CBS2 Exclusive: When Indian Point Closes, What Happens To Its Nuclear Waste?
March 30, 2017 7:58 PM
March 30, 2017 7:58 PM
BUCHANAN, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — The Indian Point nuclear power plant will be shut down four years from now, but what will come of all the radioactive waste that’s stored there?
CBS2’s Brian Conybeare took an exclusive look at the 40-foot deep spent fuel pool inside the Westchester County facility.
“You’re looking at about 30 years of used nuclear fuel,” Entergy Nuclear’s Jerry Nappi explained.
The million dollar fuel assemblies that power the plant include samples of small uranium pellets that become highly radioactive after being used in the nuclear reactors.
“When it comes out of that reactor, it’s hot. The water cools it down thermally, so the water protects us from the effects of the radiation,” Nappi said.
After cooling in the spent fuel pool for a minimum of five years, the radioactive waste is transferred to huge steel reinforced concrete tombs. It’s a system called dry cask storage.
There are already 36 dry casks sitting on a concrete pad along the Hudson River on the site, and it could take 10 years to move all the spent fuel rods to casks after both reactors are shut down in 2021.
“The spent fuel rods in the pools at Indian Point will remain a danger as long as they’re in the pools,” said professor Frank Von Hipple, of Princeton University.
He said dry casks are much safer than pools, but he urges the casks be moved to a permanent off-site repository, because some radioactive isotopes can last 10,000 years or more.
“It would be safer to put the spent fuel deep underground,” Von Hipple said.
The original plan was to take all the spent fuel at reactors nationwide to Yucca Mountain in Nevada. But after investing $11 billion, the federal government gave up in the face of lawsuits and political pressure.
Conybeare: “Radioactive waste lasts for thousands of years. Do these casks last thousands of years?”
Nappi: “Well they’re designed and licensed for a very long time.”
One hundred years to be exact. But the Nuclear Regulatory Commission says the fuel assemblies could be transferred to new casks and stay on site indefinitely.
“Indian Point, decades from now, could be decommissioned, but the spent fuel could remain on site until the government takes it,” Nappi said.
For neighbors, it will be an issue even after the plant is torn down.
“That sounds like a huge problem,” one resident said.
The decommissioning of Indian Point could take up to 60 years after the plant is closed.
President Donald Trump has put $120 million to restart the Yucca Mountain project or find other interim storage facilities for the radioactive waste.