Sign On to "Principles for Safeguarding Nuclear Waste at Reactors"

Dear Colleagues,

Three years ago, 150 safe energy groups across the U.S. signed onto "Principles for Safeguarding Nuclear Waste at Reactors." The Principles called for safety and security upgrades - "hardened on-site storage," or HOSS -- for irradiated nuclear fuel storage on-site at the reactors that generated the high-level radioactive waste in the first place. Such security upgrades are still currently needed as an urgent matter of national security, and also represent an interim alternative to such risky proposals as the Yucca Mountain, Nevada dumpsite, regional centralized interim storage, and reprocessing. Michele Boyd, now at Physicians for Social Responsibility, unveiled the Principles at a U.S. House of Representatives energy subcommittee hearing in September 2006.

We have now updated the Principles to reflect the Obama administration's clear position that Yucca Mountain, Nevada is no longer an option for radioactive waste disposal. In response to the current push by the nuclear establishment to revive commercial reprocessing in the United States, we have also revised the Principles to emphasize that plutonium extraction from irradiated nuclear fuel would be extremely expensive for taxpayers, highly polluting wherever it is carried out, and a serious nuclear weapons proliferation threat. These revised Principles will serve as a valuable tool to push for needed security upgrades at on-site radioactive waste storage facilities, while pushing back against such dangerous proposals as reprocessing. They will be especially valuable for informing the "radioactive waste blue ribbon commission" being formed by Energy Secretary Steven Chu, with input from Congress.

We invite you to sign this revised version of the Principles. They are attached. Apart from the introductory paragraphs, the Principles remain identical to the 2006 version. To sign on, please email your full contact information (personal name, title, organization name, city, state, zip code, phone number, and email address) to Morgan Pinnell at Physicians for Social Responsibility. Her email address is:

(If your group already signed the Principles in 2006, thank you. But please do sign again onto this updated and revised version now.)

We look forward to working with you to steer U.S. radioactive waste management policy in safer and wiser directions than reprocessing. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us.


Kevin Kamps, Beyond Nuclear,, 240-462-3216


Morgan Pinnell, Physicians for Social Responsibility,, 202-587-5232

Principles for Safeguarding Nuclear Waste at Reactors

The following principles are based on the urgent need to protect the public from the threats posed by the current vulnerable storage of commercial irradiated fuel. The United States does not currently have a national policy for the permanent storage of high-level nuclear waste. The Obama administration has determined that the Yucca Mountain site, which has been mired in bad science and mismanagement, is not an option for geologic storage of nuclear waste. Unfortunately, reprocessing proponents have used this opportunity to promote reprocessing as the solution for managing our nuclear waste. Contrary to their claims, however, reprocessing is extremely expensive, highly polluting, and a proliferation threat, and will actually complicate the management of irradiated fuel. Nor will reprocessing obviate the need for, or "save space" in, a geologic repository.

The United States has a unique opportunity to re-evaluate our nuclear waste management plan. We can make wise decisions about safeguarding radioactive waste or go down the risky, costly, and proliferation prone path towards reprocessing.

The undersigned organizations' support for improving the protection of radioactive waste stored at reactor sites is a matter of security and is in no way an indication that we support nuclear power and the generation of more nuclear waste.

 Require a low-density, open-frame layout for fuel pools: Fuel pools were originally designed for temporary storage of a limited number of irradiated fuel assemblies in a low density, open frame configuration. As the amount of waste generated has increased beyond the designed capacity, the pools have been reorganized so that the concentration of fuel in the pools is nearly the same as that in operating reactor cores. If water is lost from a densely packed pool as the result of an attack or an accident, cooling by ambient air would likely be insufficient to prevent a fire, resulting in the release of large quantities of radioactivity to the environment. A low density, open-frame arrangement within fuel pools could allow enough air circulation to keep the fuel from catching fire. In order to achieve and maintain this arrangement within the pools, irradiated fuel must be transferred from the pools to dry storage within five years of being discharged from the reactor.

 Establish hardened on-site storage (HOSS): Irradiated fuel must be stored as safely as possible as close to the site of generation as possible. Waste moved from fuel pools must be safeguarded in hardened, on-site storage (HOSS) facilities. Transporting waste to interim away-from-reactor storage should not be done unless the reactor site is unsuitable for a HOSS facility and the move increases the safety and security of the waste. HOSS facilities must not be regarded as a permanent waste solution, and thus should not be constructed deep underground. The waste must be retrievable, and real-time radiation and heat monitoring at the HOSS facility must be implemented for early detection of radiation releases and overheating. The overall objective of HOSS should be that the amount of releases projected in even severe attacks should be low enough that the storage system would be unattractive as a terrorist target. Design criteria that would correspond to the overall objective must include:
• Resistance to severe attacks, such as a direct hit by high-explosive or deeply penetrating weapons and munitions or a direct hit by a large aircraft loaded with fuel or a small aircraft loaded with fuel and/or explosives, without major releases.
• Placement of individual canisters that makes detection difficult from outside the site boundary.

 Protect fuel pools: Irradiated fuel must be kept in pools for several years before it can be stored in a dry facility. The pools must be protected to withstand an attack by air, land, or water from a force at least equal in size and coordination to the 9/11 attacks. The security improvements must be approved by a panel of experts independent of the nuclear industry and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

 Require periodic review of HOSS facilities and fuel pools: An annual report consisting of the review of each HOSS facility and fuel pool should be prepared with meaningful participation from public stakeholders, regulators, and utility managers at each site. The report must be made publicly available and may include recommendations for actions to be taken.

 Dedicate funding to local and state governments to independently monitor the sites: Funding for monitoring the HOSS facilities at each site must be provided to affected local and state governments. The affected public must have the right to fully participate.

 Prohibit reprocessing: The reprocessing of irradiated fuel has not solved the nuclear waste problem in any country, and actually exacerbates it by creating numerous additional waste streams that must be managed. In addition to being expensive and polluting, reprocessing also increases nuclear weapons proliferation threats.