Vermont Yankee fuel transfer brought forward

18 December 2015

Entergy Nuclear Vermont Yankee has announced plans to start transferring used nuclear fuel from the shut-down Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant from wet to dry storage in 2017, two years earlier than originally planned.

The company said that the accelerated start would provide an "even higher level of confidence" that the transfer of all fuel in the plant's used fuel pool to dry cask storage will be completed by the end of 2020.

The plans require the construction of a second Independent Spent Fuel Storage Installation pad - on which the dry cask storage system is placed - at the plant. Entergy Nuclear Vermont Yankee said it expects to complete the construction of the second pad by 2017, although this is dependent on obtaining authorization from the Vermont Public Service Board to begin the construction in early 2016.

Emergency preparedness plan

The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission on 10 December approved changes to Vermont Yankee's emergency planning requirements to reflect the plant's decommissioning status. Effective from April 2016, there will no longer be a 10-mile emergency planning zone identified in the plant's licence reflecting the significantly lowered risk of an offsite radiological release and the fewer types of possible accidents at a plant that has ceased operations and been defueled. The plant will maintain an onsite emergency plan and response capabilities.

The company said that the plant's dry storage system vendor had "indicated" that it would be able to accelerate the delivery schedule of the dry storage equipment as well as ensuring the availability of the necessary personnel to accommodate the accelerated schedule. In July, the company selected Holtec's HI-STORM 100 dry storage system - designed to contain up to 68 boiling water reactor (BWR) fuel assemblies - for use at the site. The system consists of a stainless steel multi-purpose canister with a welded baseplate and lid, which is placed inside a coated carbon steel and concrete overpack that is placed on a concrete pad for storage.

While some costs would be incurred earlier than originally planned, the overall cost of the dry storage project would remain the same, Entergy Nuclear Vermont Yankee said. The company has already committed to fund the $145 million project, including the construction of the second pad, procurement of dry fuel storage systems and the transfer of the fuel, from extended credit lines rather than from the Nuclear Decommissioning Trust Fund. It said that this was the most effective option to ensure the "timely" transfer of all the used fuel while "optimizing growth" in the fund.

Vermont Yankee, a single-unit 604 MWe BWR, generated its last power in December 2014. Although safety regulators had granted a licence for the unit to operate until 2032, Entergy decided to close it early for economic reasons.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News