BRIDGMAN, Mich. – Indiana Michigan Power’s Cook Nuclear Plant has started the initial loading campaign for moving used fuel assemblies from the plant’s Spent Fuel Pool into the recently completed Dry Cask Storage Facility. Plans are to load 14 casks, each with 32 used assemblies. It takes about one week to load, seal, prepare and move one cask from inside the plant’s Auxiliary Building to the storage facility. The loading campaign is expected to continue until early November.
Since initial operation, Cook has stored used fuel in a steel-lined concrete pool, but that pool is nearly full. I&M has expanded the storage capacity of Cook’s pool twice, but further expansion is not feasible. Because the U.S. Department of Energy has not met its obligation to develop a permanent storage facility, Cook needs additional temporary storage to continue plant operation. Without other storage options, the plant could not continue to operate past 2015.
“I&M wants to continue to provide safe, reliable energy at Cook for many years to come and onsite dry cask storage is necessary for that to occur,” said Larry Weber, Senior Vice President and Chief Nuclear Officer. “We would prefer that the federal government met its obligation to accept used fuel or that fuel reprocessing were an option in this country, but until that happens, dry cask storage is a perfectly safe, secure and proven temporary option.”
The storage facility is a specially designed, two-acre concrete pad located about one-half mile from Lake Michigan near the center of the 650-acre plant property. The casks are licensed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and all applicable security, environmental and radiological requirements will be met. The two-foot thick steel-reinforced concrete pad is surrounded by a double row of high security fencing. There is continuous electronic surveillance, daily direct observation and intervention response capabilities coordinated with local law enforcement. Strict federal regulations pertaining to environmental and radiological protection govern the process. Compliance with NRC license radiation limits would result in no measurable difference in radiation levels at the plant boundary due to the dry cask facility. The facility will be isolated from public view and contact.
The used fuel will be sealed in airtight stainless steel canisters with concrete and steel over packs that provide both structural strength and radiation shielding. The storage casks are 18 feet tall and fully loaded weigh 195 tons with three foot thick walls. The casks are designed to withstand tornados, earthquakes, floods, sabotage, missiles, aircraft and temperature extremes. Casks are cooled by natural air circulation and no mechanical or electrical support systems are needed.
There are currently 63 dry cask storage facilities licensed by the NRC in 33 states. The casks are licensed for 20 years with possible renewal for 40 additional years. More than 1,400 casks are in service. No NRC-licensed nuclear fuel container has ever cracked or released radioactive contents.
Source: August 1, 2012 news release from Indiana Michigan Power