Ameren Corporation – Report on Risks and Mitigation Measures of Irradiated Fuel Rod Storage (2003)
As long as the Callaway nuclear power plant operates, it will continue generating radioactively and thermally hot, irradiated fuel rods that must be cooled, after removal from the Reactor Vessel, and placed in wet storage in the on-site Spent Fuel Pool for at least five years before they can be moved.
In 2002 the President and the Congress approved the siting of a federal underground repository for irradiated fuel rods at Yucca Mountain, Nevada. The repository is not yet finally designed or licensed; its construction will not be completed until at least 2010. The nuclear industry describes Yucca Mountain as one single site where all the nation’s irradiated fuel rods could be consolidated. However, since the irradiated rods of each plant must be kept at that plant’s site temporarily, submerged in water, highly radioactive rods will continue to be scattered at operating plants nationwide as long as nuclear plants continue operating. The irradiated fuel rods must be kept isolated from the biosphere for hundreds of thousands of years.
Capacity at Yucca Mountain is limited by law. Older irradiated fuel rods now being stored at reactors older than Callaway will have priority for disposal space. There may not be room for a sizable amount of Callaway’s fuel rods in this first national repository.
The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission has granted the Company permission to store far more irradiated rods in the Callaway Spent Fuel Pool than was intended in the pool’s initial design. Robert Alvarez, a former Energy Department senior policy advisor, told a Senate hearing, “An attack against a spent fuel pool could drain enough water to cause a catastrophic radiological fire that cannot be extinguished.” He cited a 1997 analysis that said such a fire could contaminate up to 188 square miles.
On February 7, 2002, Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge said that structural changes may be necessary to fortify nuclear plants against September 11 kinds of attacks, and other threats not previously considered. He said, “there may ultimately be some actual bricks and mortar adjustments that are made to some of these facilities.”
Construction on-site at the Callaway Plant of a fortified bunker or other structure (below- or partially below-grade), that can be concealed from off-site locations and be safeguarded, may be essential for the interim storage on-site of Callaway’s irradiated fuel rods.
In light of heightened public safety concerns, we request that the Company prepare a report, at reasonable cost, that outlines the current vulnerability and substantial risks of the interim storage of irradiated fuel rods at the Callaway Plant and that proposes measures to reduce those risks. A copy of the report, omitting proprietary and security information, should be available to shareholders on request by August 2003.
Ameren remains morally responsible and financially liable for Callaway, for securing its radioactive wastes, and for protecting its workers and the public into the indefinite future. We believe this study is essential for realistic and responsible economic and ethical planning.