Inspector General Report on Spent Fuel Pools Makes Recommendations To Improve Oversight

Stephen Dingbaum
Assistant Inspector General for Audits

oigAn Office of the Inspector General audit regarding the NRC’s oversight of spent fuel pools is now available here. The audit set out to determine if the NRC’s oversight of spent fuel pools — and the nuclear fuel they hold — provides adequate protection for public health and safety, and the environment.

The NRC is responsible for developing the regulatory framework, analytical tools, and data needed to ensure safe and secure storage, transportation, and disposal of spent nuclear fuel. In the U.S. today, there are 93 spent fuel pools currently storing spent fuel. Recent NRC staff studies demonstrating the safety of spent fuel pools and the safety of continued storage of spent fuel at reactor sites highlight the need to make sure the pools operate safely for longer periods than originally envisioned.

The OIG found the NRC does provide adequate oversight of spent fuel pools and the fuel they contain, but opportunities exist for improvement. Specifically, we found that regulatory uncertainty exists in the NRC’s evaluation of the analytical methods used to prevent a chain reaction in the spent fuel pools. In addition, there are gaps in NRC’s spent fuel pool inspection program as inspections of spent fuel pools greatly vary between licensee sites and are limited in scope.

As part of its mission, the NRC must inspect and assess licensee operations and facilities to ensure compliance with its regulatory requirements. The NRC should also regulate in a manner that clearly communicates requirements and ensures regulations are consistently applied and practical. The OIG believes an absence of effective spent fuel pool guidance for both licensees and NRC staff may reduce program efficiency and effectiveness.

The report makes four specific recommendations to improve NRC oversight, including developing and issuing new guidance for licensees and developing new NRC inspection procedures. NRC management stated their general agreement with the findings and recommendations.


Author: Moderator

Public Affairs Officer for the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission

5 thoughts on “Inspector General Report on Spent Fuel Pools Makes Recommendations To Improve Oversight”

  1. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has a long-standing “Notice to Airmen” warning pilots not to linger over nuclear power plants.


  2. Aircraft Huge Threat to Nuke Plants

    Flying large commercial airliners into the Twin Towers was devastating…flying an airplane into a nuclear plant would be much, much worse. The damage at a nuke plant would not just be limited to all the highly radioactive fuel that is stored in the tin-covered building next to the reactor containment building. The huge aviation-fueled fire that would ensue would sever all power & instrumentation connections to the reactor in the containment building. All ability to monitor & control cooling of the reactor would be lost. In a few hours reactor fuel melt would occur with horrible consequences.

    NRC, can you assure us that landing & takeoff patterns from our airports vector airline traffic well away from nuke plants in the vicinity?

  3. Good comments stock and CaptD. Spent fuel pools are loaded with way more spent fuel than was ever anticipated in the original design. Total radioactive inventory much larger than that in the reactor itself. Yet the NRC turns its back on these pools! Kinda like they have turned their back on getting this waste out of 93 pools around the US and at least storing it, as CaptD has suggested numerous times, in a safe remote location like on a military reservation.
    Also a high-jacked commercial airliner loaded with aviation fuel is not only a threat to these pools but an aviation-fueled fire in the auxiliary building around the containment structure leads to a total loss of control of the reactor inside of the containment as electrical penetrations and pumps are wiped out. Core melt-down quickly follows.

  4. Agree with you, I do…

    By not inspecting the NRC is not going to be held responsible for SFP Safety…

    What could possible go wrong, except yet another Fukushima…

  5. Wow!
    However, within the ROP baseline program, there is no targeted safety
    inspection procedure for spent fuel pools. According to NRC
    guidance a separate spent fuel pool inspection procedure was not
    developed because

    “the baseline inspection program is primarily based on
    the risk associated with reactor core damage when the reactor fuel is in the
    reactor vessel.”

    This doesnt even pass the straight face test of being an excuse for no inspection.

    1 pound of spent fuel is enough to contaminate 188,000,000 large cows at 1600 lbs each up to double the rational level of 100 Bq/kG. And there is no actual inspection program.

    I guess as long as they look better than Sellafield, LOL. Also note that URS, the same company that was over seeing the nuclear waste at WIPP when it blew up, was also sacked at Sellalfield for lousy performance.

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