New England Coalition urges in-depth review of Vermont Yankee

On May 19th, NEC joined the Maryland-based national organization, Beyond Nuclear, and an unknown number of regional organizations, in an enforcement petition with the NRC that would have that agency undertake a precautionary shutdown of 24 US “boiling water” nuclear reactors, including in New England, Entergy Pilgrim and Entergy Vermont Yankee, until basic design flaws that became evident at Fukushima are fixed and the remedies independently verified as technically sound and workable.

According to NEC’s technical issues advisor, Raymond Shadis, “one truly problematic feature of the boiling water reactors is their compact and complicated containment system. Industry calls it a ‘suppression system’ because it is designed to handle steam overpressure in an accident by directing steam into a ‘suppression water pool’ where the steam is condensed. However, the system is complicated by pumps, valves, return lines, suppression pool cooling systems, pressure and water level balance procedures, and more. Most of this apparently went wrong at Fukushima and believe it or not this complicated rig was chosen as a cost-saving measure as compared to the large robust reinforced concrete domes we picture as typical of pressure water reactors. I call it the ‘econo-containment’ and I really can’t think of a fix but I do believe in light of the Japanese reactor failures that NRC and the industry owe it to a vulnerable public to at least try.”

Earlier on April 15th, NEC joined 45 national and regional environmental, safety, and sustainable energy advocacy organizations, coast-to-coast, in an emergency petition, directly to the NRC’s five Commissioners, to hold all license renewal and new power plant licensing actions until equipment and operational failures at the Fukushima, Japan nuclear power plant disaster are analyzed and lessons learned from those failures are applied to U.S. reactors. Although the petition came too late to be filed in the license renewal proceeding for Entergy Vermont Yankee, which was terminated over NEC objections the day before the earthquake and tsunami triggered the nuclear meltdowns and fires at Fukushima, it has been filed in the license renewal case of Entergy’s Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station, a close twin to Entergy Vermont Yankee. NEC believes the implications of any new requirements for Pilgrim would be implicit for Vermont Yankee. The petition was also filed in the Seabrook Nuclear Generating Station license renewal proceeding where NEC and the Maine-based, Friends of the Coast, are co-intervenor.

A public meeting (teleconference) with NRC petition review board (PRB) has been scheduled on June 8, 2011, from 2:00 PM to 4:00 PM to regarding this petition. Dial-in information:             800-772-3842      , Pin 2206 followed by # . Members of the public may listen in but may not be able to offer comments.

About the New England Coalition

NEC, organized and founded in 1971, is the region’s sole advocate for environmental and nuclear safety with intervenor status in the Entergy Vermont Yankee federal relicensing process, and is an intervenor in two open dockets before the Vermont Public Service Board Docket 7440 – Shall Entergy Nuclear Vermont Yankee receive a CPG for an additional years of operation and less widely reported Docket 7600 – opened as a result of Entergy’s misinformation in Docket 7440, re: underground pipes and groundwater contamination.

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