In its ongoing decommissioning of the Rancho Seco nuclear plant, the Sacramento Municipal Utility District approved a $10 million to $12 million contract to remove the reactor vessel?s internal contents. The radioactive waste will be stored on-site. The SMUD board?s approval of the contract with Transnuclear brings the cost of decommissioning to about $310 million, with $215 million in additional costs expected, according to the utility. Dismantling the reactor vessel is a major step since the high-level spent fuel was removed and transferred to on-site dry-cask storage. ?Moving the fuel was a big deal,? said Dace Udris, SMUD spokesperson. Spent fuel is highly radioactive, while reactor vessel remainders are mostly considered low-level waste. Eighty percent of the reactor?s parts are expected to be stored on-site in SMUD?s temporary 25-year storage building, according to Udris. The balance is considered radioactive enough to have to be put in some of the utility?s 21 dry casks?also meant to be temporary until a permanent high-level waste repository, such as Yucca Mountain, is completed. SMUD hopes to ship some of the lower-level waste to Envirocare?s storage site in Utah. However, the waste company does not have a license to hold the current reactor refuse. Udris dismissed any concerns that SMUD would end up with the predicament that Southern California Edison is now in with its San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station unit 1 reactor vessel. Edison?s plans to ship the vessel by barge?first through the Panama Canal, and then past the tip of South America?were repeatedly thwarted (see <i>Circuit<\/i>, Nov. 7, 2003). ?Eventually, the vessel will be cut up,? Udris said, instead of leaving it intact as Edison did. The weight of the SONGS vessel and unknown transportation hazards, such as storms, undid Edison?s plans. However, there remains strong opposition from environmental groups to rail shipments of radioactive waste. Post 9\/11 terrorism fears have fueled concerns. This latest decommissioning step is expected to take 18 months to complete.