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Spent nuclear fuel shipping cask
Spent nuclear fuel shipping casks are used to transport spent nuclear fuel used in nuclear power plants and research reactors to disposal sites such as the to-be-opened one at Yucca Mountain or the Nuclear reprocessing center at COGEMA La Hague site. Each shipping container is designed to maintain its integrity under normal transportation conditions and during hypothetical accident conditions.
Additional recommended knowledge
In the United States, the acceptability of the design of each cask is judged against Title 10, Part 71, of the Code of Federal Regulations (other nations' shipping casks, possibly excluding Russia's, are designed and tested to similar standards). The designs must demonstrate (possibly by computer modelling) protection against radiological release to the environment under all four of the following hypothetical accident conditions, designed to encompass 99% of all accidents.:
In addition, between 1975 and 1977 Sandia National Laboratories conducted full-scale crash tests on spent nuclear fuel shipping casks  . Although the casks were damaged, none would have leaked. (See also .)
Although the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has the primary responsibility for regulating the safe transport of radioactive materials in the United States, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) requires that licensees and carriers involved in spent fuel shipments:
Since 1965, approximately 3,000 shipments of spent nuclear fuel have been transported safely over the U.S.'s highways, waterways, and railroads.
By comparison there has been limited spent nuclear fuel transport in Canada. Transportation casks have been designed for truck and rail transport and Canada’s regulatory body granted approval for casks, which may be used for barge shipments as well. Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission regulations prohibit the disclosure of location, routing and timing of shipments of nuclear materials, such as spent fuel. 
Over the past 35 years, British Nuclear Fuels plc (BNFL) and its subsidiary PNTL have conducted over 14,000 cask shipments of SNF worldwide, transporting more than 9,000 tonnes of SNF over 16 million miles via road, rail, and sea without a radiological release. BNF designed, licensed, and currently own and operate a fleet of approximately 170 casks of the Excellox design. BNFL has maintained a fleet of transport casks to ship SNF for the United Kingdom, continental Europe, and Japan for reprocessing.
In the UK a series of public demonstrations were conducted in which spent fuel flasks (loaded with steel bars) were subjected to simulated accident conditions. A randomly selected flask (never used for holding used fuel) from the production line was first dropped from a tower. The flask was dropped in such a way that the weakest part of it would hit the ground first. The lid of the flask was slightly damaged but very little material escaped from the flask. A little water escaped from the flask but it was thought that in a real accident that the escape of radioactivity associated with this water would be not a threat to humans or their environment.
For a second test the same flask was fitted with a new lid, filled again with steel bars and water before a train was driven into it at high speed. The flask survived with only cosmetic damage while the train was totally wrecked.
Baltimore train tunnel fire
On July 18, 2001, a freight train carrying hazardous (non-nuclear) materials derailed and caught fire while passing through the Howard Street railroad tunnel in downtown Baltimore, Maryland, United States. The fire burned for 3 days, with temperatures as high as 1000°C (1800°F). Since the casks are designed for a 30-minute fire at 800°C (1475°F), several reports have been made regarding the ability of the casks to survive a similar fire to the Baltimore one.
State of Nevada
The State of Nevada, USA, released a report entitled, "Implications of the Baltimore Rail Tunnel Fire for Full-Scale Testing of Shipping Casks" on February 25, 2003. In the report, they said a hypothetical spent nuclear fuel accident based on the Baltimore fire:
National Academy of Sciences
The National Academy of Sciences, at the request of the State of Nevada, produced a report on July 25, 2003. The report concluded that that the following should be done:
The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission released a report on November 2006. It concluded:
On July 21, 2006, the British newspaper The Daily Mirror reported that one of their reporters was easily able to plant a fake bomb on a train carrying nuclear waste. The reporter, "exploited security lapses to wander up to the unattended wagons at a North West London depot." The newspaper quoted an expert stating that an attack on containers of radioactive waste could kill over 8,000 people and release a poisonous cloud of up to 100 square miles (259.0 km²) across Britain. They also reported that the train could have been hijacked by anyone with a basic knowledge of driving trains.
The rail company spokeswoman initially claimed that getting close to the nuclear casks was not possible. However, after seeing the Mirror's photographic evidence that they did exactly that, she stated, "The entire journey is protected by very stringent security. However, having seen these pictures we will speak with our security people. A full investigation will be carried out."
This article incorporates text from Spent Fuel Transportation Package Response to the Baltimore Tunnel Fire Scenario (NUREG/CR-6886), a public domain work of the United States Government.
|This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Spent_nuclear_fuel_shipping_cask". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.|