Thursday, January 10, 2008
Spent fuel rods relocated on-site
January 4, 2008
Entergy calls task 'tremendous achievement'
BUCHANAN — As you read this, a team of roughly two dozen radiation protection technicians is meticulously shuffling hundreds of spent nuclear fuel rods at the Indian Point Energy Center in Buchanan.
"This is a tremendous achievement and a historic day," said an announcement from the brass of Entergy Nuclear, the company that runs Indian Point's 2,100 megawatts of nuclear power.
For the first time in site history, giant spent fuel rods of plutonium and uranium are being plucked from the deep cooling pools where they've sat for decades.
Entergy technicians will dry and seal the rods inside massive casks and relocate them on-site, about a quarter of a mile away, on a steel and concrete pad roughly double the size of a basketball court.
"It is a huge task," said Entergy spokeswoman Robyn Bentley, "but this is something that we're going to continue doing through the life of the plant."
At a cost of more than $40 million, Bentley said this first phase — scheduled to conclude next week — will remove 96 spent fuel assemblies from one reactor's spent fuel pool. With approximately 10 spent fuel rods per assembly, that's 960 highly radioactive rods relocated to a safer place, and even the power plant's critics agree that's good news.
"Riverkeeper is pleased that (Entergy) is finally doing this," said Philip Musegaas, staff attorney for the Garrison-based environmental watchdog group.
Though Riverkeeper has joined New York State and a bevy of other factions fighting to close the power plant, Musegaas said nuclear waste stored in dry casks is significantly safer than waste sitting in a cooling pool. But, he cautions, Entergy isn't moving waste out of the goodness of its heart. "It's a business decision," he said.
Entergy is removing spent fuel from Unit 2, a reactor whose pool is nearing capacity, in order to make room for more.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission said that's Entergy's prerogative. "The companies that operate the reactors decide when the time is appropriate to go to an Independent Spent Fuel Storage Installation," said NRC spokeswoman Diane Screnci.
There are 46 sites across the country similar to the new one at Indian Point, all designed as temporary holding facilities until a national repository is constructed. Screnci said the U.S. Department of Energy is expected to submit an application for a repository in Yucca Mountain, Nev., by July 2008.