Callaway Nuclear Power Plant Could Renew License

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FULTON - A local plant is in its 30th year of operation and seeks to extend its license to include 20 additional years. It currently has a 40-year license and wants to continue operation.

The director of plant design, Sarah Kovaleski said the plant submitted a license renewal in 2011 to extend its 40-year license to a total of 60 years of plant operations.

"The big benefit is that Callaway County Plant that has been operating, will get to operate for an additional 20 years," Kovaleski said.

Some Missourians are not happy with the possible renewal.

The safe energy director with the Missouri Coalition for the Environment Ed Smith said it is unsafe.

"The consequences of a disaster outweigh the benefits the fact of the matter is that real life nuclear disaster have happened, we have seen the economic and social consequences where people are never allowed to go back to the houses they lived in. These things are very real and very scary and we should be working to prevent them," Smith said.

"Continuing to run nuclear reactors 20-years after they were originally licensed to operate increases the risk of something going wrong," Smith said.

The Callaway Plant currently stores used waste in cooling pools called spent fuel pools after being heated in a reactor. The problem is the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, or NRC, has currently no plan on where to permanently store these spent fuel rods.

Over the last 30 years all the used fuel has been put in the spent fuel pools. Smith said the pools are too tightly packed with the fuel from so many years.

"I believe the original called for 400 spent fuel assemblies to be put in the fuel pool, but there are over 2,000 in the fuel pool now because there were now positive repository and they had to go somewhere so they went into the pools. My understanding is Ameren is working on moving some of these over to dry cask storage, that's a good thing but all in all we shouldn't be creating high level nuclear waste because we don't have a good way of storing it," Smith said.

Dry cask storage means that spent fuel that has already been cooled in the spent fuel pool for at least one year would then be surrounded by inert gas inside a cask instead of stay in the pool.

Callaway planners are considering the dry cask storage to provide additional space since many plants have already began this transition.

The Coalition signed a petition back in February but the NRC dismissed its concerns. The NRC has not yet allowed any reactors to get the approval because it is currently in the middle of re-writing waste laws that deal with the fuel pools.

Once the NRC figures out a way to permantiy store spent fuel it can decide to issue the licenses.

Since 2011, the NRC has sent nearly 100 members to the plant to conduct safety regulations and see how much the plant is aging. Kovaleski said the NRC is done with the inspections and they are currently waiting for the NRC to issue a final report.

The report will be made visible to the public and Kovaleski said she expects to see those reports within the next couple of months. She said she expects the NRC will issue a renewed license to them in December.

During the renewal process the Callaway Plant also received a new reactor vessel head to keep up with the plants aging.

One employee specializing in the new vessel, Mark McLachlan, said new equipment is part of its routine replacement schedule.

"It is part of the continued operation of the Callaway Plant, were at 30 years of our operating license and were hoping to extend our operating license for an additional 20, so just like anyone would want to maintain their cars and occasionally with replacement of parts, we replace some of the parts in our power plant," McLachlan said.

There are four pieces that go together that make up the entire vessel. It will then be moved and installed into the reactor building in the fall.

He said installing the new vessel head is just one of the tasks to complete during refueling outage in the fall. Refueling takes place every 18 months. The reactor is shut down and new fuel is also issued in the reactor vessel to ensure the safe operation of the plant.

"Maintaining the plant for 60 years does require some planned proactive equipment replacement. We do have plans for more improvements to continue to operate Callaway in a safe and reliable way," Kovaleski said.

If issued a renewed license the next step is employees will keep monitoring the machinery as it ages and the plant gets older.