NEI criticizes fear-mongering by authors of used fuel paper

February 14, 2003

WASHINGTON, D.C., Feb. 14, 2003--The Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) today criticized the "reckless fear-mongering" of the authors of a paper on used nuclear fuel storage that the authors are promoting even prior to its publication in a university magazine.

The paper is the subject today of a sensationalistic news release being issued through the communications office at Princeton University, with which one of the paper's authors is affiliated. The paper criticizes used fuel storage methods at nuclear power plants and theorizes about the possible effects of a successful terrorist attack on those facilities. The paper misapplies a simplistic 2001 analysis by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and intentionally misleads the public about the extent and possibility of an improbable event: a radiation release from used fuel pools.

"The unpublished paper that the authors--clearly by no coincidence--are choosing to promote at a time of heightened concern about possible terrorist attacks on U.S. soil, fails to acknowledge the robust security at nuclear power plants," NEI Vice President Scott Peterson said.

"The likelihood of a successful terrorist attack against used nuclear fuel structures is miniscule. Nonetheless, the authors focus on what they're reportedly labeling a 'reduction in hazards' at sites where used nuclear fuel already is extremely well protected. By ignoring the hazards at other industrial sites that are not nearly as well protected as nuclear power plants, the authors are adding nothing to the nation's homeland security efforts. They are engaged in reckless fear-mongering at a time when the nation's homeland security resources need to be deployed where they are most needed and will do the most good."

Used nuclear fuel is safely stored at nuclear power plant sites, either in steel-lined, concrete vaults filled with water (used fuel pools) or in steel or steel-reinforced concrete containers with steel inner canisters (dry storage). Both structures are situated within the protected zones at plant sites that feature armed, paramilitary security officers; razor wire; concrete jersey barriers; state of the art detection equipment; and other protective measures to deter attackers and slow any possible entry into plants.

Last October, the coordinators of a two-day national security simulation that featured former congressional and retired military leaders and other former government officials today called nuclear power plants "probably our best defended" industrial facilities against a terrorist attack on the nation's critical infrastructure.

The nuclear energy industry "is an industry that has taken security pretty seriously for a long, long time," said John Hamre, president and chief executive officer of one of the nation's most prominent public policy research organizations, the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).

NEI recently released a summary of nuclear power plant structural analyses conducted during much of 2002 by the Electric Power Research Institute. The analyses showed that structures that house reactor fuel at U.S. nuclear power plants would protect against a release of radiation even if struck by a large commercial jetliner. State-of-the-art computer modeling techniques determined that typical nuclear plant containment structures, used fuel storage pools, fuel storage containers, and used fuel transportation containers at U.S. nuclear power plants would withstand these impact forces despite some concrete crushing and bent steel.
The Nuclear Energy Institute is the nuclear energy industry's policy organization. Additional information about nuclear energy is available on NEI's Internet site at

Nuclear Energy Institute

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