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    Nuclear tragedy in Japan shows need for safety upgrades

    THE GLOBE’S July 10 editorial “Fukushima probe shows new openness in Japan” reminds us that, while we cannot prevent natural disasters, we should re-double efforts to strengthen nuclear power safety to prevent a similar tragedy here.

    For one, owners of the nation’s 104 operating nuclear reactors should expedite the transfer of used fuel from overcrowded cooling pools to concrete and steel containers, called dry casks. Pools require electricity to circulate water, making them vulnerable during outages. Dry casks are cooled by natural air flow.

    The difference was apparent at Fukushima. Water levels in one spent-fuel pool were maintained only because an explosion blew off the roof, which enabled workers to drop water in from helicopters and water cannons. Fukushima’s dry casks, on the other hand, survived relatively unscathed.

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    In New England, only a third of over 4,700 tons of spent fuel is currently stored in dry casks — not nearly enough.

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    Efforts are underway in Congress to address nuclear waste. Dry cask storage should be the first item on the agenda.

    Bettina Fest

    Nuclear Power Safety Project

    Union of
    Concerned Scientists

    Cambridge