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Nuclear fuel from Enterprise headed for Idaho

Nov. 11, 2012 - 04:53PM   |   Last Updated: Nov. 11, 2012 - 04:53PM  |  
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IDAHO FALLS, Idaho — Spent nuclear fuel from the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier Enterprise that is being decommissioned will be sent to eastern Idaho for study and storage, a Navy spokesman says.

Tom Dougan of the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program tells the Post Register the spent fuel from the ship's eight reactors will arrive at the Naval Reactors Facility at the Idaho National Laboratory in 2015.

"Many of the major components and other equipment are nearing the end of their useful life, and it's not cost effective to further extend the Enterprise for combat operations," Dougan said.

The world's first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier ended its remarkable career at sea Nov. 4 when it pulled into its home port at Naval Station Norfolk in Virginia for the final time after participating in every major conflict since the Cuban missile crisis of 1962.

Dougan said the spent nuclear fuel once in Idaho will be examined to help with future reactor design research before being placed in storage.

"(The) fuel is transported via rail in specially designed railcars that meet the Department of Transportation shipping requirements for spent nuclear fuel," he said. "The Navy has been managing spent fuel in Idaho since the late 1950s."

The Navy will officially deactivate the Enterprise on Dec. 1, but it will take several more years for it to be decommissioned as its reactors are taken out.

After spent fuel is removed at Norfolk, the Navy plans to tow the Enterprise to the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard at Bremerton in Washington state. The nuclear reactors will be cut out of the ship and barged to the Hanford nuclear reservation.

The reactors will be buried in a trench the Navy has been using since 1986 to bury radioactive reactors from other nuclear-powered vessels, mostly submarines.

Reactor disposal will take six to eight years. The rest of the Enterprise will be scrapped at Bremerton.

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