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Mid-Missouri nuclear plant unveils new storage facility

Ameren Missouri has unveiled its dry cask storage facility at the Mid-Missouri nuclear plant in Callaway County southeast of Fulton. ABC 17 News (along with other local media) was extended a rare invitation inside the maximum security nuclear facility so we could show you how it works. And although it’s never been used in our area, the storage design has been used in some of the nation’s other 98 nuclear power plants.

Shannon Abel is Ameren Missouri’s director of engineering products. He says the storage system is new to the Callaway plant and, “it’s our first campaign and first operation at moving spent fuel into this facility here.”

Plant officials say putting that spent fuel into concrete and steel containers that are permanently sealed and lowered into concrete and soil storage, keeps people and the area safe from the radioactive material. Ameren says each cask or canister can hold up to 37 spent fuel assemblies. There are 98,445 fuel pellets per assembly.

This nuclear power facility near Fulton, has been in operation since 1984, and since then it’s been storing the spent nuclear fuel in its on-site pool. Ameren says the capacity for spent fuel storage in the current on-site pool is 2329 fuel assemblies. There are currently 1825 assemblies in the cooling pool now. It sounds crowded, but the senior director of nuclear operations, Barry Cox, says while it’s important now, it’s not critical to the facilities current fuel production. He says, “we’ll be able to operate with that existing pool without doing this (dry cask storage) campaign until the year 2020.”

That campaign is the actual moving of the spent fuel to the sealed containers and lowering them into their protected receptacles in a specialized cement pad where Ameren officials, and even the Nuclear Regulatory Commission says there’s little to be concerned about.

This is the NRC’s statement on this type of spent fuel storage: Dry cask storage is safe and environmentally sound. Cask systems are designed to contain radiation, manage heat and prevent nuclear fission. They must resist earthquakes, projectiles, tornadoes, floods, temperature extremes and other scenarios. The heat generated by a loaded spent fuel cask is typically less than is given off by a home-heating system. The heat and radioactivity decrease over time without the need for fans or pumps. The casks are under constant monitoring and surveillance.

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