Holtec International’s pre-eminent consideration in all of its decommissioning plans and actions is protecting public health and safety and preserving the environment. Holtec’s commitment is to complete decommissioning of the sites it owns safely and efficiently so that the land occupied by the site may be repurposed for an alternative use so local jobs can be created, and the town can regain lost tax revenue.
Every nuclear power facility employs a pool of circulating water to temporarily store its used nuclear fuel assemblies. In an operating facility, it is difficult to draw a safety comparison between wet and dry fuel storage, as both are safe, important and effective.
However, when it comes to a shuttered nuclear power plant, dry spent fuel storage is the safe and proven method. Choosing only wet storage at a decommissioning plant obstructs the ability to complete the project and restore the site to productive use. Moving the spent fuel into dry storage also reduces the radiation dose to the personnel performing the decommissioning activities. Those who work to stop the movement of used nuclear fuel to dry storage are ignoring the facts and may unwittingly compromise the health and safety of the public.
Consider this: dry fuel storage facilities are passive because they contain no mechanical parts to fail or maintain. In a spent fuel pool, filters must run, water chemistry and temperatures must be maintained and there are many working components that need monitoring and adjustment.
As science and testing have shown, dry storage facilities are strong and robust. Each are designed and tested to withstand projectiles, missiles and the worst of Mother Nature. This is why dry fuel storage facilities are used worldwide to safely protect and store spent nuclear fuel.
For nearly two decades, Oyster Creek has safely stored used fuel in dry cask storage systems in its Independent Spent Fuel Storage Facility Installation (ISFSI), in addition to storing fuel in its spent fuel pool. Now that the station is undergoing decommissioning, all of the remaining used fuel must be safely transferred from the pool to dry storage systems in the ISFSI in order for the structures to be dismantled.
At Pilgrim, the decommissioning team continues to protect the health and safety of the public as it moves forward with its dry cask storage campaign. Preparation for the spent fuel loading campaign began months ago, with the physical preparation beginning on site in March. The team’s hard work and determination were evident when fuel was safely moved from the pool into the campaign’s first dry cask storage container and moved to the existing ISFSI, joining the 17 dry storage systems already safely storing used fuel from the Pilgrim reactor. Overall, in this ongoing campaign, the team will move 11 spent fuel dry casks to the ISFSI over the next several weeks.
The completion of decommissioning at Oyster Creek and Pilgrim will result in the release of all portions of the site from the current Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) license, with the exception of the ISFSI – until the U.S. Department of Energy transfers the spent fuel offsite. Holtec has a pending application with the NRC for a Consolidated Interim Storage Facility in New Mexico, which could eventually store spent nuclear fuel from U.S. nuclear power plants.
Safe and timely movement of spent fuel into dry storage will permit other decommissioning activities to be safely started sooner and performed more efficiently and, most importantly, with less radiation dose to the workers.
Holtec’s spent fuel management expertise and fleet approach to decommissioning make it an industry leader that continues to set new standards for innovation, safety and environmental stewardship.
Thoughout decommissioning, Holtec International and its decommissioning team will continue its focus on protecting public health and safety and preserving the environment. We are residents and neighbors and it is incumbent upon us to do what is right – always.