent nuclear fuel that is stored in pools adjacent to the reactors, Alvarez said. Those cooling pools depend on continually circulating water to keep the fuel rods from catching fire. Without power to circulate the water, it heats up and potentially boils away, leaving the fuel rods exposed to air.

    "An aerial image of the Fukushima plant shows the loss of high-capacity cranes needed to move equipment to service the reactor. The photo also appears to show that the spent fuel pool is steaming hot, which may indicate the water is boiling off, Alvarez said."

  • March 15, 2011

    USA Today

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    "The prospects for the loan guarantee program are now 'very dim,' said Robert Alvarez, a scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies and former senior adviser at the Energy Department."

  • March 15, 2011

    Time Ecocontric Blog

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    "Perhaps the most troubling warning about the dangers of spent fuel came in a 2003 article in the  journal 'Science and Global Security' by Robert Alvarez, Senior Scholar, Institute for Policy Studies, called 'Reducing the Hazards from  Stored Spent Power-Reactor Fuel in the United States.' Its first paragraph reads:"

    Because of the unavailability of off-site storage for spent power-reactor fuel, the U.S Nuclear Regulatory Commission has allowed high-density storage of spent fuel in pools originally designed to hold much smaller inventories....It has been known for more than two decades that, in case of a loss of water in the pool, convective air cooling would be relatively ineffective in such a “dense-packed” pool. Spent fuel recently discharged from a reactor could heat up relatively rapidly to temperatures at which the zircaloy fuel cladding could catch fire and the fuel's volatile fission product, including 30-year half-life Cs, would be released. The fire could well spread to older spent fuel. The long-term land-contamination consequences of such an event could be significantly worse than those from Chernobyl.

  • March 15, 2011

    The Guardian

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    "Robert Alvarez, a senior policy expert at the institute of Policy Studies, said satellite pictures of the Fukushima plant showed evidence of damage to the spent fuel pool. 'There is clear evidence that the fuel cask cranes that haul spent fuels to and from the reactor to the pool both fell. They are gone,' he said. 'There appears to be copious amounts of steam pouring of the area where the pools is located.'

    "He said there was no evidence of fire but described the situation as 'worrisome...What we don't know is whether or not explosions or the quake or the tsuanmi or a combination of things might have damaged support structures or compromised the pool,' Alvarez said.

    "He warned that it could take years to repair the damage to the upper decks of the reactor and to move the discharged fuel into a safer area of storage."

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