The safe operation of America’s nuclear plants is the industry’s top priority. Multiple studies by leading third parties, such as The National Cancer Institute and The United Nations Scientific Committee of the Effects of Atomic Radiation, have shown that the United States’ nuclear plants have no negative impact on the health of neighboring communities.

Nuclear plants are among the safest industrial facilities due to highly-trained personnel; stringent federal regulations; multiple automated safety systems; and extensive security measures in place to protect the plant, its workers, the public and the environment.

The safe operation of each nuclear facility is also held accountable by full time professional, expert oversight. At least two independent inspectors from the NRC are on-site every day at each nuclear energy facility to monitor facility operation and report any situation that could potentially pose an issue.

Used Fuel

One crucial component of these safety procedures is the removal and secure storage of used nuclear fuel assemblies, which are at the source of electricity generation within the plant and are replaced every four to six years. The nuclear energy industry safely contains the used nuclear fuel created. The industry has built a comprehensive system for managing the used fuel it creates that keeps both the public and environment safe.

  • Used nuclear fuel is a solid material that is stored on-site at the nation’s nuclear energy facilities in steel-lined, concrete pools or basins filled with water or in massive, airtight steel or concrete-and-steel canisters.
  • All the used nuclear fuel produced by the U.S. nuclear energy industry in 60 years of operation – approximately 86,000 metric tons – would, if stacked end to end, only cover an area the size of a football field to a depth of about ten yards.
  • The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) determined that used fuel could be stored safely at nuclear energy facilities or central storage facilities for at least 100 years. Diligent monitoring and maintenance of safety systems ensures public health and safety are protected.

Nuclear Matters supports a comprehensive waste management plan that includes consolidated interim storage and a resolution for long-term geological disposal.

While current used fuel storage procedures are safe and secure, the development of advanced nuclear technology offers further possibilities for used fuel management. Advanced reactor designs have the potential to dramatically reduce the amount of used fuel that requires storage, by using fuel more efficiently and even potentially consuming used fuel during operations.

For more information on how used nuclear fuel is stored safely and securely on plant sites, please visit the online resources at the Nuclear Energy Institute.

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