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  • 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.

  • March 20, 2012


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    “On average, spent fuel ponds hold five to 10 times more long-lived radioactivity than a reactor core,” Alvarez wrote in his report.

    “Particularly worrisome is the large amount of cesium 137 in fuel ponds, which contain anywhere from 20 to 50 million curies of this dangerous isotope. With a half-life of 30 years, cesium 137 gives off highly penetrating radiation and is absorbed in the food chain as if it were potassium. According to the NRC, as much as 100 percent of a pool’s cesium 137 would be released into the environment in a fire,” Alvarez wrote.

  • March 11, 2012

    The Baltimore Sun

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    Unlike the reactor core, which sits in a steel vessel surrounded by a primary steel and concrete container, the spent fuel pool is surrounded only by the easily breached secondary structure, which nuclear expert Robert Alvarez describes as a building "no more secure than a car dealership."

  • March 10, 2012

    Common Dreams features article “No Nuclear Nirvana on the Horizon”

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  • March 10, 2012

    The Los Angeles Times

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    Robert Alvarez, who has served as a senior policy advisor in the U.S. Energy Department, said he would have been surprised if researchers had not found evidence of plutonium contamination near the plant. "They were irradiating plutonium in Unit 3, which experienced the biggest explosion."

    In fact, the explosion was so massive that investigators found fuel rod fragments a mile away, leading to speculation that a supercritical fission event may have also occurred, Alvarez said.

    But Alvarez said that much remains unknown one year after the disaster. Authorities can't say exactly where breaches occurred in the reactor vessels and spent fuel pools that caused contaminated water to flood the plant's lower levels, he said.

    The Japanese asserted that they had achieved a "cold shutdown" of the Fukushima site in December, but they will require a stable and permanent infrastructure to keep the situation under control. It is possible, and even likely, that radioactive cooling water is still leaking into the Pacific Ocean, Alvarez said. Cleanup of the immediate site could take four or five decades, he said.

  • March 7, 2012

    The Salt Lake Tribune

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    Robert Alvarez, a former senior adviser to the U.S. Energy Secretary who advocated for nuclear worker compensation, said the poll results pointed to a continuing trend of wariness about nuclear energy.

    "This survey shows why the industry has no future unless the U.S. government props it up and forces the public to bear the risks,"he said.

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