By Mike Faher
VERNON – A contractor has begun the delicate task of moving Vermont Yankee’s radioactive spent fuel from a pool inside the reactor building into more secure, sealed casks.
In announcing that the project had kicked off Monday, plant owner Entergy called it an “important milestone.” That’s in part due to the company’s proposed sale of Vermont Yankee, which is contingent on completing the fuel move by the end of 2018.
But that doesn’t mean the job will be rushed, administrators say.
In an interview Tuesday, Vermont Yankee Government Affairs Manager Joe Lynch cited specialized equipment and training; multiple layers of oversight; and several prior fuel transfers as reasons why he believes the project should not spur safety concerns.
“We’re very well-practiced at doing this,” Lynch said.
The start of the fuel move, which had been scheduled for April but was delayed, is important for several reasons.
First, the $143 million project will eliminate the need for a cooling pool inside the reactor building, where most of the shut-down Vernon plant’s spent fuel is currently stored under water.
Eventually, the fuel will occupy 58 sealed dry casks standing on two concrete pads. Thirteen casks were loaded in past fuel campaigns, so Entergy needs to load another 45 casks between now and late 2018.
While some question the long-term viability and safety of the casks, there’s general agreement that getting the plant’s spent fuel out of the less stable, less secure cooling pool is a good thing.
The project also will cut costs at Vermont Yankee, as Entergy has asked regulators for permission to dramatically…
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