Joy Russell, vice president of corporate development at Holtec International, said that when Holtec is selected to supply dry casks to a particular nuclear plant, it typically turns to local contractors that have experience working at nuclear sites to perform sitework and construct the concrete pads, among other needed work.

Russell said that Holtec recently won a competitive bid to supply Exelon's Clinton nuclear plant in Illinois. Exelon plans to start moving spent fuel from the spent- fuel pool to the eight planned dry casks at Clinton in 2015, she said.

NEI's list of plants set for dry-cask installation and loading includes the Beaver Valley, unit 1 in 2015 and unit 2 in 2026; Vogtle, unit 2 in 2015 and unit 1 in 2017; Comanche Peak, units 1 and 2 in 2017; Wolf Creek, in 2025; and South Texas, units 1 and 2 in 2026.

Michael McMahon, president of Transnuclear, a subsidiary of Areva North America, said nuclear-plant owners generally start planning to add dry storage five years or so before they actually need it. Once systems are in place, utilities might return to the market for incremental batches of casks that would cover needs for another three to five years, he said.

As noted, the dry-storage market—already strong and steady—may soon get a big boost once the DOE firms up its plans for one or more dry-storage facilities for decommissioned reactors. That facility, at a site or sites to be determined, is expected to come on line in eight years.

Further, the DOE is considering plans for an even larger, consolidated dry-storage facility that would be ready to start accepting spent fuel by 2025.

DOE has not determined the size of planned facilities, but some potential sites already are showing interest.

In March, the Savannah River Site Community Reuse Organization (CRO), a regional business development group, said that DOE's Savannah River Site near Aiken, S.C., may prove suitable for a regional spent-fuel storage site capable of storing 20,000 metric tons or more of spent fuel—equal to about 10 years of spent-fuel generation in the U.S.

CRO's executive director, Rick McLeod, said "no decision has been made," adding that a combined consolidated storage facility and spent-fuel reprocessing plant merit further study.

Since DOE does not plan to open a permanent, geologic storage facility until 2048, it appears likely that some spent fuel will be stored in dry casks well into the next century.

NEI's McCullum said that DOE's long-term plan for 2048 is to move about 3,000 mt of spent fuel a year to the repository. "Currently, about 70,000 mt is stored on-site," McMahon said. If a repository opens in 2048, it would take until the latter half of the next century to move all spent fuel stored at reactor sites, assuming the U.S.'s nuclear generating capacity remains constant, he said.