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Air Shipment of Highly
Enriched Uranium Spent
Nuclear Fuel from Romania
Stanley D. Moses
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AIR SHIPMENT OF HIGHLY ENRICHED URANIUM SPENT NUCLEAR FUEL FROM
ROMANIA AND LIBYA
ABSTRACTIn June 2009 Romania successfully completed the world’s first air shipment of highly enriched uranium (HEU) spent nuclear fuel transported in Type B(U) casks under existing international laws and without special exceptions for the air transport licenses. Special 20-foot ISO shipping containers and cask tie-down supports were designed to transport Russian TUK-19 shipping casks for the Romanian air shipment and the equipment was certified for all modes of transport including road, rail, water, and air. In December 2009 Libya successfully used this same equipment for a second air shipment of HEU spent nuclear fuel. Both spent fuel shipments were transported by truck from the originating nuclear facilities to nearby commercial airports, were flown by commercial cargo aircraft to a commercial airport in Yekaterinburg, Russia, and then transported by truck to their final destinations at the Production Association Mayak facility in Chelyabinsk Region, Russia. Both air shipments were performed under the Russian Research Reactor Fuel Return Program (RRRFR) as part of the U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration’s Global Threat Reduction Initiative (GTRI). The Romania air shipment of 23.7 kilograms (kg) of HEU spent fuel from the VVR-S research reactor was the last of three HEU fresh and spent fuel shipments that resulted in Romania becoming the 3rd country to remove all of its Russian-origin HEU. Libya had previously completed three shipments of HEU fresh fuel so the 5.2 kg of HEU spent fuel air shipped from the IRT-1 research reactor in December made Libya the 4th country to remove all Russian-origin HEU. This paper describes the equipment, preparations, and license approvals required to safely and securely complete these two air shipments of spent nuclear fuel.
INTRODUCTIONThe U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) established the Global Threat Reduction Initiative (GTRI) to help reduce and protect vulnerable nuclear and radiological material located at civilian sites worldwide. In cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), NNSA created the Russian Research Reactor Fuel Return Program (RRRFR) to reduce nuclear proliferation risks by assisting with the transfer of Russianorigin HEU research reactor fuel from participating countries to Figure 1: Loading TUK-19 cask ISO container the Russian Federation. The United States and the Russian into AN-124-100 aircraft in Romania Federation (RF) signed an agreement in 2004 to assist countries with shipments of HEU nuclear fuel to Russia. GTRI works closely with the IAEA and the RF State Corporation for Atomic Energy (Rosatom) to transport this material safely and securely. By the end of May 2010, the RRRFR program had transported over 1,339 kg of HEU to Russia.
Additional shipments are planned for 2010 and several second shipments of spent fuel are planned over the next several years as research reactors complete their conversions to use low enriched uranium (LEU) fuel.
The HEU shipment was managed in Romania by the National Commission for Nuclear Activities Control (CNCAN), the nuclear regulator for Romania. The consigner of the spent fuel was the Horia Hulubei National Institute of Physics and Nuclear Energy (IFIN-HH). In Libya, the Russian HEU shipment was managed by the Atomic Energy Establishment and the consignor of their spent fuel was the Tajoura Nuclear Research Center.
HEU SPENT FUEL QUANTITIESRomania shipped seventy (70) type C-36 (36.6% enriched) spent fuel assemblies containing 23.7 kg of HEU. The spent fuel was loaded into 18 Russian TUK-19 shipping casks with 4 assemblies per cask. The casks were secured inside specially designed containers that complied with International Organization for Standardization (ISO) rules for freight containers. Three casks were loaded into each ISO container for a total of six ISO containers in the shipment. All six ISO containers were loaded into one AN-124-100 commercial cargo aircraft and transported ‘in commerce’ to the RF by the Volga-Dnepr Airlines Company.
Figure 2: TUK-19 cask Libya shipped twenty six (26) type IRT-2M (80% enriched) spent fuel assemblies containing 5.2 kg of HEU. The assemblies were loaded into 7 TUK-19 casks which were secured inside 3 ISO containers. The containers were loaded into one AN-124-100 cargo aircraft and transported ‘in commerce’ to the RF by the Volga-Dnepr Airlines Company. Table 1 summarizes these shipments.
PLANNING FOR SPENT FUEL AIR SHIPMENTBefore the Romania air shipment the Russian TUK-19 casks were certified for shipment only in specialized Russian TK-5 railcars. When the TUK-19 cask was selected by CNCAN and IFIN-HH in early 2006 as their preferred shipping cask, the plan was to ship them by rail from the VVR-S reactor site, through Ukraine, to the final destination in Russia. In late 2006, the Russian R&D Company Sosny (Sosny) Figure 3: Proposed Romania air proposed that a recent change in IAEA and RF regulations might allow shipment route the VVR-S spent fuel to be transported by air in the TUK-19 Type B(U) casks. Three international air shipments of spent fuel in other Type B(U) casks had been previously completed under nonGTRI programs, but those shipments used military aircraft and required special arrangements for the transportation licenses. Sosny pointed out that both the IAEA Regulations for the Safe Transport of Radioactive Material (TS-R-1) and the Russian Federation Safety Rules in Transportation of Radioactive Material (NP-053-04) allowed air shipment of spent fuel in Type B(U) casks if the radioactive content did not exceed 3000 times the ‘A2’ radionuclide values listed in the regulations for the content mixture. Preliminary calculations by Sosny showed the total VVR-S HEU spent fuel activity would be less than 3000A2 so air shipment in civilian aircraft would theoretically be possible without a special arrangement.
The IAEA and Russian regulations have design and test requirements for the certification of a Type C cask specifically for the air shipment of spent fuel without the activity limitation of 3000A2.
At present, no Type C casks are available; consequently, the air shipment from Romania had to rely on the successful issuance of a Type B cask air shipment license.
AIR SHIPMENT EQUIPMENTBecause TUK-19 casks had always been shipped in railcars, a new handling gear or freight container was needed with multi-modal transport to allow them to be transported by truck to the airport and to be loaded into and secured in an aircraft. It was decided to design and certify the freight containers in accordance with ISO regulations to allow the flexibility of multi-modal transport of the casks. Freight containers were Figure 5: ISO container and designed as standard sized 20-foot containers and tiedowns cask tiedowns were designed and fabricated to secure the casks inside the containers. By complying with ISO rules, the cask containers could be handled by most transportation carriers worldwide and could make use of common carrier equipment anywhere shipping was normally performed. Sosny had the containers and cask tiedown system designed to hold one, two, or three casks per container. The floor and wall structure were modified to support the total weight Figure 6: Casks in of three loaded casks and the external dimensions were kept within the ISO ISO container requirements. The tiedowns were designed to support the casks in an upright position and securely fastened to the container floor. The containers and tie-downs were fabricated and certified in Russia for road, rail, water, and air modes of transport. The planned air carrier, Volga-Dnepr Airlines Company, participated in the design and testing to assure the containers would meet all international and Russian air transportation requirements.
After the design was complete the cask and container handling procedures were developed by Sosny to assure that the limits of the design were not exceeded. These procedures were converted by IFIN-HH to meet its specific facility requirements and were approved by CNCAN. Sosny and Mayak personnel trained IFIN-HH operators on cask handling and ISO container handling procedures to assure they could load and secure the equipment properly.
All of the equipment developed and certified for the Romania shipment is reusable for subsequent air shipments and all of the handling procedures developed by Sosny are generic enough to use in other facilities. Consequently, when the decision was made to ship the Libyan spent fuel by air, no new equipment was required and the handling procedures required very little modification to meet the specific facility requirements for use in the Tajoura research reactor in Tripoli, Libya.
TRANSPORTATION LICENSESThere was no precedent for issuing a license to ship spent fuel by air in a Type B(U) cask so considerable effort was required in both Romania and Russia to approve the air shipment licenses. This new licensing activity was given very careful review by all parties in both countries. Safety analyses were performed by authorized Russian agencies and multiple formal expert reviews were conducted by Russian authorities before the Figure 7: Licenses for Romania Russian license was issued. Particular attention was given to modelling shipment the cask behavior under all assumed accident conditions, to assure there would be no criticality accident, no release of the radioactive contents above the limits imposed by IAEA guidelines, and minimal impact to the general public if there was any release to the environment. Although the regulations allowed air shipment in a Type B(U) cask, the safety analyses modelled the far more restrictive IAEA test requirements for a Type C package, specifically a 90 m/s impact into a hard surface to simulate an air crash, which is specifically identified in the IAEA regulations for transport of spent fuel by air. When all concerns were resolved, Rosatom issued a RF combined cask and transportation license “Certificate of Approval for Package Design and Shipment, TUK-19 Transport Packaging with S-36 SFAs of Romanian VVR-S Research Reactor, Shipment by Road and Air, document number RUS/3104/B(U)F-96T”.
The successful Romanian air shipment established a precedent for other air shipment license applications. Russia subsequently issued an air shipment license for the Libyan fuel shipment based on their specific fuel type and quantity. The Libyan fuel activity was also less than 3000A2 so approval of this license was similar to approval of the Romanian license. No specific problems were encountered when licensing the Libyan shipment.