Work on the Cook Nuclear Power Plant's new dry cask storage facility will begin this summer, increasingly required as the plant’s spent fuel pools become limited in storage capacity.
With the current spent fuel pool expected to be full by 2013, the new helium-consuming dry cask storage (DCS) facility is needed sooner rather than later and will help house fuel assemblies.
For many years nuclear power plants have temporarily stored spent fuel in special water pools at the reactor site, but with commercial reprocessing never fully developed in the US and a permanent waste repository not yet developed either, these pools are nearing capacity and cask storage takes on greater importance - as does helium as a result.
What is dry cask storage?
Providing above ground and long-term storage of spent nuclear fuel, DCS is quite a simple and yet extremely safe and reliable system of sealing used fuel in large airtight steel and concrete canisters.
Offering both structural strength and radiation shielding, the cylindrical canisters or casks allow spent fuel to be surrounded by inert gas, typically helium, inside the welded or bolted closed cask.
The steel cylinder provides a leak-tight containment of the spent fuel, with the vertical system referred to as ’dry’ because the used product is surrounded by the inert helium gas, rather than water.
The Cook Nuclear Plant
The Cook Nuclear Plant is located 650 acres along Lake Michigan’s eastern shoreline in the US. The tract is part of the world’s largest formation of freshwater dunes and a construction permit for the plant was granted by the Atomic Energy Commission in 1969.
As one of the largest construction projects ever in the state of Michigan and with over 2,000 workers at the site, the plant was named after the late Donald C. Cook, a Michigan native and former chairman of the board of American Electric Power (AEP).
Both units at the site are pressurised water reactors, with the 1,048 net megawatt (MW) Unit 1 and 1,107 net MW Unit 2 combined producing enough electricity for more than one and one half million average homes.