Company vice president wants to clarify nature of the nuclear waste, risks involved
By Elicia Sanchez
A recent article raised questions about the safe and secure rail transport of used nuclear fuel to the proposed Interim Storage Partners facility at Waste Control Specialists. As a longtime member of the local community, parent and therefore a stakeholder in this process, I would like to provide some facts on the transportation of used fuel.
I think the first questions to be answered are “What is used nuclear fuel?” and “How is it packaged?” Used nuclear fuel is a dry, solid ceramic pellet, not a liquid. These pellets are about the size and shape of a large pencil eraser. They are stacked and sealed inside long metal-alloy rods, which are then securely bound into a rectangular bundle called a fuel assembly. After the radioactive used fuel assemblies are removed from a reactor and cooled underwater for a minimum of two years, they are loaded into large, thick canisters, which are welded shut and vacuum dried to remove all liquid and air from the sealed canister. The canister is then filled with an inert gas that prevents the fuel from degrading over time.
Extensive research, testing and experience has shown that there is no credible way for this solid used fuel material to spread and cause harm in an accident, even one that somehow breaches both the transport cask and canister.