Nuclear fuel storage became a hot topic this week in Congress. Among several committees holding hearings on the Japanese nuclear disaster, the Senate Appropriations Energy & Water Subcommittee March 30 highlighted the safety difference between radioactive spent fuel pools and dry-cask storage for waste. \u201cThe most important\u201d issue, said Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), subcommittee chair, \u201cis to rethink how we manage spent fuel. These pools often become de facto long-term storage.\u201d Feinstein noted that in the prior week, she visited both the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station and Diablo Canyon nuclear plants in California. \u201cIn California, fuel removed in 1984 is still cooling in spent fuel pools,\u201d she said. \u201cSpent fuel pools are very robust structures,\u201d countered Nuclear Regulatory Commission chair Greg Jaczko. He added that regulators feel it\u2019s safe to have highly radioactive fuel rods kept in spent fuel pools for \u201cat least 100 years.\u201d Dry casks may or may not be a safe alternative, noted Shawn Moniz, Massachusetts Institute of Technology Energy Initiative director. He said there is a \u201cgood case\u201d to be made for the fuel storage technology, but that it is based on \u201cskimpy\u201d data. Lawmakers in other committees this week also delved into the spent fuel pool versus dry cask storage policy (see other stories in Beltway section). In the committee hearing, Feinstein also called for an independent evaluator for the national nuclear power plant stock. There was no official disagreement.