Road and Inland Waterway Trans­por­tation of Nuclear Fuel

Jun 12, 2019 | Pro­jects

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.