Spent fuel at Nine Mile Point Nuclear Station units 1 and 2 in Scriba, NY, will go in storage sites on the grounds surrounding the power plants this summer, said Constellation Energy Nuclear Group (CENG), owner of the two units.
The highly radioactive spent fuel, formerly used in the power plant reactors, will go from the circulating-water spent fuel pool to on-site dry cask storage facilities starting Aug. 26.
Transportation of the spent fuel to the dry cask storage facilities by CENG personnel would take two weeks, said Jill Lyon, a spokeswoman for CENG.
“(Personnel) will be going through a very detailed training process before performing the work,” Lyon said.
CENG built the storage facilities in 2009 for $50 million, said Neil Sheehan, a commission spokesman. He said nuclear facilities now use dry cask storage quite often among the 104 nuclear power plants nationwide as spent fuel pools have begun to reach capacity.
After use in the reactor, the spent fuel moves to the spend fuel pool which is the size of an Olympic swimming pool and 40 feet deep, Sheehan said. The fuel assemblies go in stainless steel racks below 20 feet of water, which will ensure the radiation is at an acceptable level. The spent fuel must stay in the pool to cool for five years before it can move out of the structure.
Sheehan said the capacity in the pools used at Nine Mile units 1 and 2 is still at a safe level, but they need dry cask storage facilities before capacity inside the structure becomes an issue.
“If they had to shut down for some reason and unload all the fuel from the reactor, they do not want to be in a position where they can’t move all of that fuel into the spent fuel pool,” he said.
When the nation’s 104 nuclear stations came online decades ago, including Nine Mile Point Unit 1 in 1969, the spent fuel pools went in as temporary storage facilities for the radioactive material exiting the reactors. The belief was a long-term solution would soon follow the plant’s construction. However, decades later, nuclear officials are still grappling with a long-term solution.
Initially, the recycling or repurposing of spent fuel in the plant’s reactor was one thought, but that idea ended up shot down and forbidden by then-President Jimmy Carter.
“The concern was that in reprocessing spent nuclear fuel, you actually create byproducts and that could get into the hands of those who would use it for untoward purposes,” Sheehan said.