Juggling radioactive fuel at Indian Point

Monday, April 13, 2009
by Abby Luby

Entergy is asking the Nuclear Regulatory Commission if they can increase the handling of high level radioactive spent fuel at the Indian Point Nuclear Power Plants in Buchanan, NY.

Instead of taking spent fuel from the Indian Point Unit 3 spent fuel pool and directly placing it in concrete canisters for storage at the plant, Entergy wants to first transfer the fuel to Unit 2.

Currently the process includes extracting used fuel assemblies out of the spent fuel pools, placing them in concrete casks, driving them to a dedicated storage concrete pad onsite.

Because Entergy only owns one 125-ton crane (located at Unit 2, pictured here) needed to lift the canisters holding the fuel assemblies, Entergy claims it would be more cost effective to transfer the Unit 3 spent fuel to the Unit 2 spent fuel pool, then use the Unit 2 crane to place the fuel into storage casks. Entergy will purchase a newly designed transfer cask to transport the fuel across the site from Unit 3 to Unit 2.

Entergy spokesperson Jerry Nappi said the cost of a new crane is $30 million. "There are no plans to purchase a new crane for the Unit 3 fuel storage building." Nappi added that it cost significantly more to install a new crane in Unit 3 because the current layout of the building wouldn't support a new crane.

Spent fuel pools at both Indian Point reactors are nearing capacity, with bundled assemblies of spent fuel rods now being stacked dangerously close to one another. The rods contain plutonium and other radioactive isotopes needed in the reactor to create electricity.

John Boska, NRC Senior Project Manager for Indian Point, said he expects an official request from Entergy for the license amendment some time in July, which will start a 30 -60 review process. The NRC will then issue a notice to the Federal Register.
"The public will have hearing opportunities when we issue a Federal Register notice." A public hearing request can be filed at that point with the NRC.

The Federal Register site is Information on requesting a public hearing is at the NRC site:

Boska also added that the request would not affect Entergy's license renewal application.