The Idaho Environmental Coalition and DOE Idaho Spent Nuclear Fuel management team are shown outside the Chemical Processing Plant-666 following the recent completion of Advanced Test Reactor fuel retrieval.
The Idaho Environmental Coalition and DOE Idaho Spent Nuclear Fuel management team are shown outside the Chemical Processing Plant-666 following the recent completion of Advanced Test Reactor fuel retrieval.

IDAHO FALLS, IdahoEM crews at the DOE Idaho National Laboratory (INL) Site recently retrieved the last of the Advanced Test Reactor’s (ATR) spent nuclear fuel elements from a water-filled storage basin and transferred them to a nearby dry-storage facility in support of a 1995 agreement with the State of Idaho.

“I’m extremely proud of our team for accomplishing this task safely and compliantly,” said Jay Schnelle, spent nuclear fuel shift operations manager for EM INL Site cleanup contractor Idaho Environmental Coalition (IEC).

The accomplishment means there’s just one fuel type remaining in the DOE complex’s largest spent nuclear fuel storage basin. Remaining Experimental Breeder Reactor-II (EBR-II) spent nuclear fuel elements are set to be transferred to dry storage or processed at another INL Site facility by December 2023.

IEC Nuclear Facility Manager Pat Spaulding said she was impressed how staff members from a variety of operational disciplines came together for a common goal.

“Reaching this milestone and witnessing the teamwork of such talented people is a testament of just what can be accomplished,” she said.

Spent nuclear fuel handlers move the last Advanced Test Reactor fuel to an awaiting cask in the Chemical Processing Plant-666 basin.
Spent nuclear fuel handlers move the last Advanced Test Reactor fuel to an awaiting cask in the Chemical Processing Plant-666 basin.

The ATR, a 250-megawatt test reactor operated by DOE Office of Nuclear Energy contractor Battelle Energy Alliance, has been conducting experiments for customers since the late 1960s. It has also provided medical isotopes for the treatment of cancer and other diseases. In the past, the reactor’s spent nuclear fuel was transferred to the Chemical Processing Plant (CPP)-666 storage basin for cooling and shielding. Spent nuclear fuel from the reactor now cools in its canal and is transferred directly to the CPP-603 dry-storage facility.

The basin at CPP-666 is nearly empty. There are 1,193 bottles of EBR-II spent nuclear fuel remaining in the basin. The basin will eventually be drained of water and closed.

The EBR-II reactor operated at the former Argonne National Laboratory-West, now the Materials and Fuels Complex, from 1964 until 1994. The reactor generated power for the INL and provided reactor research benefits. Spent nuclear fuel from EBR-II was transferred to wet storage at CPP-666 from 1986 to 1999.

“This project has had its challenges, but none so great they weren’t overcome by a focused team ready and capable of taking care of business. I’m excited to witness the fruits of their efforts now that the last Advanced Test Reactor spent nuclear fuel elements are transferred,” said Roger Friesz, the ATR spent nuclear fuel wet-to-dry transfers project manager.

Under the 1995 Idaho Settlement Agreement, the next remaining milestone after the December 2023 spent nuclear fuel wet-to-dry deadline is to have the spent nuclear fuel “road ready” to leave the state for interim storage or sent to a national geologic repository. That scope must be completed by 2035.