BUCHANAN, N.Y. – Indian Point Unit 2 is once again generating electricity for the grid, one month after 900 contract workers converged on the Indian Point Power Plants campus to begin removing spent nuclear fuel assemblies from its 1,000 megawatt reactor core.
The hundreds of workers who joined Indian Point Unit 2's and 3’s regularly employed workforce of 1,100, performed thousands of tests and maintenance operations not possible during regular plant operation, according to officials from Entergy, owners of the plant.
The work included operating a telescoping arm that reached into the reactor core to remove 10-inch wide by 15-foot long assemblies of nuclear fuel rods. After being removed, the rods are transferred underwater to spent fuel pools.
This process takes place every two years at each of Indian Point's plants, Unit 2 is refueled in even years and Unit 3 is refueled in odd years. One-third of each plant’s approximately 193 fuel assemblies are removed and transferred into spent fuel pools during refueling; fuel assemblies have a reactor core life of about six years.
“Thanks to the efforts of 2,000 highly trained and skilled workers, Indian Point’s unit 2 is ready to safely generate clean electricity for New Yorkers until its next refueling in two years,” John Ventosa said in an Entergy release. Ventosa is site vice president and Entergy’s top official at Indian Point.
Once removed, the super-hot fuel assemblies must spend five years in spent fuel pools before they can be transferred to dry cask storage. Currently, on-site dry cask storage is the last stop for spent fuel after the federal government ended plans to provide long-term geologic storage of the radioactive material inside Yucca Mountain, on the Nevada-California border, about 100 miles northwest of Las Vegas. Each dry cask holds between two and six dozen fuel assemblies, said the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
“Spent fuel from commercial nuclear power reactors constitutes the largest part of this inventory, totaling approximately 65,000 metric tons. This inventory continues to grow at an annual rate on the order of 2,000 to 2,400 metric tons per year as a result of the ongoing operation of the nation’s commercial nuclear power plants,” wrote the Blue Ribbon Commission on American’s Nuclear Future, in its final January 2012 report.
The commission was formed by President Barack Obama after the political failure of the Yucca Mountain plan, introduced by the Bush administration. The commission did not recommend possible sites for future storage of spent fuel.
Each spent fuel pool at Indian Point has a capacity of about 1,350 fuel assemblies, Unit 2’s spent fuel pools contain about 1,050 after the latest group of assemblies were placed in the pool. Unit 3’s spent fuel pools are at capacity, Entergy officials said.