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Indian Point: Moving Spent Fuel Could Threaten Re-licensing

It took three years to get the official approval necessary to allow Indian Point to move spent nuclear fuel from one storage area to other. As Hudson Valley Bureau Chief Dave Lucas explains, the process in getting special permission could affect re-licensing the plant’s reactors…

Enriched uranium fuel assemblies have a finite lifespan - they are routinely replaced roughly every 18 months - used assemblies go into what's called a "spent fuel pool" where they are submerged in a 40-foot pool of water for five years prior to being transferred into a "dry cask" made of concrete and steel - but Indian Point 3 is running out of space. The pool is almost filled.

Entergy Nuclear, which owns Indian Point, just received the go-ahead to begin moving spent fuel out of its number 3 reactor over to the storage site at number 2 for long term storage. Entergy says all of the fuel number 3 has used since it came online in 1975 is still onsite - Nuclear Regulatory Commission spokesman Neil Sheehan says it must be removed so that the reactor can be re-fueled.

Entergy has applied for 20-year extensions of each reactor's 40-year licenses - the NRC is reviewing the applications - but now - a US Court of Appeals has ruled the NRC has to take the hazards of on-site storage into account in considering re-licensing the plants.

last week Riverkeeper, Clearwater and New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman filed a challenge with the NRC questioning the environmental review of the applications.      Riverkeeper staff attorney Deborah Brancato argues the review is now incomplete because it doesn't address nuclear waste storage.

Neil Sheehan tells WAMC the pools and dry casks are safe and that the NRC is reviewing the court decision. Entergy spokesman Jerry Napi was not available for comment but recently told the media that there is "no indication" there will be any dealy in obtaining the license renewals.

Across the United States there are 104 reactors on 68 sites providing electricity through nuclear power.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.