Fuel Packaging and Storage Project
In 2004, AECL launched a public information initiative around a project known as FPS - or Fuel Packaging and Storage - to keep residents of the surrounding area abreast of the project and what we aimed to accomplish. We thank all those who expressed an interest, either in person at the open houses, or through their correspondence; it is our intention to continue this open dialogue, and ensure that our waste management operations at the Chalk River Laboratories (CRL) are transparent.
AECL has operated research reactors at the Chalk River site for more than 50 years. During the 1950s and 60s, a variety of different wastes were produced by irradiating metallic uranium and other prototype fuels as part of the fuel development process. Rest assured, the now-spent fuels are safely stored, but monitoring and inspection of the older fuel types has shown that some of the storage containers, including the fuel itself, have begun to corrode.
These legacy fuels are stored in tile-holes: underground, vertical cylinders made of steel and concrete. These prototype fuels - about 22 tonnes of material - are primarily metallic uranium and uranium dioxide, and as such are more prone to corrosion than the modern alloy-clad uranium oxide fuels in use today. Although these fuels are safely stored, the continued corrosion comes from the presence of moisture within the storage cylinders.
But if the fuel is being safely stored, why undertake the Fuel Packaging and Storage (FPS) project?
Corrosion of these fuels can lead to two problems: One, the fuels lose their structural integrity and become difficult to recover in the future. And secondly, if the corrosion of the tile hole liners and caps continues, they could eventually allow contamination to be released into the environment. With the utmost concern for the safe operation of the Chalk River site, AECL launched the FPS project as a pro-active measure to safely remedy this issue before any problems occur.
In this project, AECL will remove the old containers of waste from their position in the tile holes, and safely transfer the fuel to a new stand-alone facility. Once in the new facility, the material will go undergo a vacuum-drying process and be repacked for long-term storage in a more modern concrete storage vault. The new system will make it easier to store and monitor the spent fuels well into the future.
The FPS facility construction is complete and the project is commissioning the major equipment that will be used for facility operations. Operational turnover of the FPS facility is planned for 2014.
AECL’s Chalk River Laboratories are committed to open communications with the public. If you would like more information on this project, please contact AECL at 1-800-364-6989.