Explosion and fire during loading spent fuel

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

(June 21, 1996) Loading of spent nuclear fuel into dry storage containers was suspended at the nuclear plant in Point Beach (Wisconsin, US) following an explosion during a welding procedure 28 May.

(454.4491) WISE Amsterdam - According to an initial report of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), initial report, an unidentified gas ignited inside a fully-loaded cask of nuclear waste containing 14 tons of spent fuel rods at 2:45 a.m. of the said date, causing an explosion. The explosion occurred just prior to the welding of the 9-inch thick cask lid that weighs about 4,400 pounds. The explosion inside the cask lifted the 2-ton lid, leaving it tipped at an angle with one edge 1 inch higher than normal. There were no injuries.

The NRC has suspended further loading of nuclear waste casks until it can determine the cause of the accident and whether any spent fuel rods were damaged by the explosion. Each 18-foot high cask is loaded with 14 tons of radioactive waste, including 170 pounds of plutonium. Each loaded silo contains the equivalent radioactivity of 240 Hiroshima-type explosions. According to US guidelines, the waste must be kept in safe conditions for 10,000 years.

The explosion confirms environmental groups' concerns that the VSC-24 dry cask storage system has not been sufficiently reviewed to protect public health and the environment. This radioactive waste storage explosion demonstrates the real threat to the Great Lakes ecosystem.

Source: Little Zeros Watch (US), 31 May 1996
Contact: Eleanor Roemer, Lake Michigan Federation, USA.
Tel: +1-312-939-0838.