Nuclear Waste Management

The Department of Energy oversees permanent disposal of spent nuclear fuel and historically has charged fees to plant owners for this disposal. However, the government has stopped developing the Yucca Mountain storage facility in Nevada, leaving generators with no place for permanent disposal.

In 2012, the Cook Plant began a program of loading spent nuclear fuel into dry casks. Since the program began, a total of 28 dry casks have been loaded into storage.

Indiana Michigan Power owns and operates the two-unit Donald C. Cook Nuclear Plant in Michigan, which generates more than 2,000 MW of electricity. Like the rest of the nuclear industry, we face a significant future financial commitment to dispose of spent nuclear fuel. We need a national solution for the long-term disposal of spent nuclear fuel, which should be part of a national energy plan.

The uncertainty associated with long-term storage has placed the burden of interim storage on each nuclear facility. AEP is addressing this issue on the assumption that a workable offsite solution will not exist before the operating licenses for both Cook units expire two decades from now.

In 2012, the Cook Plant began a program of loading spent nuclear fuel into dry casks (32 spent nuclear fuel assemblies contained within each dry cask). Without removal of the used-fuel assemblies, the spent fuel pool would have reached capacity in 2014, forcing shutdown of one or both Cook units.

Since the program began, a total of 28 dry casks have been loaded into storage. The third dry cask loading is expected to occur in 2018. The current cask storage facility is designed to store 94 casks for a total of 3,008 spent nuclear fuel assemblies. This would support the operation of both units through the current operating license dates of 2035 for Unit 1 and 2038 for Unit 2. The pad could be expanded to facilitate removal of all fuel assemblies from the plant’s spent fuel pool and full decommissioning of both units.

Nuclear plant operators are required to maintain a plant decommissioning trust fund to safely decommission and decontaminate the plant upon closure. At the end of 2016, the trust fund balance for the Cook Plant was approximately $1.9 billion.