US reactors vulnerable in event of Japan-scale crisis

WASHINGTON - US nuclear plants that share design features with Japan's stricken Fukushima plant would be vulnerable if a comparably sweeping disaster hit the United States, nuclear experts said on Monday.
The design of the reactors, with spent fuel pools at the top of the building that contained them, is only one factor adding to the risk, said David Lochbaum, a nuclear engineer at the Union of Concerned Scientists.
"The arrangement with the spent fuel pool at upper elevations of the reactor building was a contributing factor, but the larger factors were the spent fuel cooling system was not designed to withstand earthquakes," Lochbaum said at a telephone briefing.
US nuclear regulators said on Monday they were launching additional inspections and considering a 90-day review of the country's 104 nuclear reactors in the wake of Japan's nuclear crisis that followed a powerful March 11 earthquake and tsunami. Atomic energy supplies about 20 percent of US electricity.