Hwy. 35 is reopened after a brief closure this morning while workers moved a cask of radioactive waste to a storage pad at Dairyland Power’s Genoa site.

This was the fourth of five casks to be moved this summer as the La Crosse-based utility completes a five-year project to remove nearly 120,000 pounds of waste from a fuel storage pool in the reactor building — where it has been stored for the past 25 years — into steel and concrete casks, where it can be held indefinitely at a much lower cost.

The road closure lasted about 20 minutes, and the highway was reopened around 10 a.m., according to Dairyland.

The first cask was put onto the pad July 12.

The project is the culmination of more than five years of preparation to remove that fuel and one of the final steps in a project costing more than $40 million.

Though the federal government has no immediate plans to take possession of the radioactive waste, the move should cut in half the annual cost to store it and speed up the decommissioning process, expected to take another seven years.

Workers load the fuel assemblies — bundles of eight-foot rods — under 15 feet of water into a stainless steel canister that was then welded shut, filled with helium and loaded into a cask with steel-lined 2.5-foot concrete walls designed to absorb harmful radiation from the depleted uranium fuel.

The La Crosse Boiling Water Reactor, or LACBWR, was a 50-megawatt demonstration plant that went online in 1969 — the first in Wisconsin. Dairyland closed the plant in 1987 and began dismantling some three million pounds of reinforced concrete, piping and equipment, including the 300-ton reactor vessel.

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