Intellectual Leadership in Expedited Decommissioning
Holtec International has been at the forefront of spent fuel management for over thirty years. Holtec’s leadership in used fuel management began in the 1980s when the Company outdistanced its global rivals to densify in-pool storage at the nuclear plants on the strength of its innovative designs and superb client service. Replicating its wet storage success, Holtec has established a dominant position in dry storage and transport of used nuclear fuel since the late-1990s through groundbreaking technologies such as underground Canister storage and transport cask designs of unparalleled capabilities. Over 100 patents and a loyal client base of over 100 nuclear plants, Holtec serves as the “go-to” company to the global nuclear industry to overcome the technical challenges that stand in the way of defueling nuclear plants. Inasmuch as over 99% of the radioactivity at a nuclear plant is in the form of used fuel, an efficient defueling of the nuclear plant is evidently an essential predicate to a successful decommissioning program. Only after the fuel is removed from the site can decommissioning be completed and the license terminated.
The Case for Expedited Decommissioning
The decommissioning life cycle begins with the removal of the spent nuclear fuel from the reactor to the spent fuel pool and ends when the ISFSI (Independent Spent Fuel Storage Installation) is decommissioned after removal of the spent fuel from the site.
Decommissioning costs and activities can be adversely impacted by the continued storage of spent fuel in the spent fuel pool:
- The risk of Zirconium fire, abetted by the Fukushima disaster, places a hefty financial penalty on the plant for the duration the fuel is held in wet storage.
- Maintenance of plant systems and infrastructure required to safeguard the fuel in wet storage places an exceptional cost burden on the plant owner.
- Security requirements in and around Spent Fuel Pools tend to limit the amount of decommissioning work that can be performed while the fuel is in the pool.
- While most activities could still be performed the security costs in resources and money associated with personnel mobilization, equipment delivery, testing and storage and performance of the work near the fuel lead to much higher costs and reduced productivity.
Moving the spent nuclear fuel from wet to dry storage removes the highest content of radioactive material from the plant and allows decommissioning of the plant to proceed. The more rapidly spent nuclear fuel can be placed in dry storage the earlier cost effective decommissioning can start.
Maximizing Safety and Cost Savings While Expeditiously Returning Land to the Local Community
Leading a group of allied companies called Team Holtec, Holtec International provides an innovative approach to decommissioning of shuttered nuclear power plants. We call this approach Proto-Prompt Decommissioning or PPD. PPD relies on Holtec’s high capacity, high heat load dry spent fuel storage canisters that are made with the extremely heat conductive Metamic-HT basket material. This enables used fuel to be placed in dry storage in as little as two years after the reactor is shutdown. The super-fast defueling of the Part 50 facility along with judicious use of robots to perform hazardous tasks paves the way for PPD.
The Team Holtec companies represent an alliance of North America’s most celebrated nuclear service companies. With cutting edge expertise in complementary areas, this alliance can carry out a complex decommissioning program with utmost safety and minimum aggregate dose to personnel. Each member company is an ace in its field.
Proto-Prompt Decommissioning is the obverse of what the industry calls SAFSTOR. SAFSTOR consists of leaving the nuclear plant’s used fuel in its fuel pool for decades hoping for more favorable economics in the future to carry out decommissioning. The looming silhouette of the closed plant is a rather unwelcome presence in its host community as is the looming uncertainty of decommissioning cost to the plant’s owner. PPD is a welcome solution for both stakeholders.
Holtec’s decommissioning program promises to modernize dismantling of retired nuclear plants by introducing technical innovations in vessel segmentation, parallel processing, and personnel shielding solutions that will make the site’s march to green fields swift, safe and ALARA (As Low As Reasonably Achievable). To the host communities, a deceased nuclear plant need not be a guest that overstays its welcome!
Strategic Initiatives and Evidence of Commitment to PPD
To serve the nuclear industry in the most competent manner, Holtec has implemented a number of initiatives that are focused to enable PPD which aligns the goals of the owner (cost minimization) and the local host communities of the power plants. To wit Holtec has:
- Submitted applications for its spent fuel storage systems to the NRC to secure certificate of compliance amendments that seek to reduce the used fuel cooling time to less than 2 years making PPD possible.
- Built a state-of-the-art manufacturing facility and technology center on the east bank of the Delaware River in Camden, NJ to cater to the expected influx of client demands for dry storage equipment for proto-prompt decommissioning. The historic site was once home to the New York Shipbuilding Corporation.
- Embarked on the creation of a self-funded Consolidated Interim Storage (CIS) facility in Southeast New Mexico with enthused support of the State and the host communities.
- Initiated work on innovative reactor segmentation technologies to insure that the most ALARA-compliant and robust techniques are used for the part of decommissioning that has been the Achilles’ heel for the past decommissioning programs. Robustness will be demonstrated through a new underwater testing facility planned for the Camden, New Jersey manufacturing facility.
Holtec’s licensing application for the CIS facility, called HI-STORE, is the only active national effort at this time in the United States. The HI-STORE CIS employs the HI-STORM UMAX technology to store any US-origin commercial nuclear fuel currently packaged in dry storage canisters, or stored in the nation’s fuel pools. HI-STORM UMAX is designed to be able to accept the storage canister from every dry storage system currently in operation in the United States (our own and other supplier’s systems).