Tuesday, 13 March 2007

Spent Nuclear Fuel Cask Crash Testing

Spent nuclear fuel cask tests were performed by Sandia National Laboratories in 1977. Although older casks were used, they meet the same regulatory standards as modern casks.

(In) the first test, a truck carrying a 22-ton spent fuel cask impacted a 690-ton concrete block at 60 miles per hour. It was cleaned up and impacted a second time, but at 84 miles per hour.

The cask also survived this more violent crash with only minor damage.

In the third test, a diesel locomotive crashed into a truck at 81 miles per hour. The stalled truck carried a 25-ton shipping cask. Cask deformation was minimal and the ability of the cask to contain and shield its radioactive contents was not compromised.

The final impact test had a 74-ton shipping cask, carried by a cask rail car, crash into the concrete block at 81 miles per hour. The same cask and rail car were then positioned over a pool of jet fuel and subjected to an engulfing fire, much more severe than the fire that might occur in a train wreck. After 90 minutes – three times the duration of current qualification test criteria – surface temperatures exceeded 1,400 degrees Fahrenheit. But inside the cask, where the spent fuel rods would be contained, temperatures were below 300 degrees – not enough to melt the spent fuel rods.

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