PSR Statement on the Nuclear Regulatory Near-Term Task Force Review of Fukushima Dai-ichi Disaster
July 13, 2011
PSR supports many of the
recommendations raised by the NRC’s Near-Term Task Force Review, but the report fails to recommend moving spent fuel from
packed spent fuel pools to hardened on-site
recommendations should be implemented as quickly as possible – before the NRC
issues any more new licenses, license renewals or design certifications – and
not allowed to languish, as has happened with fire-protection rules (recently waived
by the NRC Commission until 2016).
An important and integral recommendation
is missing from the Near-Term Task Force Review: moving spent fuel from packed spent
fuel pools to hardened on-site storage. PSR supports the Principles for
Safeguarding Nuclear Waste at Reactor Sites, which call for hardening spent
fuel onsite and physically protecting spent fuel pools. Over 170 national and
local organizations from all 50 states have signed onto the Principles, yet the
NRC continues to ignore this obvious measure to ensure public safety. PSR urges the NRC’s longer term task force to
incorporate this proposal.
Although not within the
scope of the review, the Near-Term Task Force has offhandedly – and prematurely
– concluded that there is an “expectation of no significant radiological health
effects” from the Fukushima Dai-ichi disaster.
The fact is that the effects of long-term exposure on large populations are
unknown and it will be many years before the incidents of cancer and other
health effects emerge. Rigorous
epidemiological studies of workers at the site and populations both in
Fukushima and throughout Japan must be started now and continued for decades.
The amount of radiation
that has been released from Fukushima – recently doubled from the original
estimates – and the amount that will continue to be released is largely
unknown. It is the consensus of the medical and scientific community,
summarized in the US National Academies’ National Research Council report Biological Effects of Ionizing Radiation VII
(BEIR VII report),
that there is no “safe” level of radiation. Any exposure, including exposure to naturally
occurring background radiation, creates an increased risk of cancer. Moreover,
children are much more vulnerable than adults to the effects of radiation, and
fetuses are even more vulnerable.
Clearly, there is a lot that must be done quickly to improve the
safety of operating reactors, but the NRC’s Near-Term Task Force
recommendations are only stop-gap measures. The only way to ensure public safety is to
phase-out nuclear power and to implement policies to build up sustainable, safe
renewable energy and efficiency.