WASHINGTON—The National Research Council of the National Academies today released a report entitled, “Going the Distance? The Safe Transport of Spent Nuclear Fuel and High-Level Radioactive Waste in the United States.” Marvin Fertel, chief nuclear officer and senior vice president at the Nuclear Energy Institute, made the following statement about the report:
“Overall, the National Academies report is a strong endorsement of the used nuclear fuel transportation program that has operated well and operated safely in the United States for the past four decades. Specifically, the nuclear energy industry agrees with the three major findings of the National Academies report:
“First, that there are no fundamental technical barriers to the safe transport of used nuclear fuel. This conclusion is supported by the fact that more than 3,000 shipments of used nuclear fuel have been made safely in the United States over the past 40 years. Even in the approximately 10 instances where accidents have occurred, no releases of the waste packages’ radioactive contents have resulted, and public health and safety has been protected.
“Second, that existing international standards and U.S. regulations ensure the effectiveness of shipping containers over a wide range of transport conditions. In short, there’s no need to go back to the regulatory drawing board because a program with strong public health and safety protections already is in place.
“And third, that there are opportunities to further implement operational controls and restrictions that will make this program even safer and better than it already is. The use of dedicated trains for rail shipments is a leading example of a safeguard that should be adopted to maximize safety of used fuel shipments.
“The industry also concurs with the National Academies’ main conclusions with regard to testing of shipping containers – namely that full-scale testing of shipping containers is worthwhile as part of an integrated testing program that includes scale models and computer simulation, but that full-scale tests are not necessary for regulatory certification of the containers, and that testing of packages to fail, or to destruction, is not warranted. The ability of containers to serve their protective function during severe conditions can be proven without the excessive testing that would cause their destruction.
“There are a few instances where we do not agree with the report. We do not believe there is further value to be gained from additional study of long-duration fire scenarios that the report recommends. Intensive study of long-duration, fully engulfing fires already has been done by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
“We also disagree with the report’s call for negotiations or federal legislation to achieve shipment of older used fuel first. Safety measures already are so strong and the risks of harmful impacts already are so low that one cannot justify the burden of additional expenses and potential litigation that this recommendation would cause.
“The concern voiced by the National Academies that it did not have access to classified or otherwise restricted information does not negate the fact that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the Department of Energy have completed research on the physical security of used fuel containers and of transportation. As a result, the agencies have taken additional steps already to enhance physical security in this area.
“As the federal government’s nuclear waste management program continues, the industry looks forward to working with Congress, the administration and regulatory bodies and emergency responders at all levels of government to maintain the highest levels of safety in this program.”
The Nuclear Energy Institute is the nuclear energy industry’s policy organization. This news release and additional information about nuclear energy are available on NEI’s Internet site at http://www.nei.org.