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Safe, Secure Spent-Fuel Shipping

PNNL's Steve Maheras recognized by DOE for leadership in site evaluations and railcar prototype development

January 2016
Safe, Secure Spent-Fuel Shipping
Yankee Rowe independent spent fuel storage installation. Photo courtesy of Yankee Rowe.

When a nuclear power reactor is shut down, the used, or "spent," nuclear fuel (SNF) must be stored safely and securely. Removing the SNF from the site is a key part of the decommissioning process, to make the land available for other uses.

The DOE Office of Nuclear Energy has a special effort focused on smoothly accomplishing that task: the Nuclear Fuels Storage and Transportation Planning Project. A multi-laboratory team led by PNNL scientist Steve Maheras recently finished analyzing options for removing SNF from twelve sites that no longer have operating reactors: three “Yankee” sites in the Northeast, four in the Midwest, four on the West Coast, and one in Florida.

The evaluation for each site had four components:

Office of Nuclear Energy, Fuel Cycle Technologies Acknowledges Maheras’ Work

Scientist Steve Maheras received two Certificates of Appreciation at the DOE Fuel Cycle Technologies Annual Meeting for his efforts with spent nuclear fuel:

  • One for his "diligent and meticulous" work and the "cohesive, comprehensive and highly informative report" by his team, which was well received at the federal, tribal, state, and regional levels.
  • The other went to a team, which includes Maheras, that is developing prototype railcars to meet Association of American Railroads Standard S-2043, Performance Specification for Trains Used to Carry High-Level Radioactive Material, which will be used to transport SNF. This team cut a year off the schedule and $180,000 off the cost to develop these prototype railcars.
  1. Characterize the SNF and the greater-than-Class C low-level radioactive waste (GTCC waste) inventory.
  2. Describe the on-site infrastructure and conditions relevant to transportation of the waste.
  3. Evaluate the transportation infrastructure near each site and local experience relevant to shipping transportation casks containing SNF and GTCC waste, and identify gaps in information.
  4. Evaluate the actions necessary to prepare for and remove both types of waste.

Results of the team's study were presented at the Waste Management Conference WM2015, and their paper in the WMS Journal earned "an excellent analysis" comment from the journal editor. Every site was found to have at least one off-site transportation mode option for removing its SNF and GTCC waste; some have multiple options.

PNNL Research Staff: Steve Maheras, Steve Ross, Kenneth Buxton, and Philip Jensen

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