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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,[1] but the report fails to recommend moving spent fuel from packed spent fuel pools to hardened on-site storage..  These 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,[2] 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),[3] 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.  


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