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Trucks, Trains, Ships, and Cranes: Tracking Transportation Stress and Vibration

Multinational team measuring stress on simulated spent fuel during shipment

December 2016
Trucks, Trains, Ships, and Cranes: Tracking Transportation Stress and Vibration
A 5-meter-long cask (ENSA ENUN 32P) with an overall loaded weight of 120 tons will be fitted with instruments to measure forces on surrogate fuel assemblies, the internal cask basket, the cask, and the conveyance during lifting by crane and transportation by rail, barge, truck, and ocean-going vessel. (Courtesy of ENSA)

Nuclear power plants in the United States generate nearly one-fifth of the nation’s electricity, and almost two-thirds of its carbon-free electricity. Once the fuel has been used—now considered spent nuclear fuel (SNF)—it is stored at each power plant site pending construction of a permanent storage site. When the permanent storage facility is constructed, SNF from the nation’s operating and shut-down nuclear power plants will need to be safely moved to the facility.

The U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Nuclear Energy’s Spent Fuel and Waste Science and Technology program is already preparing for this task. PNNL is part of an international team studying the stresses that spent fuel rods may experience during transport by truck, rail, barge, and ocean-going vessel, as well as transfer between these modes.

A rail transport cask containing simulated SNF rods and assemblies as well as its lid, the internal framework or “basket,” and the cradle that holds the cask will be fitted with instruments to measure mechanical stresses as it travels between Europe and the United States. The trip, planned for 2017, will start by heavy-haul truck from central Spain to its northern coast; thereafter, it will proceed by coastal sea shipment—similar to a barge—to a northern European port, by oceangoing transport to an eastern U.S. port, and then on an instrumented railroad car to the Association of American Railroads’ Transportation Technology Center, Inc., (TTCI) near Pueblo, Colorado, where it will undergo further testing on specialized railroad tracks. Lastly, it will follow the same path on the return trip. The strain and vibration data recorded during the trip will inform computer models to support future licensing and safe, secure transport of SNF.

ENSA ENUN 32P cask
Design of the ENSA ENUN 32P cask. (Courtesy of ENSA)

To describe this plan to research peers, PNNL’s Steve Ross and graphic designer Rose Zanders prepared a poster that was presented at the triennial International Symposium on the Packaging and Transportation of Radioactive Materials, aka PATRAM 2016, in Kobe, Japan, in late September. Steve was presented the Aoki Award for Distinguished Poster Presentation of technical and communication excellence. According to the conference program, “The Aoki awards are intended to further develop the PATRAM series of symposia by rewarding those who have contributed most to the meetings and commending those who have presented specific distinguished papers.”

Along with PNNL, the international team includes Sandia National Laboratories, Savannah River Nuclear Solutions, Equipos Nucleares, S.A., (ENSA) of Spain, TTCI, and the Korea Radioactive Waste Agency.

PNNL Research Team: Steve Ross, Philip Jensen, Nicholas Klymyshyn, and Brady Hanson

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