Date of Award


Degree Type

Capstone Project

First Advisor

Bahram Nassersharif


The spent nuclear fuel assembly transfer process is complicated and has several important constraints. Continuity of Knowledge (COK) must be maintained throughout the process while also keeping the fuel underwater and away from workers to assure safety and security. The conveyance is mechanical in nature and must provide for worker access for repair/maintenance. Reliability, safety, and safeguards requirements must be met for the entire expected life span of the nuclear facility. This paper describes a new engineering design for enhanced safety and reliability for transfer of spent fuel assemblies from the reactor building to the fuel storage building. The new design is compliant with U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and the International Atomic Energy Agency guidelines, requirements, and regulations. This project was sponsored by Los Alamos National Laboratory at the University of Rhode Island and performed by faculty and students in the mechanical and nuclear engineering program. A physical scaled prototype of the system has been manufactured is currently going through functional non-nuclear testing for mechanical performance.

The fuel transfer system begins with the fuel assembly being lowered into a Fuel Assembly Transport Vessel (FATV). The FATV is equipped with side mounted wheels designed for horizontal movement through the transport tunnel via a rail system. An industrial roller chain conveyor with vertical attachments runs between the rails and makes contact with the FATV. The new design includes gears, axles, and a safely-positioned dry and above water surface motor that drives the chain laterally in either direction. Thus the FATV containing the spent fuel assembly is safely and securely moved in the connecting water tunnel. Engineering analyses were performed on the various facets of the design to validate the merit of the system’s purpose and the adherence to reliability, safeguards, and safety factors set for a system undergoing 50+ years of service life in a radioactive environment.

Each individual fuel transfer system will be modified in accordance to the needs of each corresponding nuclear reactor plant. Our design addresses constraints pertaining to that of the transference of spent nuclear fuel assemblies while meeting of the design criteria, safety, and safeguards standards set by the IAEA and the NRC.

A scaled physical model of the design has been built to demonstrate the mechanical systems functionality.


Sponsor: Los Alamos Project

Sponsor Representative: Eric Benton Rauch