NBC: Citing a little-noticed study by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the academies said that if an accident or an act of terrorism at a densely-filled pool caused a leak that drains the water away from the rods, a cataclysmic release of long-lasting radiation could force the extended evacuation of nearly 3.5 million people from territory larger than the state of New Jersey. by Patrick Malone and R. Jeffrey Smith via The Center for Public Integrity
'It could also cause thousands of cancer deaths from excess radiation exposure, and as much as $700 billion dollars in costs to the national economy.
'Until an earthquake and a tsunami pummeled Japan's Fukushima Daiichi power plant in Japan on March 11, 2011, the possibility of such a catastrophe in the more than 30 states where nuclear fuel sits in radioactive pools seemed almost unthinkable. But the academies' new report - their second and final study of that event - says that the operators of U.S. nuclear plants and the commission that regulates them haven't fully grasped all the safety risks and as a result may be exposing the public to unwarranted dangers.
'"There were some important issues that were not considered," said Joseph E. Shepherd, a professor of aeronautics and mechanical engineering at the California Institute of Technology who chaired the Academies board that conducted the study. Specifically, he was referring to the NRC's choice not to evaluate the risk of terrorism or insider sabotage as it considered spent-fuel pool safety.
'The report's authors called not only for a new federal estimate of the safety and financial risks of a fuel fire but for a new examination of the relative benefits of withdrawing the spent fuel rods from the pools and storing them instead in dry casks aboveground. That idea has been promoted by some nuclear physicists and engineers for three decades but furiously opposed by the struggling industry because it could cost utilities as much as $4 billion.'
"Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Accident Is ‘Wake-Up Call’ for U.S. to Improve Real-Time Monitoring of Spent Fuel Pools" here