Millstone 2 plans new type of fuel

Dominion is planning to use a new type of fuel in the Unit 2 nuclear reactor at the Millstone Power Station, a change that would require modifications to the deep water pool where the highly radioactive waste fuel is stored for cooling after it is no longer usable in the reactor.

As part of the process toward applying for Nuclear Regulatory Commission approval to use the new fuel and make changes in the spent fuel pool, Millstone and NRC officials met Tuesday to discuss the plan. Millstone spokesman Ken Holt said the plan is to start using the new Areva fuel assemblies in 2015 because they are more efficient at heating the water that is converted to steam to turn the turbines to produce electricity.

The new type of fuel, however, will be hotter than the current type when it is moved into the spent fuel pool, necessitating changes in the way it is stored and buffered from the environment.

Neil Sheehan, NRC spokesman, said the discussions between Millstone and the NRC involve how the company would ensure that no inadvertent fission reactions take place in the spent fuel pool with the new fuel. The company is proposing to configure the pool differently and to leave more empty spaces between spent fuel rods, essentially "using distance as a tool" to prevent radioactivity from one rod from reaching another, Sheehan said. It would also reduce reliance on a neutron-absorbing material called Boroflex that has recently been found not fully effective at some plants, Sheehan said.

Under the plan, Millstone would accelerate the movement of some material currently in the spent fuel pool into dry cask storage at the Millstone property, Holt said. Spent fuel rods are stored for five years or longer in the deep water pools before being moved into the passive dry cask storage systems on the property.

Millstone plans to submit the application for an amendment to its license later this year and would move spent fuel from the pools into dry casks in 2015. There are currently 19 dry casks at the site, which use passive systems of air circulation for cooling. The company has permission to build an additional 30 casks but last month announced plans to seek Connecticut Siting Council permission to build the infrastructure for 135 units.

Dominion has determined it would be easier to construct all the dry casks it will need for all the plants at the site until all three are decommissioned in 2045 at once rather than incrementally.

A public meeting about the plans to expand the dry cask storage area is expected to take place later this month.

j.benson@theday.com

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