An unfamiliar noise alerted operators to a problem with a system used for unloading fuel shipping casks. The system shields personnel from spent nuclear fuel within the casks.
The engineers employed multiple tools to identify the problem. Using a camera, they discovered a small indentation on the end of the casks was intermittently catching on a small post from a plate at the bottom of the shielded transfer system.
The engineers then used 3D software modeling to determine the point of interference and find a solution. They designed a thin sheet of metal closed with clamps that would fit along the bottom of the system. Much like a spring form pan used in baking, this metal kept the cask indentation from catching on the plate post. The model was then used to validate the design and ensure no additional interferences were created. EM’s Savannah River National Laboratory manufactured the piece.
“The Department of Energy appreciates the work of the L Area engineers for finding an inexpensive and operationally simple fix to the shielded transfer system adaptor plate issue, and for implementing it while not impacting processing,” EM Nuclear Materials Manager Maxcine Maxted said.
Once the solution was implemented, workers found no issues processing several casks, according to L Area Spent Fuel Project Engineering Manager Stephanie Hudlow.
“This fix saved the time and costs associated with construction workers having to make a confined space entry to reposition the adaptor plate when it was lifted,” Hudlow said.
L Area operations include the safe receipt and storage of a variety of spent nuclear fuel assemblies from domestic and foreign research reactors. The fuel is then sent to the site’s H Canyon for processing into low enriched uranium.