An environmental assessment shows the potentially meaningful exposure pathways to individuals from a nuclear power plant accident.
What impacts are expected from the operation of large-scale nuclear power plants for extended periods of up to 60 years?
The United States now depends on nuclear power for about 20% of its electrical generating capacity. Most of the 100-plus reactors currently operating were built in the 1960s and 1970s and have now been operating for more than 20 years. A number of issues were raised during the early environmental reviews required for construction permits and operating licenses for these plants. The dominant concern was radiological impact. In general, with reasonable mitigation, impacts were found to be acceptable.
Because original operating licenses were limited to 40 years, utilities have expressed an interest in extending the life of many of these plants for periods up to 20 years. New environmental and safety issues related to relicensing have been raised and are being addressed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in a generic environmental impact statement (GEIS). These issues include aging of the reactors, radioactive waste management, and institutional concerns. Some of these issues are being addressed in the GEIS itself but others are site-specific and will be addressed at the time of relicensing applications.
U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. 1991. Draft, Generic Environmental Impact Statement for License Renewal of Nuclear Plants. NUREG-1437. Prepared by Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, Tenn.
Integrated Assessment Briefs. 1995. ORNL/M-4227. Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, TN.