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Institute for Policy Studies
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  • May 6, 2012


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    One of the authoritative voices behind the petition, Robert Alvarez, who is a leading American nuclear safety expert and a former senior policy adviser to the US Energy Department’s secretary, believes the nuclear waste in the cooling pond at Unit 4 contains ten times the amount of radioactive cesium that was blown into the atmosphere when Reactor 4 exploded at Ukraine’s Chernobyl in 1986 – making an accident involving this spent fuel pool potentially nearly ten times as devastating as the Chernobyl disaster.

  • May 4, 2012


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    Robert Alvarez, a nuclear waste expert and former senior adviser to the Secretary of Energy during the Clinton administration, has crunched the numbers pertaining to the spent fuel pool threat based on information he obtained from sources such as Tepco, the U.S. Department of Energy, Japanese academic presentations and the Institute of Nuclear Power Operations (INPO), the U.S. organization created by the nuclear power industry in the wake of the 1979 Three Mile Island accident.

    What he found, which has been corroborated by other experts interviewed by AlterNet, is an astounding amount of vulnerably stored spent fuel, also known as irradiated fuel, at the Fukushima Daiichi site. His immediate focus is on the fuel stored in the damaged unit 4's pool, which contains the single largest inventory of highly radioactive spent fuel of any of the pools in the damaged reactors.

  • May 1, 2012

    Energy News

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  • April 30, 2012

    The Guardian

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    "All of this in my opinion is a sign of a desperate struggle going on involving the NRC," said Robert Alvarez, a nuclear expert at the Institute for Policy Studies. "The majority of commissioners were put there largely with the blessing of the nuclear industry, and are now pushing back over potentially expensive upgrades to the reactor fleet after Fukushima."

  • April 19, 2012

    Global Post

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    "They love the false dichotomy of prohibition and drug war versus total anarchy and selling heroin in candy machines to children," Tree said. "The goal, in my opinion, should be to begin a multi-year discussion about what a post-prohibition regulatory environment would mean to the region and the world."

  • April 13, 2012

    Project On Government Oversight

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    We should note that these reports aren't the end all be all of government oversight—according to POGO Senior Investigator Peter Stockton and Institute for Policy Studies Senior Scholar Bob Alvarez, they are largely based on contractor self-reporting, and therefore aren't exactly the most hard-hitting evaluations under the sun.

  • April 10, 2012

    Shore News Today

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    "Spent reactor fuel cannot be simply lifted into the air by a crane as if it were routine cargo. In order to prevent severe radiation exposures, fires and possible explosions, it must be transferred at all times in water and heavily shielded structures into dry casks," Alvarez told Matsumura.

  • April 6, 2012

    Pacific Free Press

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    In recent times, more information about the spent fuel situation at the Fukushima-Dai-Ichi site has become known.  It is my understanding that of the 1,532 spent fuel assemblies in reactor No. 304 assemblies are fresh and unirradiated. This then leaves 1,231 irradiated spent fuel rods in pool No. 4, which contain roughly 37 million curies (~1.4E+18 Becquerel) of long-lived radioactivity.  The No. 4 pool is about 100 feet above ground, is structurally damaged and is exposed to the open elements. If an earthquake or other event were to cause this pool to drain this could result in a catastrophic radiological fire involving nearly 10 times the amount of Cs-137 released by the Chernobyl accident.

    The infrastructure to safely remove this material was destroyed as it was at the other three reactors.  Spent reactor fuel cannot be simply lifted into the air by a crane as if it were routine cargo.  In order to prevent severe radiation exposures, fires and possible explosions, it must be transferred at all times in water and heavily shielded structures into dry casks.. As this has never been done before, the removal of the spent fuel from the pools at the damaged Fukushima-Dai-Ichi reactors will require a major and time-consuming re-construction effort and will be charting in unknown waters. Despite the enormous destruction cased at the Da–Ichi site, dry casks holding a smaller amount of spent fuel  appear to be unscathed.

    Based on U.S. Energy Department data, assuming a total of 11,138 spent fuel assemblies are being stored at the Dai-Ichi site, nearly all, which is in pools. They contain roughly 336 million curies (~1.2 E+19 Bq) of long-lived radioactivity. About 134 million curies is Cesium-137 —roughly 85 times the amount of Cs-137 released at the Chernobyl accident as estimated by the U.S. National Council on Radiation Protection (NCRP). The total spent reactor fuel inventory at the Fukushima-Daichi site contains nearly half of  the total amount of Cs-137 estimated by the NCRP to have been released by all atmospheric nuclear weapons testing, Chernobyl, and world-wide reprocessing plants (~270 million curies or ~9.9 E+18 Becquerel).

    It is important for the public to understand that reactors that have been operating for decades, such as those at the Fukushima-Dai-Ichi site have generated some of the largest concentrations of radioactivity on the planet.

  • March 31, 2012

    Dissident Voice

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    US nuclear expert Robert Alvarez notes that if water drains from the unit four "pool resulting from another quake [it] could trigger a catastrophic radiological fire involving about eight times more radioactive cesium than was released at Chernobyl."

  • March 29, 2012

    The New York Times Green Blog

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    The amount of plutonium in the waste tanks is uncertain. Savannah River was built to make plutonium, and the material in the tanks is what was left over after the material was produced in reactors and scavenged in chemical plants. But a fair amount ended up in the waste tanks, according to Robert Alvarez, an outside expert who formerly worked for the Department of Energy.

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