The US Department of Energy (DOE) has announced the launch of a new five-year research and development project to design and demonstrate dry storage cask technology for high burn-up spent nuclear fuel.
The project, to be led the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), will be funded at least 20% by private industry, according to DOE, which intends to invest $15.8 million in the research, over a five-year period.
DOE said in a 16 April statement that it has studied the current long-term dry cask systems used to store spent nuclear fuel and has "identified areas for continued research and data collection related to the storage of high burn-up spent fuel."
"Over the last few years, many improvements have been made in fuel technologies which have allowed plant operators to achieve higher burn-up levels, almost doubling the amount of energy captured," it noted.
In a 22 April statement, EPRI said that the project would invlove designing and licensing a dry storage cask lid with advanced instrumentation to collect gas samples and monitor temperature and other variables while the fuel is cooling down.
EPRI aims to finalize a testing plant by the end of 2013. Activities from 2014 through 2016 will then focus on designing the instrumented lid, obtaining a license for the modified lid, identifying the fuel rods to be included in the test programme, procuring the cask, and conducting a dry run.
The demonstration, targeted for mid-2017, will enable researchers to evaluate the performance of the cask system and ensure the integrity of the fuel, EPRI said. "Information from the project also could be used to inform future regulatory actions associated with high burn-up used fuel storage and transportation," it added.
Photo: Used nuclear fuel is typically stored in spent fuel pools before being moved to dry storage