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Spent nuclear fuel crash tests

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Amy Hewes' opinion piece in the Feb. 22 New Times ("A pact with the devil") asserted that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is allowing high-level spent nuclear fuel to be transported in "thin-walled welded stainless steel canisters designed to withstand a crash at 30 miles per hour." She asks, " ... would they hold up in a calamity at 80 miles per hour?"

First, I'm not aware of any change in transportation standards for spent nuclear fuel that stipulates spent-fuel transportation casks crash standards have been lowered to a 30 mph design test. Sandia National Labs conducted full-scale crash tests 40 years ago for spent fuel casks that included the following: a broadside strike by a (rocket-powered) freight train traveling in excess of 80 mph (no leakage); a diesel locomotive on a rocket sled propelling a cask end-first into a concrete bunker in excess of 60 mph (no leakage); dropping a cask end-on from a crane and then placing the cask into a pool of burning jet fuel for more than 35 minutes (1475 degrees) with no leakage.

Casks are designed to withstand deep ocean submergence and also have tracking devices for recovery embedded within. I'm aware of one cask transportation incident in 1971, again, no leakage or danger to the public. More than 3,000 transports of Type B casks have occurred globally without any incident posing a danger to the public. The largest of these casks can weigh up to 110 tons, cost more than $1 million each, are heavily guarded, and have been upgraded and successfully tested in 2013 to withstand a direct strike from military ordnance and a crashing aircraft. You can view the Sandia National Laboratory tests on YouTube, which are quite spectacular.

All of this information is readily available on the internet.

Al Fonzi



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