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Senators warn of safety risks at closed reactors

Published on NewsOK Modified: May 2, 2014 at 7:56 pm •  Published: May 2, 2014

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Five U.S. senators on Friday warned that federal regulators need to keep more emergency and security regulations in place at shuttered nuclear power plants that store tons of spent radioactive fuel.

In a letter to Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman Allison Macfarlane, the senators said the agency that oversees the nation's commercial nuclear industry has been freeing closed plants from certain emergency and security safeguards, even though the spent fuel on site remains dangerous for years to come.

They wrote that studies, including by the NRC, have concluded that "draining a spent nuclear fuel pool can lead to fires, large radioactive releases and widespread contamination."

The "NRC's analysis has even concluded that the health and economic impacts of a spent fuel fire could equal those caused by an accident at an operating reactor," the letter said.

They pointed to Japan's Fukushima Daiichi plant, which suffered multiple meltdowns following a 2011 earthquake and tsunami, as evidence that exhaustive emergency and evacuation planning must be in place, even at shuttered plants. The senators said research has found spent fuel pools "could not be dismissed as potential targets for terrorist attacks."

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