Danger from spent nuclear fuel lingers long after memory of disaster fades

Bob Alvarez serves as a senior scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies and as a senior analyst at Friends of the Earth, focusing on nuclear disarmament, the safety risks of nuclear reactors and, in particular, the vulnerability of radioactive spent fuel that is piling up at reactor sites across the U.S.

Last weekend he wrote a piece for Huffington Post about the threats posed by spent reactor fuel pools at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi site in Japan.

Spent nuclear fuel is extraordinarily radioactive and must be handled with great care. In a matter of seconds, an unprotected person one foot away from a single freshly removed spent fuel assembly would receive a lethal dose of radiation within seconds. As one of the most dangerous materials on the planet, spent reactor fuel requires permanent geological isolation to protect humans for thousands of years.

At the Fukushima site, pools of radioactive spent fuel sit, vulnerable to earthquakes, actually posing a greater threat than the molten cores of the reactor ruins that surround them.

The post was based on a presentation he gave at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies earlier in April.