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Energy Department taps EPRI to lead spent nuclear fuel storage project

From the May 7, 2013 issue of Public Power Daily

Originally published May 7, 2013

The Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) will lead a multi-year research project to evaluate the safe storage of spent nuclear fuel in dry storage casks. The Department of Energy is investing $15.8 million over five years in the project, with the nuclear power industry contributing at least 20 percent of the total cost.

EPRI said it will design and demonstrate dry cask technology at full scale for evaluating the condition of "high burn-up" spent nuclear fuel during storage. The term "burn-up" refers to the amount of power extracted from the fuel. Nuclear plants have been shifting from lower burn-up to higher burn-up fuels in recent years, and continued research is needed to better understand the impacts, if any, of high burn-up fuels on storage and used fuel management, EPRI said.

"The project will enable us to equip a dry storage cask lid with advanced instrumentation so we can collect gas samples and monitor temperature and other variables while the fuel is cooling down," said Neil Wilmshurst, EPRI vice president and chief nuclear officer. "While testing of high burn-up fuel has been conducted to analyze individual effects, this will be the first integrated testing to determine whether there are any cumulative effects."

The demonstration will enable researchers to evaluate the performance of the cask system and ensure the integrity of the fuel. Information from the project also could be used to inform future regulatory actions associated with high burn-up used fuel storage and transportation, EPRI said.

The target date for loading fuel into the instrumented cask is mid-2017. This year, EPRI will develop a draft test plan, scheduled for completion by September. Following an eight-week public comment period, a final test plan will be completed by the end of the year. Activities in 2014 through 2016 will focus on designing the instrumented lid, obtaining a license for the modified lid, identifying the fuel rods to be included in the test program, procuring the cask and conducting a dry run, EPRI said.


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