The Safest, Surest Path to Moving Stranded Used Nuclear Fuel

At 65 sites in 33 states across the United States, the only thing remaining of the nuclear reactors that reliably pumped out millions of megawatt-hours of electricity over their lifetimes is the securely stored used fuel tucked away in massive steel and concrete dry cask storage modules. This “stranded fuel” (as the Department of Energy calls it) is first in line for ultimate storage in a federal repository. Unfortunately, the Yucca Mountain federal repository project in Nevada has been delayed long past its original 1998 opening date and has made little progress since 2009.

IMG_02Now, what to do with the stranded fuel? A company called Waste Control Specialists (WCS) is actively seeking a federal license to expand its existing, operating 14,000-acre hazardous waste facility in Andrews County, Texas, as a consolidated interim storage facility (CISF) for securely and safely storing used nuclear fuel beginning in 2020 until a federal repository opens for business. The WCS CISF project enjoys clear support from its local community, Governor, and state and federal representatives.

With this option, the United States could finally begin the process of removing stranded used nuclear fuel from local communities and consolidating it at a single, secure site as progress continues toward an ultimate long-term federal facility.

Of course, now you have to move the stranded fuel from where it sits to safe storage in the CISF. To ensure expert used nuclear fuel handling and transportation, WCS partnered with AREVA Inc. and NAC International, both leaders in the global nuclear materials transport and storage industries with decades of experience. Combined, AREVA and NAC’s proven dry storage systems are in place at 62 percent of U.S. used fuel storage sites, including 78 percent of the stranded fuel sites.

The WCS partnership also includes NRC-licensed transport casks for safely moving canisterized used nuclear fuel by rail or truck from stranded sites to a storage facility.

When it comes to storing the used nuclear fuel, the CISF’s robust above-ground modules are constructed of thick reinforced concrete, offering superior high-shielding properties, and are proven to withstand environmental hazards including tornados, earthquakes, and flooding. The internal corrosion-resistant stainless steel canisters incorporate advanced materials and fuel rod support structures that efficiently dissipate fuel heat while offering a streamlined design for ease of transfer from the reactor and transport to storage.

Compared with buried nuclear fuel storage systems, the above-ground structures enable easy loading and access for inspections, monitoring, and maintenance during canister safety programs. The design life of the proposed WCS CISF storage system is 100+ years.

We’re ready today with a near-term interim used nuclear fuel storage solution based on an existing community-approved operating site, an expert partnership of experienced companies, and proven technology for secure and safe transport and storage. This strong team offers the surest path to moving stranded used fuel as it offers the global experts in all phases of the used fuel cycle – from start-to-finish – with more than 50 years of proven performance in used fuel transport and storage.