Water serves as a natural—and one of the most effective—barriers to radiation. This is why spent fuel is stored in pools. The fuel is contained neatly in fuel rods in a 40 foot deep pool. The racks stand 13 feet high leaving the fuel completely contained and safely submerged under 27 feet of water.
The spent fuel pools for the two operating Indian Point plants have their own safety and construction features designed exclusively for their safeguard. They are constructed with concrete walls 4 to 6 feet wide and with a half-inch stainless steel inner liner. They have multiple, redundant back-up cooling systems.
There are also several measures in place to protect each of the spent fuel pools at Indian Point. Once removed from the reactor core, the fuel rods which hold the radioactive isotopes are transferred under water to the spent fuel pool. The fuel assemblies, or fuel rods, rest in a pool of water approximately 40 feet deep to help cool the rods. The assemblies themselves stand 13 feet tall, so there is an ample 27 feet of water on top of them. This is important because water is a natural barrier to radioactive isotopes. Internally, there are other cooling systems in place and back up systems to replenish the water supply in the event of an emergency.
It is important to know that the fuel pool for Indian Point 2 is completely underground and Indian Point 3 is nearly 100% underground, so they are protected on all sides by rock and gravel and the 6 foot steel. External to the pools themselves, they are further protected by the containment structure on the north and west and hills to the south and east.
The fuel moved from IP2 remains safe in containment structures called dry cask. Spent fuel is regularly moved from IP2's spent fuel pool and into dry cask storage located on site.