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Beaver Valley Nuclear Plant to Expand Storage Facilities

A regional energy company has announced plans to expand its storage capacity for nuclear waste produced from a Beaver County plant.

FirstEnergy Nuclear Operating Company said it plans to start construction soon on a $30 million dry storage facility. At least six above-ground bunkers will be built of steel and concrete on the grounds of the company's Beaver Valley Power Station starting this fall, with completion slated for 2014.

Nuclear waste from the Shippingport power plant is currently stored in a steel-lined pool of water. That older nuclear waste will be moved and warehoused within the new bunkers, said FirstEnergy spokeswoman Jennifer Young, to make room for new radioactive waste to be cooled in the pool. Without the bunkers, FirstEnergy said the pool would reach its full capacity of "used fuel assemblies" by 2015.

"These are bundles of the nuclear fuel that we use in our reactor," explained Young. "They're about thirteen feet high, and I think they're about twelve by twelve [feet] square, dimensionally."

Young said the dry storage system will be approved by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and inspected regularly to ensure safety.

"The design of these is very, very robust," said Young. "It's built to withstand earthquakes, tornados -- any type of man-made or natural disaster that you can think of, even impacts by aircraft."

The Beaver Valley Power Station began producing nuclear energy in 1976, and a second unit was booted up in 1987. So far, all of the nuclear waste produced at the site has been stored in the facility's indoor steel pool.