Plant Vogtle's spent fuel storage site delayed till October

Tuesday, April 30, 2013 1:34 PM
Last updated 11:17 PM
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A new storage facility for spent nuclear fuel that has been accumulating at Plant Vogtle for decades will go into operation a few months later than planned, according to Southern Nuclear officials.

The waste, part of 2,490 metric tons of the material statewide, has been stored in concrete-lined pools since Vogtle’s first two reactors began operating in 1987 and 1989.

Because those pools will be filled to capacity in 2014, the company announced more than two years ago that it would construct above-ground “dry cask” facilities that will enable the material to be stored in Burke County for a longer time.

The initial placement of spent fuel in the first of two new storage areas at Vogtle was scheduled to occur in July but has been delayed by issues, including late delivery of equipment.

In an April 23 letter to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Com­mission, company officials said the initial operation of the site is now scheduled for Oct. 14, which will still allow the dry cask site to begin operations well before existing pools reach capacity.

Aside from equipment delivery issues and preparing for final NRC demonstrations, the project has moved along smoothly, said Southern Nuclear spokeswoman Michelle Tims.

“Southern Nuclear has made good progress to date with respect to design and installation of the facility, despite the abnormal amount of rain experienced this spring,” she said.

Plant Vogtle is among many plants whose spent fuel remains in limbo after the administration canceled the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository in Nevada, which was designed as a final disposal site for spent fuel and other radioactive wastes.

Under the 1982 Nuclear Waste Policy Act, the Depart­ment of Energy remains responsible for disposal solutions. Al­ternatives – including consolidated interim storage and reprocessing – are now being re-examined, with Savannah River Site possibly playing a role in such programs.
Many commercial nuclear plant operators, however, have lobbied for reinstatement of the Yucca Mountain project.

Southern Co. executives who testified before a Blue Ribbon Commission exploring spent fuel disposal alternatives said its customers have paid about $1 billion into a nuclear waste fund that was to finance a permanent repository for spent fuel.

Plant Vogtle is among many sites where long-term cask storage systems are being built.

Cask storage is already in place at Vogtle’s sister nuclear plants Hatch and Farley. Those sites are among 51 licensed cask facilities in 47 places in the U.S., according to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

With no clear plan in sight for a national geologic repository, the NRC revealed in a 2011 Federal Register notice that it has drafted longer-term rules for storing both spent fuel and high-level radioactive wastes in their current locations for as long as 120 years.

Southern Nuclear told the NRC in 2011 that it expects to fill 110 dry storage casks by 2035 – all from the existing inventory of spent fuel from Units 1 and 2.

Two additional units – 3 and 4 – remain under construction nearby and will have their own independent storage sites for spent fuel when they begin commercial operation. Those startup dates are now projected for the fourth quarter of 2017 and 2018, respectively.

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oldredneckman96 04/30/13 - 08:29 pm

The dumbest thing, on energy, we as a Nation are doing, is to act like used nuclear fuel is trash. France recycles its fuel and makes 80% of its electricity polution and import oil free. China is using our money to build nuclear power plants and will have its fuel recycled soon. Japan wishes they had recycled their fuel before Fukushima. Ask Jimmy Carter why we can't recycle nuclear fuel.

DukeNukem 05/04/13 - 02:42 pm
Wrong answer

Sorry Old Redneck Man, France is part of the problem, not part of the solution. Germany is where it's at. They have now instituted 22 nuclear power plants worth of solar power. We don't need nuclear. Not only is is an ecological disaster, it is not (nor has it ever been) economically feasible.

oldredneckman96 05/05/13 - 06:16 pm
Wrong Answer?

You need to redo your research. When the Chanchler of Germany announced her plan to shut down Nuclear power plants, many large businesses announced plans to leave. Just try to run a large manufacturing plant at night on solar!

CameronRobertson 01/19/14 - 10:26 pm
Whether solar is a feasible

Whether solar is a feasible solution or not isn’t the issue here, what is the issue is that nuclear is creating all this spent fuel that no-one really seems to know what to do with. And for anything better to do they decide to tidy it all away in storage casks for at least 120 years! And after that time has lapsed – then what will they do with it!

michaelmaloney 03/26/14 - 02:41 am
I find it absurd that when

I find it absurd that when the nuclear power plant was first planned, constructed and put into operations, there were no concrete plans on the ‘temporary’ storage of nuclear waste and how this nuclear waste will be recycled or even disposed properly (the word disposal just gives me the shivers…). Even temporary storage should not have been part of the plan since what could have been the priority is to have nuclear power and yet no waste or waste that is at a minimum and could be recycled. But I don’t think this zero waste was part of the plan when the idea of this nuclear power plant was first conceived.

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