Designer of Vt. Yankee nuke waste containers touts their toughness

 

By SUSAN SMALLHEER
Rutland Herald
Monday, June 29, 2015

BRATTLEBORO, Vt. — The president of the company that designs and sells the giant concrete and steel casks that will store Vermont Yankee’s waste for the foreseeable future told a Vermont panel Thursday night his invention will last for 300 years.

Kris Singh, president and chief executive officer of Holtec International told the Vermont Nuclear Decommissioning Citizens Advisory Panel that his casks love cold weather and even love being flooded.

He said the casks, which are made of two-inch-thick stainless steel and a special, high-density concrete, can withstand high-impact attack, high temperatures, and even an F-16 loaded with jet fuel crashing into them. The casks can withstand bullets and missiles, he said.

And, he said, the radiation emitted by the casks holding the high-level fuel is only 20 percent of the radiation standard set by the federal government.

One of the keys to his design, which has been on the market for 15 years, is that it doesn’t have any welds, which are more prone to leaks, he told the group.

Singh’s company is poised to become the vendor of the second storage facility that Entergy Nuclear wants to build on the grounds of the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant in Vernon, which shut down last December.

Entergy bought Holtec casks for its first facility, which was built in 2006. That facility holds 13 casks.

Singh told the panel that it could produce the dozens of new casks needed to transfer Vermont Yankee’s thousands of spent fuel rods in 2017, which is at least two years ahead of when Entergy plans on starting the transfer of the waste.

Singh made the trip to Vermont from Florida with a group of his staff to make the presentation to the Vermont group, which has no direct say in the building of the facility or the selection of Holtec. That rests with Entergy, since Holtec’s HI-STORM 100 dry cask storage system has already been approved by the NRC.

But the panel is beginning to flex its legislative muscle, and there was discussion Thursday night about the panel fulfilling its mission by making recommendations to the Public Service Board on the matter.

Singh’s assertion that he made the best and safest casks in the world was met with some friendly skepticism by anti-nuclear activists, who nonetheless support the transfer of the waste into the casks and out of Yankee’s spent fuel pool.

Deborah Katz, executive director of Citizens Awareness Network, questioned Singh’s claims, and asked how he could possibly know the canister would last 300 years, when the longest it’s been in use is 15 years.

Meanwhile, Christopher Recchia, commissioner of the Vermont Department of Public Service, said the state remained convinced that the issue of how much money nuclear companies can use from decommissioning trust funds for handling spent fuel — like the Holtec casks — was a national issue, and not just one that Vermont is grappling with.

Recchia, while declining to be specific in a follow-up interview, said Vermont was talking to other states about a possible challenge to recent rulings by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission giving Entergy the right to take about $220 million out of the Vermont Yankee fund.