Road and Inland Waterway Transportation of Nuclear Fuel
First combined road and inland waterway transportation of nuclear fuel under the new Security Guidelines (SEWD) Road/Rail
In order to push ahead with the decommissioning of its Obrigheim nuclear power plant (KWO), which was shut down in 2005, Energie Baden-Württemberg AG (EnBW) – operator and owner of the nuclear power plants in Obrigheim (in decommissioning since 2008) and Neckarwestheim (still in operation) – started investigating feasible options for the transfer of 342 fuel assemblies from the KWO wet storage facility to the nearby interim storage facility of the Neckarwestheim nuclear power plant (about 50 km away) in 2013.
Supported by several transport studies and based on their extensive experience with the transportation of nuclear fuels and highly sensitive materials with a high level of publicity and strong media interest, Orano NCS GmbH. (NCS) succeeded in signing a contract for the transport of the 342 spent fuel assemblies in fifteen CASTOR® 440/84mvK casks designed by Gesellschaft für Nuklear-Service GmbH. (GNS).
After the combined road and inland waterway transportation of the CASTOR® casks was identified as the most suitable transportation option, Orano NCS began with the creation of the security concept that was the pre-requisite for a successful application for and the granting of the transport permit pursuant to § 4 of the AtG, without which no transportation of nuclear fuels can take place in Germany.
Thanks to the selected combination of carriers, the EnBW project became the first of its type – a pioneering project, because a safety-related transportation of nuclear fuels had never before taken place on German inland waterways.
On 27 March 2014, Orano NCS submitted an official application for the granting of a transport permit for a combined road and inland waterway shipment to transfer 15 loaded CASTOR® 440/84mvK casks from Obrigheim nuclear power plant to the on-site interim storage facility at the Neckarwestheim nuclear power plant. The application included the use of heavy haulage vehicles, which were to be used in a roll-on/roll-off procedure for loading and unloading the specially modified LD40 lighter (river barge).
After making time-consuming and highly complex calculations, followed by extensive and complex structural and technical modifications to the transportation equipment, Orano NCS finally succeeded in obtaining the transport permit they had applied for.
On 16 May 2017, the Federal Office for the Safety of Nuclear Waste Management (BfE) granted the § 4 AtG transport permit and opened the way to the first safety-related transportation of nuclear fuel on German inland waterways.
In parallel with the authorization procedure, the necessary transport equipment – including the heavy haulage vehicles (tractor units and rollers), the push boats, the lighter and the transport frame – had to be provided and rebuilt to meet the requirements of the new SEWD Road/Rail Guideline. It was also necessary to comply with dangerous goods regulations (such as ADN and ADR). The entire modification process was subject to continuous monitoring and supervision by the competent authorities and independent experts. Despite the high time intensity and complexity, the modification work was completed in time for the start of the shipment.
The planning process included numerous meetings with representatives of various authorities, administrations, experts and subcontractors. Enormous training efforts were required to train more than 100 people involved in the transportation in safety measures, occupational safety, radiation protection and work processes. This also included the training and qualification of the security personnel, who had to be trained in accordance with the provisions of the new SEWD Road/Rail Directive.
In June 2017, we were finally ready. All preparations were concluded, all requirements met and all necessary permits granted. Thus, the first safety-related nuclear fuel shipment on a German inland waterway could be realized.
Once the convoy (push boat + lighter) had tied up at the wharf of the Obrigheim nuclear power plant and the external ramp forming the link between the lighter and dry land had been properly secured to the LD40 lighter, the first loaded CASTOR® 440/84mvK cask left the secure area of the power plant on 27 June 2017.
The heavy duty roller carrying the secured cask was pushed by a heavy duty tractor unit that had been specially equipped for this job, and it only had a short run of approx. 200 meters before it was finally rolled over the ramp onto the lighter.
The heavy duty roller was rolled to its planned position within the so-called housing of the lighter (a cover that was specially developed and manufactured for this shipment) and secured there to the loading area.
Once the load had been secured, the heavy duty tractor unit left the lighter in order to collect the next cask.
In the meantime, nautical checks and measures were performed. The loading procedure was repeated until all three CASTOR® casks were stowed on and secured to the push boat.
On 28 June 2017, the convoy finally left its berth at the Obrigheim nuclear power plant (accompanied by a second push boat), to carry out the turning maneuver that that would allow it to begin the 50 kilometer trip to the interim storage facility at Neckarwestheim.
The trip on the River Neckar lasted around 13 hours, during which the convoy had to pass under several bridges and through several locks. The entire transportation was escorted by qualified security personnel and accompanied in addition by police on land and on the water. Thanks to its pioneer character and the fact that no spent fuel assemblies or highly radioactive material had been transported in Germany since 2011, the shipment attracted the interest of the public and the media right across Germany.
After the convoy arrived at the wharf at the Neckarwestheim nuclear power plant, the lighter was maneuvered to its berth and moored at its unloading position.
Immediately after the change of shift of the security personnel, the external ramp was secured to the lighter by a crane and the unloading process began.
Two specially equipped heavy duty tractor units pulled the first of three CASTOR® casks out of the housing on the lighter, after the load securing of the heavy duty roller had been released.
The cask was transported directly into the on-site interim storage facility, where a start was made on the preparations for storing it there. The heavy duty tractor units returned to the wharf. The unloading process was repeated until all three CASTOR® casks had arrived safely in the interim storage facility.
This first shipment was a complete success. Four other, equally successful secure shipments followed in September, October, November and December 2017.
On 19 December 2017, Orano NCS GmbH, together with their subcontractors, completed the transfer of the final CASTOR® cask into the on-site interim storage facility, on time and to the complete satisfaction of the customer, EnBW, which marked the end of a consistently successful transport campaign.