Yankee Rowe

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Many large components were removed and shipped from the Yankee Rowe plant as part of decommissioning, the largest being the reactor pressure vessel. All of the large component removal projects involved extensive engineering, planning and licensing efforts. We have chosen the reactor pressure vessel removal and shipment to help illustrate these removal and shipment projects.

Yankee Removes the Pressure Vessel

The reactor pressure vessel at the Yankee Rowe Nuclear Power Station was safely removed from containment on Wednesday, November 20, 1996, and placed in a specially designed, NRC-approved shipping container. The reactor pressure vessel was stored in the container on-site until April 1997 when it was shipped to a low-level waste disposal facility in Barnwell, South Carolina.

Reactor pressure vessel in suspension by crane in the containment sphere

In the photo at right Yankee Rowe's reactor pressure vessel is suspended by a crane inside the containment sphere prior to being lowered through an equipment hatch into a shipping container (see other photo this page). The 165-ton vessel housed the nuclear fuel that produced more than 33 billion kilowatts over a 31-year period.

The removal procedure began at 8:45 a.m. and was completed at 11:25 a.m. Prior to the removal, the 90-ton steel shipping container was moved into an upright position underneath the containment sphere. The opening of the shipping container was matched to the opening of the equipment hatch on the underside of the containment sphere. Using the crane inside the containment sphere, the 165-ton reactor pressure vessel was lifted and then lowered through the containment equipment hatch into the shipping container.

Workers then injected about 80 tons of concrete into the reactor pressure vessel and the spaces between the vessel and its shipping container, and permanently welded on the container lid.

Specialized shipping container awaiting the reactor pressure vessel to be dropped through a hole in the cieling

In the photo at right the 90-ton steel shipping container sits upright underneath the containment building ready to receive the reactor pressure vessel.

The reactor pressure vessel, which once held the fuel used to generate electricity, was approximately 27 feet long and 12 feet at its widest point. The vessel was made of carbon steel with 8-inch thick walls. The shipping container was 28 feet long and 13 feet in diameter.

The removal and shipping procedures for the reactor pressure vessel were similar to the procedures used for the successful removal and shipment of Yankee's four steam generators in late 1993.

Yankee is required to store the spent nuclear fuel and GTCC waste on site in accordance with NRC licenses and regulations under 10 CFR Part 50 and Part 72, until the federal government meets its statutory and contractual obligation to remove the material.

Yankee Ships the Pressure Vessel

The truck carrying the RPV about to cross hte Sherman Dam Bridge

During the early hours of Sunday, April 27, 1997, workers at the Yankee Rowe plant prepared the reactor pressure vessel for the first phase of an 1,100 mile journey through nine states that brought the package to its final resting place in South Carolina.

The reactor pressure vessel, which held the fuel that generated more than 33 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity over 31 years, had been removed from the plant's containment building the previous November. The 165 ton vessel was placed inside a 3-inch thick, 100 ton steel container certified by the NRC for transport. It was then injected with about 80 tons of concrete and the lid was welded onto the container.

Closer view of the RPV on the truck trailer

The package, which weighed 365 tons including 20 tons of wire rope tie down equipment, was the last large component removed from the plant as part of decommissioning.

The first phase of the shipment involved the transport of the package from the plant to the local rail spur at the Hoosac Tunnel in Florida, MA. Barnhart Crane & Rigging of Memphis, TN had been hired to do the job, and they were ready at 6 a.m. — as planned.

RPV shipping container loaded onto a rail car

As daylight spread over the Deerfield River Valley and the media waited patiently for pictures, the 365 ton package, escorted by State Police, began the 6.5 mile trek at the Sherman Dam Bridge and then turned onto River Road.

Pressure Vessel Departs via Rail

Yankee Personnel in a group photo in front of the RPV container on the rail car

Flanked by Yankee personnel, it made its way slowly — a little more than one mile per hour — into the town of Monroe where curious residents were out on the sidewalks waiting to watch the “package”, consisting of the shipping container containing the reactor pressure vessel, pass by. Mort Fairtile of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission joined Decommissioning Manager Jane Grant for part of the 6.5 mile walk, as did Peter Fowler of Yankee, who coordinated security provisions for the shipment.

The transport continued without incident through Monroe and Florida, MA arriving at the rail spur ahead of schedule at 11:08 am. Over the next two days, employees of Barnhart Crane & Rigging, Cianbro, Bartlett Nuclear and Yankee removed the transporter tie downs and hydraulically transferred and secured the package to a rail car.

RPV travelling by rail through snowy lands down the eastern seaboard

The rail car, which was leased from TransAlta Utilities Corporation of Alberta, Canada, was chosen because it was designed to transport large, heavy loads and had the ability to shift the load from side to side to clear obstacles. The package was shipped by dedicated train, including an engine, two gondola cars, the rail car with the package, two more gondola cars and a passenger car.

Although it was not required to escort the shipment, Yankee decided to send specific personnel with it to demonstrate and document the process and to ensure Yankee's commitment to safety "from start to finish." In addition, the shipment had received considerable advance publicity and Yankee wanted to be open about the process and provide the media with access to information throughout the trip. It was also necessary for three rail car operators to be available to shift the load if there were any tight curves or obstacle.

8 Days, 8 Nights, 9 States

RPV arriving at the Barnwell, SC disposal site by truck

Accompanying the shipment were Leo Lessard, manager of the reactor vessel shipment project, radiation specialists Rich Warnick and Chris Martel, Kelley Smith, media and public relations representative, Lloyd Doige, Jess Debnam and Ron Magnusson (the three rail car operators from TransAlta), and Bob and Mary Bunch. Mary provided the crew with meals and Bob maintained the passenger car. In addition, John Parker, engineer for the Yankee Rowe Project, followed the train in a car. He didn't have to worry about getting lost though because each rail company provided a security escort for their respective section of the trip. John followed the security vehicle and as a result was able to take some good photographs of the train.

At 7:40 p.m. on Tuesday, April 29, 1997, the train left the rail spur and entered the Hoosac Tunnel amid waves and cheers from all who had worked so hard to reach this milestone.

But the journey had just begun. The package would have to travel almost 1,100 miles at speeds of 10 to 25 miles per hour and be transported by five rail companies — GTI, Canadian Pacific, Conrail, Norfolk Southern and CSX. Traveling, except for the route between the Hoosac Tunnel and Mechanicville, N.Y., would be done during the day with the train held over at various train yards each evening. There would also be delays. If train traffic was heavy, the package would be pulled over to let faster trains through. The best estimate for the trip was between 5 and 10 days.

The first leg of the trip ended in the early morning hours at the Mohawk train yard just outside of Mechanicville, NY. The next day brought the train to Binghamton, NY where it was kept overnight. Thursday morning the train left for Harrisburg, PA arriving later that day and staying overnight before heading to Hagerstown, MD Friday morning. The train was kept overnight in Hagerstown, then left Saturday morning for Roanoke, VA. After an overnight stay in Roanoke, it was on to North Carolina. The train stayed in Linwood, NC Sunday night and left Monday morning for Spartanburg, SC. Tuesday brought the train from Spartanburg, SC to Columbia, SC where it spent its last evening before heading to its final destination. Yankee president, Andy Kadak, joined the train in Clinton, SC and stayed with it until it reached Barnwell.

At 5:03 p.m. on Wednesday, May 7, 1997 — after eight days on the rails — the train pulled into Barnwell, S.C.

Other than a few cows that needed to be herded away from the tracks, and less than five protesters, the trip went smoothly and without incidence. The train did receive a lot of media attention along the way, with news helicopters filming it from the air and cameramen, news photographers and reporters tracking it. They were also waiting for the train in Barnwell, SC where they reported that the Yankee Rowe package would bring $1 million to South Carolina educational funds.

Journey Ends Safely in South Carolina

Over the next several days, the package was transferred from the rail car to a road transporter. On May 13, 1997, the package was moved from the rail spur to the Chem-Nuclear Low-Level Radioactive Waste Disposal Facility and placed inside a trench for burial.

Although the shipment took only a few days, it took more than a year of meticulous planning and attention to detail to prepare for it. This shipment, like Yankee's more than 30 years of operation and decommissioning program, was safe from start to finish.