ATR - cask - INL

Advanced Test Reactor canal operators lift the High Load Charger cask, holding spent nuclear fuel, out of the canal. The spent fuel was transferred to dry storage, a requirement of the 1995 Settlement Agreement.

Idaho National Laboratory and Fluor Idaho have streamlined the process for storing spent nuclear fuel by transferring spent fuel — used to power INL’s Advanced Test Reactor — directly from a cooling canal to dry storage.

Moving spent fuel to dry storage frees up pool storage space and it reduces the environmental risks of stored radioactive waste. Pool storage, for example, poses a greater risk to the East Snake Plain Aquifer near INL’s desert site, west of Idaho Falls.

The 1995 Settlement Agreement, between the state of Idaho, the U.S. Navy and U.S. Department of Energy, says that all spent nuclear fuel stored in Idaho must be transferred to dry storage.

Last month, workers removed eight spent fuel elements from the Advanced Test Reactor’s cooling canal, packed them in a container and drove it two miles to dry storage at Fluor Idaho’s Idaho Nuclear Technology and Engineering Center.

Fluor Idaho manages the Idaho Cleanup Project at INL’s desert site.

It was the first time in the Advanced Test Reactor’s more than 50-year history that the reactor’s spent fuel elements were transferred directly from the canal to longer-term dry storage, an INL news release said.

An upcoming milestone of the Settlement Agreement is to move spent nuclear fuel from pool storage to dry storage by 2023.

“We take our commitment to the state seriously and INL and (Idaho Cleanup Project) have been working diligently toward this goal for several years,” said Sean O’Kelly, associate laboratory director at Advanced Test Reactor, in the release.

Spent nuclear elements have been cooled in the Advanced Test Reactor canal since it began operating in 1967. Spent elements were then transferred to storage pools at the Idaho Nuclear Technology and Engineering Center for reprocessing — until 1992 when reprocessing ceased. Since then, spent elements have been sitting in pools awaiting transfer to dry storage.

The recent streamlining allows fuel to be transferred directly from the Advanced Test Reactor to dry storage, bypassing temporary storage at the Idaho Nuclear Technology and Engineering Center.

Bypassing the Idaho Nuclear Technology and Engineering Center — and new dry storage canisters that can hold 50 percent more spent fuel — will be critical to meeting the 2023 deadline, the release said.

Dave Schoonen, the Advanced Test Reactor’s chief operating officer, expects an average of 15 spent fuel shipments, from the reactor to dry storage, over the next two years.

Reporter Ryan Suppe can be reached at 208-542-6762. Follow him on Twitter: @salsuppe.

Load comments