Sunday, March 20, 2011

How Will Shutting Down Indian Point Keep Us Safe?

What good will it do to shut down the Indian Point nuclear power plants while the Nuclear Regulatory Commission conducts an assessment to see if the plants can withstand an earthquake, as Riverkeeper is calling for?

I don't pose that as a rhetorical question.

Indian Point is not just a facility with two operating nuclear power plants. It is also a significant nuclear waste site.

Every ounce of highly radioactive fuel produced and used at the plant since it opened in 1962 is still there. Some of the spent fuel is stored underwater, in pools. Some is stored in large concrete casks. A large amount is still being used in the reactors of Indian Point 2 and Indian Point 3. Indian Point 1 was permanently shut down in 1974 but its spent fuel is still on the site.

Riverkeeper, in a statement I linked to yesterday, says:

It is our position that until Indian Point is proven safe, it should be closed. We are also calling for spent fuel to be moved out of the poorly-protected pools on site and into safer dry-cask storage.

So is Riverkeeper saying that the fuel that is now being used in IP 2 and 3 should be removed and stored in casks?

Are there enough casks on site for that to be practical?

How much safer are the casks than the pools that much of the spent fuel is stored in?

Or is it the case that the fuel in the reactors is safe and it's only the fuel in the pools that we have to worry about?

If the plants are shut down so the NRC can conduct a safety assessment, the highly radioactive fuel will still be there.

So how does shutting down the plants protect us from a disaster caused by an earthquake?

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