Spent nuclear fuel vulnerable to terrorist attacks, experts warn

Despite its renewed popularity (even Umbra’s giving it a second look!), nuclear power makes the eggheads at the National Academy of Sciences nervous. Specifically, a new NAS report raises red flags about the dangers posed by possible terrorist attacks on the pools of spent fuel rods stored at nuclear reactors all over the country. Such attacks could set off fires and spread radiation in the surrounding environment, the scientists warn, urging that each of the country’s 103 commercial reactors be evaluated to determine if alternative storage methods would be safer. Nuclear-safety advocates praised the report, saying it acknowledged for the first time the vulnerability of spent fuel. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission and nuke-industry officials disagree with the report’s authors and say the spent-fuel pools would not make for easy targets. Says industry spokesflack Craig Nesbit, “I am more worried about getting hit by a meteor walking out of my front door in the morning.” We think he intends that to be comforting.