Terrorist Attacks on Spent Nuclear Fuel Ponds

In my previous blog I talked about the amount of spent fuel and in particular Caesium 137 that will possible stored at Sizewell if the new nuclear build goes ahead.

This radioactivity could be released either by accident (such as the one that almost happened at Sizewell A1) or by a terrorist attack.

We mentioned the possibility of a terrorist attack at the consultation meeting at Lowestoft on the 16th January 2013 where we were informed that there was no possible risk from a terrorist attack.

First of all it is important to note that unlike the reactor itself it is currently proposed that the spent fuel pond is not covered with a strong containment structure.

In Germany it has been required that spent fuel ponds have to be placed within a containment  structure since the 1970s due to the possibility of a terrorist attack. The fuel is also removed from the spent fuel ponds and placed into dry storage as quickly as possible – usually after about 5 years of cooling.

There has been a lot of debate about the possibility of a terrorist attack on a spent fuel ponds in the USA since 9/11. The US congress to commission the National Academies of Science to produce a report looking “conflicting public claims about the safety and security of commercial spent nuclear fuel storage at nuclear power plants”. Their conclusion was that “there were indeed credible concerns about the safety and security of spent nuclear fuel storage in the current threat environment”2. The report considered spent fuel ponds containing 400T of spent fuel. Sizewell C&D will have over 3500T of spent fuel3.

If there is no conceivable threat then why is information about spent fuel withheld under the The Nuclear Industries Security (Amendment) Regulations 20064 and why does this legislation exist?

One of the security measures in place is that there  is a  two mile ‘no fly zone’ around nuclear installations. A commercial jet such as a 747 can fly at over 500mph and could travel those two miles in just over 14 seconds – not much time to react. As of 2009 there had been at least 12 infringements of the zone around UK nuclear installations5.

So where abouts on the site do they propose storing these massive amounts of radioactivity? At the proposed sites at Hinkley and Sizewell the Interim Spent Fuel Store seems to be less than 100m from the boundary fence

Location of Interim Spent Fuel Store at Sizewell.

Location of Interim Spent Fuel Store at Sizewell6.

Hinkley C Spent Fuel Pond

Hinkley C Spent Fuel Pond7


1 Sizewell nuclear disaster averted by dirty laundry, says official report, Guardian 2009

2 Safety and Security of Commercial Spent Nuclear Fuel Storage, National Academies Press, 2006. The full report can be seen at (http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?isbn=0309096472) nd there is a good summary of the findings at (http://www.ncwarn.org/2005/04/highlights-of-report-on-spent-fuel-by-national-academy-of-sciences/).

3 For amount of spent fuel see this post. Although it is proposed that there will be two spent fuel ponds at Sizewell C&D we were informed at the consultation that the final offload from the new plants will go straight into the Interim Spent Fuel Store.

4 A copy of the act can be found at (http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2006/2815/note/made). EDF withheld information about the amount of spent fuel at Sizewell B – see comment under my post at (http://www.plux.co.uk/spent-fuel-at-sizewell/)

5 Hansard 16 July 2009 : Column 604W (http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200809/cmhansrd/cm090716/text/90716w0013.htm#09071664002957)

6 EDF Consultation Document: Environmental Report Appendices (http://sizewell.edfenergyconsultation.info/wp-content/uploads/Environmental-Report-Appendices.pdf)

7 Spent Fuel Management – EDF Energy Perspective, Presentation to Nuleaf Seminar, Local Government House, London, 9 March 2012 (http://www.nuleaf.org.uk/nuleaf/documents/Nuleaf_presentation_09032012_final.pdf)

Environmental Report Appendices


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