Nuclear Rods Being Stored In Area Warehouse
Thousands of fuel rods destined for a commercial nuclear reactor at Hanford are being stored temporarily at a guarded warehouse in the Spokane area.
The new fuel for the Washington Public Power Supply System’s No. 2 reactor arrived in Moses Lake on Tuesday by chartered 747 from Sweden and was trucked to Spokane.
The shipment consists of 4,700 fuel rods packed with uranium pellets in 76 fuel assemblies, each 15 feet long. It is only slightly radioactive - unlike used or “spent” fuel, which is dangerously radioactive.
“It’s very minimal radiation,” said WPPSS spokeswoman Susan Senner.
But some question the wisdom of flying any nuclear fuel, and are asking why the rods are stored in Spokane.
“With all the space in the Tri-Cities, I can’t believe they couldn’t find a warehouse down there,” said Terry Strong, head of the state Department of Health’s radiation protection division.
A nuclear activist and two Moses Lake businessmen who witnessed the plane’s arrival said the shipments pose a risk.
“We’re not convinced that flying nuclear fuel is wise, given the danger of crashes and fires,” said Gerald Pollett of Heart of America Northwest in Seattle.
“With anything radioactive like that, the community deserves a warning,” said one of the businessmen at the airport, who asked not to be identified.
The Moses Lake men said they worried while the nuclear fuel was being unloaded because the 747 was being refueled at the same time.
Spent nuclear fuel can’t be flown, and new fuel usually isn’t flown, but it was this time to meet a specific delivery date for WPPSS, said Dean Condrey of Edlow Corp. in Washington, D.C.
Condrey refused to say where the fuel is being stored in Spokane “for security reasons.” It will be delivered to WPPSS starting Monday, he said.
WPPSS wasn’t ready to accept the fuel this week and no Hanford-area warehouse could be located, Condrey said.
He said Spokane officials were notified of the fuel shipment. But on Friday, the Spokane Fire Department’s hazardous materials squad had no idea it was here.
“We’d love to have that information if someone would like to give it to us, ” said Skip Powell of the HazMat team.
WPPSS isn’t required to notify law enforcement about shipments of new fuel - only about dangerous spent fuel, said Lt. Lonnie Brackins of the Washington State Patrol.
“It doesn’t pose a problem to us. Radioactive materials come into Hanford on a daily basis. But in the future, WPPSS said they’d notify us, even if they’re not required to,” Brackins said.
The delivery is the first under a new, five-year WPPSS fuel contract. Moses Lake was chosen because it has a 13,500-foot runway, suitable for a heavily-loaded, chartered 747.
“We’ll have a second shipment flown into Moses Lake in February,” Senner said. WPPSS’s No. 2 reactor, produces 1,100-megawatts of electricity. To fully fuel the plant, it takes 764 fuel assemblies with 62 fuel rods per assembly. Only a portion is refueled each year.