Business

Pilgrim nuclear plant expands waste storage to concrete casks

Massachusetts’s only nuclear power plant said Friday that it would begin packing its spent fuel in super-tough concrete-and-steel containers.

Previously, all of the nuclear reactor fuel rods from the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station in Plymouth were submerged in a deep pool of water, which is running out of space. The new containers, called casks, are designed to hold the nuclear reactor’s radioactive materials until the federal government selects a disposal site for nuclear waste.

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Lauren Burm, a spokesperson for Pilgrim’s owner, Entergy Corp. of New Orleans, said it would take several weeks to move spent fuel rods from the pool to the casks. . “As always, safety is our number one priority,” she said.

Cask storage is used at many nuclear plants around the country to deal with excess nuclear reactor waste. The casks, 18 feet tall and 11 feet wide, are designed to withstand a truck bomb or a tornado-borne projectile moving at 360 miles per hour, Burm said.

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They are only meant to be a temporary means of storage while the federal government selects a national nuclear repository. Nevada’s Yucca Mountain had been designated to receive the waste, but funds to move nuclear material there were cut by Congress in 2011.

Entergy Corp. also owns the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant, which shut down Monday due to high operating costs. The Pilgrim nuclear plant is licensed to continue operating through 2032. It generated 18.1 percent of the state’s electricity in October, according to the federal Energy Information Administration.

Jack Newsham can be reached at jack.newsham@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TheNewsHam.
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