Thursday, December 28, 2006

Barack Obama and Nuclear Power (Spent Fuel)


Groundwater Leaks


Be Aware

The Environment and Public Works Committee passed a provision in 2006 sponsored by U.S. Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) that requires the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to track unaccounted-for spent nuclear fuel rods used at power plants in the United States. Because spent nuclear fuel is periodically removed from reactors, Senator Obama believes all nuclear power plants should track their fuel better, and in the same way to keep these materials from falling into the wrong hands.

Obama's legislation was in response to a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report that showed the need for more adequate handling of spent fuel. The report showed that three plants - the Millstone Nuclear Power Station in Connecticut, the Vermont Yankee plant in Vermont, and the Humboldt Bay Power Plant in California - have reported missing spent fuel. The missing nuclear material from Millstone was never found. The unaccounted-for material at Vermont Yankee was found three months later in a location other than the one indicated by inventory records, and officials are still investigating the Humboldt Bay plant's missing spent nuclear material.

Obama's provision would require the NRC to establish specific and uniform guidelines for tracking, controlling and accounting for individual spent fuel rods or segments at nuclear power plants, including procedures for conducting physical inventories. The legislation would also establish uniform inspection procedures to ensure plants put these procedures in place. Senator Obama's provision was attached to S. 864, a bill to update the Atomic Energy Act of 1954. The provision did not become law.

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