Metal Casks vs Concrete Casks

Dry storage cask
Behältermodell CASTOR V/19. Source: GNS Gesellschaft für Nuklear-Service mbH

Dry storage casks or canisters are widely used for dry interim storage and for transportation of spent nuclear fuel. They can be oriented and stored vertically or horizontally. The casks provide both shielding and containment.  The casks are typically steel cylinders that are either welded or bolted closed. The steel cylinder provides leak-tight containment of the spent fuel. Each cylinder is surrounded by additional steel, concrete, or other material to provide radiation shielding to workers and the public. This additional material serves as a barrier preventing physical damage that might result in a release of radiation.

  • Metal Casks. Metal casks are massive containers used in transport, storage and eventual disposal of spent fuel. These casks usually consist of a monolithic body made of ductile cast iron, a basket for accommodating the fuel assemblies and a double-lid system (primary and secondary lid arranged one above the other).  Internal basket or sealed metal canister provides provides structural strength as well as assures subcriticality.
  • Concrete Casks. Concrete casks have the same inner disposition that a metallic cask has. Spent fuel assemblies are distributed in internal baskets inserted into these containers. But structural strength and radiological shielding are provided by reinforced regular or high density concrete. Concrete is neutrons and gamma radiation shielding. Generally, concrete casks are heavier than the metallic ones since their wall thickness is greater and are less expensive than the metallic ones. Concrete casks that rely on conductive heat transfer have more thermal limitations than those using natural convection air passages.

Some of the cask designs can be used for both storage and transportation. These dual purpose casks were developed and they allow storage and transport to and from a storage facility without rehandling of fuel assemblies. The fuel containers of some storage systems may be used for transport and/or final disposal (multipurpose casks). Spent fuel is transferred underwater from spent fuel pools to these casks using primarily fuel handling equipment already available at the reactor site. These casks are then drained, filled with inert gas, and sealed. The external surface of the cask has trunnions which allow the cask to be lifted and displaced. Shock absorbers of the cask installed at the bottom and the cover assure transport stability.

During interim storage the lid system consisting of the two barriers is permanently being monitored for leak-tightness. The radiation emitted by the radioactive inventory is safely shielded by the cask body. For neutron moderation, axial boreholes are drilled into the monolithic body and filled with polyethylene moderator rods.

Nuclear and Reactor Physics:
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  2. J. R. Lamarsh, A. J. Baratta, Introduction to Nuclear Engineering, 3d ed., Prentice-Hall, 2001, ISBN: 0-201-82498-1.
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  8. U.S. Department of Energy, Nuclear Physics and Reactor Theory. DOE Fundamentals Handbook, Volume 1 and 2. January 1993.

Advanced Reactor Physics:

  1. K. O. Ott, W. A. Bezella, Introductory Nuclear Reactor Statics, American Nuclear Society, Revised edition (1989), 1989, ISBN: 0-894-48033-2.
  2. K. O. Ott, R. J. Neuhold, Introductory Nuclear Reactor Dynamics, American Nuclear Society, 1985, ISBN: 0-894-48029-4.
  3. D. L. Hetrick, Dynamics of Nuclear Reactors, American Nuclear Society, 1993, ISBN: 0-894-48453-2. 
  4. E. E. Lewis, W. F. Miller, Computational Methods of Neutron Transport, American Nuclear Society, 1993, ISBN: 0-894-48452-4.

See above:

Spent Nuclear Fuel