Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station spent radioactive fuel pool was designed to hold 880 fuel assemblies but today holds more than 2,300


Washington (November 13, 2019) – Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), a member of the Environment and Public Works Committee, along with Senators Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), reintroduced legislation aimed at improving the storage of spent nuclear fuel at nuclear plants across the nation. When spent nuclear fuel is removed from the part of the reactor that generates electricity, it continues to produce significant quantities of heat and radiation for years. The Dry Cask Storage Act would ensure that every nuclear reactor operator complies with an NRC-approved plan that would require the safe removal of spent nuclear fuel from the spent fuel pools and place that spent fuel into dry cask storage within seven years of the time the plan is submitted to the NRC.  The legislation also provides funding to help reactor licensees implement the plans and expands the emergency planning zone for non-compliant reactor operators to 50 miles.


“Experts agree that a spent fuel pool accident could have consequences that are every bit as bad as an accident at an operating reactor,” said Senator Markey. “The Nuclear Regulatory Commission took away Pilgrim’s emergency planning requirements without requiring that its spent fuel be put into dry casks—that is unacceptable, and neither Pilgrim nor other plants should be able to cut corners on safety. Nuclear waste must be moved to safer storage now before a nuclear disaster occurs.”


“Around the world there is growing concern about the dangers of nuclear power,” said Senator Sanders. “In my view, we cannot sit idly by and hope that the unthinkable will never happen. We must take action to better secure nuclear waste in a safe and responsible way. The public deserves to know that safety is the single most important priority at nuclear power plants.”


“Addressing the safe storage of spent nuclear fuel is critical for the communities around our nuclear plants,” said Senator Gillibrand. “This legislation will ensure that each nuclear plant has a plan in place to responsibly transfer spent fuel from spent fuel pools into dry cask storage and maintain critical safety, security, and emergency planning requirements until that transfer is complete. With this legislation, we have an opportunity to protect families in New York and across the country. I urge my colleagues to join me in supporting this important legislation.”


A copy of the legislation is available HERE.


Spent nuclear fuel is too dangerous to be removed from the spent fuel pools for 5-7 years.  A 2017 study by Princeton University shows how the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) relied on bad analysis to justify its refusal to adopt a critical measure for protecting Americans from nuclear-waste fires at dozens of reactor sites around the country. An analysis by one of the authors of the study showed that a hypothetical spent-fuel fire at the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station could result in the release of radioactive fall-out across a large swathe of New England. The study notes that moving the fuel to dry casks would drastically cut the risk of such a fire, and reduce possible radioactive release by 99 percent. However, NRC regulations allow spent fuel to remain stored in spent fuel pools until the reactor completes decommissioning, which can take as long as 60 years.