Swiss used fuel store operation go-ahead

10 April 2008

The Swiss Federal Nuclear Safety Inspectorate (HSK) has given KKG permission to operate a new used fuel storage facility at its Gösgen nuclear power plant, without which the 29-year old reactor would soon have run out of storage space.


Goesgen fuel pool 
The new used fuel pool
HSK's go-ahead represents the final act of a three-and-a-half year construction, installation and commissioning process, and a total investment of some 87 million Swiss francs ($87.5 million). The new wet storage facility can accommodate 1008 fuel assemblies, almost tripling the total used nuclear fuel storage at the plant from its original 600 assemblies to some 1600. Built by a Siemens-Areva joint venture, the building is 37m long and 25m high, and is made of reinforced concrete. It has been designed to withstand events including earthquakes, floods and aircraft crashes.


The used fuel storage at the pressurized water reactor, which started up in 1979, was designed with the intent that fuel elements would be removed from it regularly and shipped to reprocessing plants. However, a 2005 government act placed a ten-year moratorium on the transport of Swiss used fuel for reprocessing, placing pressure on at-reactor storage space. The existing storage at Gösgen, being inside the reactor containment itself, could not be extended, hence the need to build an independent facility.


Used fuel from the reactor will be transported to the new facility on the plant's dedicated rail system. It will stay in the storage facility until cool enough to be transferred to the ZZL interim radioactive waste storage facility at Würenlingen. This is adjacent to the Paul Scherrer Institute, near Nordostschweizerische Kraftwerke's (NOK's) Beznau nuclear power plant.


Switzerland has five operating nuclear power plants supplying 40% of its electricity, and the government announced early in 2007 that the existing reactors, all due to retire in the period 2019-2034, should be replaced in due course with new units.