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Pilgrim's Radioactive Waste

Classification System for Radioactive Waste: Radioactive waste from a nuclear reactor is classified as “high” or “low” depending on where it comes from - not based upon how poisonous it is or for how long it will remain toxic. This is misleading; waste should be classified based on its toxicity and longevity. "High-level" radioactive waste refers simply to irradiated fuel assemblies. So-called "low level" radioactive waste is everything else; however some of it is intensely radioactive, can deliver a lethal dose, and remains very dangerous for a long time. 

“High level” Radioactive Waste - Spent Fuel Assemblies



Draft Report out for comment

Boston Meeting ---October 12, 2011 --- at Harvard Medical School Conference Center – 77 Louis Pasteur, Longwood – Boston ---Pre-registration 

Draft Report – Meeting Particulars on BRC’s website at:

BRC Report has seven key elements: What’s missing?

1. A new, consent-based approach to siting future nuclear waste management facilities.

2. A new organization dedicated solely to implementing the waste management program and empowered with the authority and resources to succeed.

3. Access to the funds nuclear utility ratepayers are providing for the purpose of nuclear waste management.

4. Prompt efforts to develop one or more geologic disposal facilities.

5. Prompt efforts to develop one or more consolidated interim storage facilities.

6. Support for continued U.S. innovation in nuclear energy technology and for workforce development.

7. Active U.S. leadership in international efforts to address safety, waste management, nonproliferation,

and security concerns

Urge BRC to secure risky radioactive waste

Radioactive wastes are at risk of accidents, attacks, and leaks. Please urge the Blue Ribbon Commission on America's Nuclear Future to recommend to Congress, the Energy Secretary, and the President hardened on-site storage as a vital interim measure of homeland security and public health and environmental protection.

Please take action. Cut and paste the sample "BRC public comment" below into an email, and email it in to: Be sure to sign it with a full contact address. Feel free to change it however you see fit, by adding your own thoughts and concerns. Thanks! 

BRC public comment [Sample provided by Beyond Nuclear]:

Dear Members of the Blue Ribbon Commission on America's Nuclear Future,

High-level radioactive wastes are at risk of accidents, attacks, and leaks. In your final report due out by January 29, 2012, please recommend to Congress, the Energy Secretary, and the President that hardened on-site storage be required as a vital interim measure of homeland security and public health, safety, and environmental protection.

The on-going Fukushima nuclear catastrophe in Japan has dramatically shown the risks of storing highly radioactive irradiated nuclear fuel in indoor water pools. Pool cooling water circulation systems were damaged or destroyed by the ravages of the earthquake, tsunami, reactor meltdowns, and explosions that began on March 11th. For months now, desperate and dangerous efforts to cool the high-level radioactive wastes have continued, including failed helicopter water drops, and refilling the pools from afar with fire engines, riot control water cannons, and other pumps. The thermally hot wastes have then boiled the water away, forcing the ad hoc efforts to be repeated. If the pools boil dry, the wastes could catch fire and unleash catastrophic amounts of hazardous radioactivity directly into the environment, to blow downwind, flow downstream, and contaminate the food chain over a vast region.

Such an accident could happen here. So too could a terrorist attack. A number of pools have already sprung leaks. Many individual pools in the U.S. hold more waste than all 4 units at Fukushima Daiichi put together!

For a decade, hundreds of environmental groups have been calling for hardened on-site storage, as an interim alternative to pool risks, as well as to current “overflow parking,” outdoor dry casks at reactor sites, themselves vulnerable to accidents, attacks, and eventual leaks.

In your final report due out before January 29, 2012, I strongly urge you to recommend hardened on-site storage as a vital matter of homeland security, as well as public health, safety, and environmental protection.


Article originally appeared on Beyond Nuclear


See website for complete article licensing information.


Concern about nuclear reactor accidents or attacks has focused on a core meltdown. Nuclear reactors have a weaker link – the spent fuel pool. Spent fuel pools contain some of the largest inventories of radioactivity on earth, Pilgrim's poll will have 3,859 assemblies in a space designed for 880. The pool can catch fire if the water drops to the top of the stored assemblies, either by mechanical failure, operator error or acts of malice; and they are vulnerable to terrorism. At present there is no safe storage solution - no permanent repository in sight; yet nuclear reactors continue to generate tons of waste each year that is stored on site in areas never designed for that purpose. Host communities never bargained for (or agreed to become) massive, long-term radioactive waste storage sites.


Spent fuel Rods 


Pilgrim’s Spent Fuel Pool


Risk: Spent Fuel Security/ Accident


Safer Storage Solutions


Yucca Mountain – Won’t Solve Waste Problem Soon




Finances: Who will Pay for Safer Dry Storage? 


Transportation: Shipping Pilgrim’s Spent Fuel Assemblies to an off-site repository when one becomes available

More about high level waste

“Low Level” Radioactive Waste (LLRW) 

So called “low level” radioactive waste at Pilgrim, for example, includes: the control rods, resins, sludge, filters, and will include the entire nuclear power reactor - if and when it is dismantled. The waste contains highly toxic and long-lived radioactive materials. 

Pilgrim generates a very large quantity of LLRW; in fact, it is the largest generator of radioactive waste by far in the Commonwealth.

The Massachusetts Department of Health's most recent survey of low level radioactive waste was completed in 2006. It reported that Entergy's Pilgrim Nuclear Power Plant stored onsite and transferred to Barnwell the following.

Volume (Cubic Feet)

Activity (Curies)













Barnwell S.C. closed to Massachusetts generators on June 20, 2008.

Massachusetts is not a member of any compact; in order to join one, Massachusetts would have to agree to be a host community. Massachusetts indicated clearly in the mid 1990’s that it would not be a host community. Therefore LLRW must be stored onsite, along with the tons of high level waste.

Texas may open a repository for LLRW but there are no guarantees. If Texas does open a site,  there is no assurance that non-Texas Compact members will be able to send their waste there, and even if allowed whether fees would be prohibitive.

No sites have been developed anywhere in the country despite millions of dollars spent on failed attempts.


More about "low level" waste