In DepthNUCLEAR SAFETY

Near miss at Fukushima is a warning for U.S

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Science  27 May 2016:
Vol. 352, Issue 6289, pp. 1039-1040
DOI: 10.1126/science.352.6289.1039

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Summary

Japan's chief cabinet secretary called it “the devil's scenario.” Two weeks after the 11 March 2011 earthquake and tsunami devastated the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, causing three nuclear reactors to melt down and release radioactive plumes, officials were bracing for even worse. They feared that spent fuel stored in pools in the reactor halls would catch fire and might send radioactive smoke across a much wider swath of eastern Japan, including Tokyo. Thanks to a lucky break detailed in a report released last week by the U.S. National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine, Japan dodged that bullet. But the report warns that spent fuel accumulating at U.S. nuclear plants is also vulnerable. Unpublished modeling presents chilling scenarios for a hypothetical spent fuel fire at the Peach Bottom nuclear power plant in southeastern Pennsylvania.