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Nuclear Waste Pools

Researched by Krisden Kidd and Karene Schelert

In the backwoods of North Carolina resides one of the most lethal patches of ground in North America. The Shearon Harris nuclear plant located there is not just a nuclear-power-generating station, but a repository for highly radioactive spent fuel rods from two other nuclear plants owned by Progress Energy. The spent fuel rods are transported by rail to the plant and stored in four densely packed pools, filled with circulating cold water to keep the waste from heating up. The plant forms the largest radioactive waste storage pools in the country and the Department of Homeland Security has marked it as one of the most vulnerable terrorist targets in the nation. Should the cooling system ever malfunction, the resulting fire would be virtually unquenchable and could trigger a nuclear meltdown. This would put more than two hundred million residents of North Carolina in extreme peril. A recent study by Brookhaven Labs estimates that a pool fire could cause 140,000 cancers, contaminate thousands of square miles of land, and cause over $500 billion in off-site property damage.

“Pools of Fire” Jeffrey St. Clair, Counter Punch, August 9, 2008

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