Category Archives: NRC

To Fuel or Not to Fuel

Entergy Self-Imposed Deadline for Costly Fuel Decision Looms.
New England Coalition Offers Long-Time Adversary’s Views on Entergy’s Dilemma

In recent hearings of Entergy’s lawsuit against the State of Vermont, Entergy witnesses testified that the multi-billion dollar Louisiana-based corporation would have to decide if it was going to buy nuclear fuel for its projected November refueling outage by July 23, 2011. Entergy was seeking a preliminary injunction that would permit the company to operate free of state interference beyond Vermont Yankee’s license original expiration date of March 2012 and until Entergy’s question of whether the state has any right to regulate the plant in any way is finally resolved through the Federal District Court and (presumably) the federal appeals process.

On July18th, Judge Garvan Murtha of the Vermont District Federal Court denied the injunction; ordering Entergy and the State to prepare for trial on the main issues in September.

So, now what will Entergy do?

“No one, probably not even Entergy knows,” says New England Coalition technical Advisor, Raymond Shadis, “ We do know that in the end it will be a business decision , driven by considerations of financial risk. The fuel cost is more than $65 million, which will be little more than half recovered by March. The cost of this decision as well as the cost of the preemption litigation are just the costs of doing business in the manner in which Entergy does business.” Shadis , who worked closely with Entergy managers for more than seven years of the Maine Yankee shutdown and decommissioning, says he knows the Entergy management style to be risk-taking and aggressive, “They are used to a pliant NRC and used to bullying their way past concerned citizens and regulators wherever they do business, but that just doesn’t work in New England with its speak-up democratic traditions,” he said, “Bucking public sensibilities here costs money, lots of money, pure-and-simple.”

“Whichever way it plays out in federal court” said Ned Childs, NEC President, “ This may be the last big ticket financial decision that Entergy may ever make for an operating Vermont Yankee plant. Vermont Yankee hasn’t met its allocated maintenance costs, meaning it hasn’t turned a profit for the last three years. One more unanticipated large expense such as a new steam dryer, or modifications resulting from a Fukushima accident inquest, is likely to sink the ship. I can see no rational business reason for Entergy to persist; they should cut their losses and walk. “Know when to hold ‘em and know when to fold ‘em,” is the way the country music classic has it.”

Shadis agrees, “Closing VY before another twenty years elapses is no longer a question of if, but when and how. Entergy has placed itself in the untenable position of trying to operate an antiquated, aging reactor beyond its design capacity and design life in an alienated and increasingly hostile political and regulatory environment. It’s simply unsupportable. Refueling it now is simply letting stubborn wishful thinking get the better of common sense.”

Clay Turnbull, NEC’s Director of Public Outreach, said that NEC has recently joined national nuclear safety advocate’s initiatives calling upon NRC to close all Fukushima-type US boiling water reactors, such as Vermont Yankee.


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 –  re: underground pipes and groundwater contamination.

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What more than Fukushima do you need to wake up?

I kept saying, “What’s it gonna take folks, a meltdown?”

I didn’t want a meltdown. I just wanted to make the point that it would be STUPID to wait until something catastrophic happened before you thought, “Wow. She’s right. It’s really NOT worth it.”

I AM RIGHT. And we have had the meltdown. So what the hell is the problem?

There is NO justification any of you can make that is worth the potential risk of nuclear power. There is NO financial justification. Remove government subsidies and include the inevitable cost of security and storage of spent nuclear fuel and your argument is already moot. Add to that the cost of clean-up or recovery from the inevitable leaks and failures of plants operating well beyond the lifespan they were built for, and then tell show me the bottom line.

The only argument I’ve heard for years from the nuclear industry itself is that the environmental impact of carbon emissions from our return to coal would be cataclysmic. But who the hell says we will revert back to dirty coal to replace nuclear power? Seriously, what is the basis of that assumption?

What the hell happened to Yankee ingenuity? There are BRILLIANT MINDS working on alternative energy solutions now. There is no single solution to replace the power lost from the inevitable end of nuclear. But there are many options that with the appropriate resources allocated could – together – provide a suitable replacement. This is not a fast and easy solution. But it is a viable option that can be developed and improved to eventually surpass the capacity and eliminate the risk of nuclear.

This, too, is the option that can and will eventually eliminate dependency on foreign oil.

Do you doubt that America has the ability to evolve these technologies? Have you visited M.I.T. lately? CalTech? If we re-allocated subsidies for nuclear power into investment funds for research and development, we’d get there soon enough.

Stop limiting our options. Stop doubting our capabilities. Remember what it felt like to have pride in our country… not just for bravery, but for innovation. Think about the Internet and how rapidly technology evolved in so short a time.

Fukushima was the last screaming alarm after far too many taps on the snooze button. Do not go back to sleep. Wake the hell up… BELIEVE it is possible… and support the innovation that will put an end to nuclear power before it is too late.

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Why Fukushima Can Happen Here: Secrets of the Nuclear Industry

Why Fukushima Can Happen Here: Secrets of the Nuclear Industry.

From http://tv.globalresearch.ca/2011/07/why-fukushima-can-happen-here-secrets-nuclear-industry:

The well-known safety flaws of Mark 1 Boiling Water Reactors have gained significant attention in the wake of the four reactor accidents at Fukushima, but a more insidious danger lurks.

In this video nuclear engineers Arnie Gundersen and David Lochbaum discuss how the US regulators and regulatory process have left Americans unprotected. They walk, step-by-step, through the events of the Japanese meltdowns and consider how the knowledge gained from Fukushima applies to the nuclear industry worldwide. They discuss “points of vulnerability” in American plants, some of which have been unaddressed by the NRC for three decades. Finally, they concluded that an accident with the consequences of Fukushima could happen in the US.

NRC hearing on Vermont Yankee set for Wednesday

Officials from the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission will be on hand for a public hearing this week on the agency’s annual review of the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant.

The NRC gave the Vernon reactors good marks in a review issued in March, and now is inviting public comment at a session set for this Wednesday from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Brattleboro Union High School.

The session will feature presentations by officials from the NRC, followed by a period devoted to comments from the public.

Source: Boston.com http://bo.st/keyocd

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Rolling Stone takes on “America’s Nuclear Nightmare”

There are a few things I love about Rolling Stone. Writer Rob Sheffield is at the top of that list. And while I could do without the far-too-frequent bimbo covers (my reason for dumping the subscription when my daughters were tweens), yet every once in a while they publish something bold and brave that gives me hope that modern day journalism has not completely lost its backbone.

Check out Jeff Goodell’s article in which he states it plain:

“regulators are ignoring the risks and boosting industry profits”

http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/america-s-nuclear-nightmare-20110427

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NRC asked to take a breather

On Friday, April 15, 2011, the good Bob Audette, staff reporter for the Brattleboro Reformer, reported that “forty-five groups and individuals either opposed to or in support of increased safety measures at nuclear power plants around the nation submitted a petition Thursday to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission asking it suspend all re-licensing activities of existing plants and all licensing activities of proposed plants.” in order to give the NRC the opportunity to determine what lessons can be learned from the nuclear disaster in Fukushima, Japan. (http://www.reformer.com/ci_17851311)

One spokesperson, attorney Diane Curran, who specializes in nuclear safety and security, has gone so far as to state that the NRC has violated the law in granting the 20-year license extension to Entergy Nuclear Vermont Yankee within days of the damage done to reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi plant after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

It seems quite reasonable that the NRC — whose role is to REGULATE nuclear power plants — would want to wait and see and carefully consider the events at Fukushima before granting a twenty year license extension to a leaking plant at the end of the lifespan it was designed for. Remember that Vermont Yankee is a boiling water reactor, the same type as the plant in Fukushima.

Japanese nuclear regulators declared this week that the severity of the disaster at Fukushima has been classified a Level 7 on the International Nuclear Event Scale, putting it on par with the 1986 accident at Chernobyl. (http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/france-wants-nato-to-fight-harder-against-gaddafis-forces/2011/04/12/AFxrFEND_story.html and http://edition.cnn.com/2011/WORLD/asiapcf/04/16/japan.nuclear.reactors/?hpt=T2)

The license extension for Vermont Yankee is one of 21 proposed nuclear reactor projects in 15 states that would be placed on hold until the post-crisis analysis can be completed. There was a year and a half hold on nuclear projects after the accident at Three Mile Island. It is good common sense to step back now and learn everything possible about the events in Japan so that we can carefully assess our risk potential in light of this new and quite tangible information.

I wish to extend my thanks to the organizations like the New England Coalition and Pilgrim Watch — and the many individuals who comprise them — for their continued efforts to enforce common sense through legal channels, especially when the regulatory body we rely on does not appear to have the best interests of the public as their foremost priority.

Now is the time for continued damage control, thorough assessment, and thoughtful conclusions so that all current and future nuclear projects can be reviewed with greater clarity and accuracy.

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NEC continues to take Vermont Yankee to task

Anti-nuke coalition counters Vermont Yankee filing on preemption

From The Rutland Herald
http://www.rutlandherald.com/article/20100912/NEWS02/709129871/1003/NEWS02

By Susan Smallheer
Staff Writer – Published: September 12, 2010

MONTPELIER — The issue of federal preemption at the Vermont Yankee nuclear reactor over last winter’s radioactive tritium leak continues to simmer.

In a filing Friday with the Vermont Public Service Board, the New England Coalition, a nonprofit anti-nuclear organization, said that Entergy Nuclear’s attempt to re-examine the issue of preemption is unnecessary and the company has failed to offer any valid reasons for another bite at the legal apple.

Vermont has every right to investigate and protect its groundwater, the coalition argued, and there is well-established evidence that such radiological leaks ultimately increase the costs of decommissioning.

The Vermont Public Service Board opened an investigation into the tritium leak at Vermont Yankee in February, to determine whether the leak had environmental or economic ramifications, particularly in the area of the ultimate decommissioning of the power facility and the contamination of groundwater.

The issue of federal preemption has ramifications beyond the board’s investigation, since Entergy Nuclear’s license extension request is still pending before the board. The Vermont Senate failed to endorse a license extension for Vermont Yankee in February, effectively putting the Public Service Board’s review of the license in limbo.

In earlier filings, Entergy Nuclear had challenged the board’s right to investigate the tritium leak, which is still being cleaned up. The leak, which was a result of several problems with the advanced off-gas drainage system, leaked more than tritium into the groundwater and ground at Vermont Yankee in Vernon.

The New England Coalition’s reply brief to legal documents filed in the case last month strongly criticized legal arguments raised by both Entergy and the attorney for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, which has about 180 union members working at the reactor. The IBEW had not raised any independent issues and was essentially echoing any legal arguments raised by Entergy, said the coalition’s attorney, Jared Margolis of Jericho.

Margolis said that Entergy “continues to confuse and misuse the applicable Supreme Court precedent” on the issue of nuclear preemption.

“Entergy has attempted, without valid support and through misusing the language of the Supreme Court, to alter the well-settled precedent creating dual jurisdiction over nuclear power general,” Margolis wrote in his brief.

Margolis noted that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that only the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has control over radiological safety levels, and was not something sought by the Vermont Public Service Board.

Robert Williams, spokesman for Entergy Nuclear, couldn’t be reached for comment Saturday.

Clay Turnbull of Townshend, a spokesman for the New England Coalition, said Saturday that Entergy continued to raise the preemption issue “that was settled a long time ago” rather than move forward with the Public Service Board’s investigation of the tritium leak.

The coalition believes that the leak, as well as the leak of other, more dangerous radiological materials such as strontium-90, cesium 137 and cobalt-60, will increase the costs of decommissioning Vermont Yankee and returning the Vernon site to the original 1968 promise of a “green field” after the plant shut down. Vermont Yankee’s federal license to operate and its state certificate of public good both expire in 2012.

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NRC petitioned to do their job

Ray Shadis, technical consultant to the New England Coalition, offered the following commentary on yesterday’s article in the Brattleboro Reformer by the good Bob Audette:

“This article captures the gist of an enforcement petition meeting with the NRC’s Petition Review Board.  The PRB has agreed to recommend that NRC take up four of seven issues (regarding Entergy’s management and maintenance failures be and defects in NRC’s Reactor Oversight Process) raised by New England Coalition in its February 8th enforcement petition. The PRB recommended that three issues (regarding omissions and/or inaccuracies about aging management of buried piping  in Entergy VY’s License Renewal Application (LRA) do not meet the criteria for NRC review because these issues can be handled via the licensing hearing. This is a bit of a struggle as the hearing record has been closed for over a year and the hurdles to reopening are high and many. It is our understanding that this portion of the LRA is already under examination by NRC, but without our involvement, we fear a lack of vigor and rigor.  Paul M. Blanch of west Hartford, Connecticut was also on the PRB call and made it plain that the question was not what water quality regulations have been violated, but what regulations pertaining to management and operation. Paul reiterated NEC’s tentative conclusion, based on NEC’s site visit, that there remains inadequate assurance that Entergy has identified all leaks contributing to groundwater contamination. It should also be noted that Entergy VY lead engineer, Jim Divincentis, also attended the PRB meeting, but offered no comment on the petition or petitioners remarks when afforded the opportunity by the PRB. Likewise, NRC legal counsel refused to elaborate when asked on the PRB decision that License Renewal Application issues should be handled via the licensing hearing.”

Thursday May 6, 2010

Critic: NRC inspectors are ‘too cozy’ with Entergy

By BOB AUDETTE / Reformer Staff

BRATTLEBORO — The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has failed the public, said a pair of anti-nuclear activists during a teleconference with the NRC’s petition review board (PRB) Wednesday morning.

The review board heard arguments from Thomas Saporito, of endangeredplanetearth.blogspot.com, and Ray Shadis, of the New England Coalition on Nuclear Pollution, who have been contending that Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant in Vernon should be shut down until a number of maintenance issues are resolved, including the remediation of tritium-contaminated groundwater.

Saporito said the NRC’s resident inspectors at Vermont Yankee are “too cozy” with plant personnel and because of that, violations and unsafe conditions are not being detected in a timely manner.

He asked that the NRC’s Office of the Inspector General conduct an audit of the resident inspectors’ activities.

“The NRC’s resident inspectors are not doing their jobs to an effective level,” said Saporito, while Entergy has been violating numerous safety margins.

The NRC also failed to tell state agencies that contrary to what Yankee representatives were saying during hearings in Montpelier, the power plant has a number of underground piping systems that carry radionuclides, he said.

The OIG should conduct an additional investigation to determine if the NRC was negligent in not notifying Vermont, said Saporito.

He pointed to a number of issues that could have been prevented if the NRC had been doing its job. They include:

— Not conducting an adequate risk assessment for maintenance activities that affected the availability of the low pressure coolant injection subsystem;

— The failure of Entergy, which owns and operates Vermont Yankee, to initiate corrective actions related to the plant’s cooling towers;

— Entergy’s failure to take timely and appropriate corrective actions to address a repeat functional failure of the reactor’s high pressure coolant injection system, and;

— Entergy’s failure to initiate a condition report related to water accumulating in the turbine building supply fan housing plenum area, which led to the inoperability for four hours of one the plant’s emergency diesel generators; and its failure to perform an engineering analysis of scaffolding installed in the cooling tower meant to shore up safety-related pipe supports.

In its 2009 fourth quarter plant inspection findings, the NRC stated all of the failures were of very low safety significance and that Entergy had taken or was in the process of taking actions to address all those issues.

Saporito contended that all of Entergy’s maintenance activities related to those issues were the result of a “systemic and pervasive” failure by the licensee to properly identify and resolve the deficiencies and were contrary to NRC regulations demanding timely resolution.

Because of that, it was a failure on the part of the NRC to protect the health and safety of the general public and the environment, he said.

Shadis told the review board that the coalition had identified several examples where it believed there was not enough follow through on maintenance issues and where the reactor oversight process had “apparently failed to track maintenance and management issues from one event to the next.”

The NRC should take time to review all documents related to accidents and equipment and maintenance failures at Yankee since Entergy bought the plant in 2002, said Shadis.

Then the NRC should ask itself if it has the appropriate “questioning attitude” and ability to posit possible problems to conduct its oversight of nuclear power plants, he said.

Shadis also questioned if enough work has been done to rule out the plant’s condensate storage tank as a source of the leak of tritiated water.

“Everything we saw and heard from the company gave us no confidence that the leaks that have been found represent all the leaks,” he said.

Saporito said because the licensee had lied under oath to the state the NRC had “no reasonable assurance” Entergy was supplying it with correct information related to the leak of tritiated water.

“The NRC can’t be sure the tritium hasn’t entered the environment at some point not captured by the wells,” he said.

Shadis did admit that the levels of tritium detected in the groundwater do not exceed the NRC’s “as low as reasonable achievable” radiation standards or the Environmental Protection Agency’s drinking water limits for tritium.

“The groundwater however certainly exceeded the EPA maximum concentration limits by a factor of 100 or more,” he said.

The pair also contended that Entergy doesn’t fully understand the power plant’s design basis and that Yankee’s buried tanks and underground inspection program is inadequate.

Bob Audette can be reached at raudette@reformer.com, or at 802-254-2311, ext. 273.

Original article: http://www.reformer.com/localnews/ci_15027404

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Former nuclear industry insider joins New England Coalition litigation team

FORMER NUCLEAR INDUSTRY INSIDER JOINS THE NEC LITIGATION TEAM.  PAUL M BLANCH TO REVIEW ENVY PIPE LEAK DATA, AND  PROVIDE EXPERT TESTIMONY TO VERMONT PUBLIC SERVICE BOARD.
Here is another piece of good news from the New England Coalition in their fight against Entergy Nuclear Vermont Yankee:

New England Coalition is proud to announce that Paul M. Blanch of West Hartford, Connecticut has agreed to serve as a pro bono consultant to NEC and as NEC’s expert witness before the Vermont Public Service Board in matters related to recent reactor Off Gas pipe system failures and radionuclide contamination at the Entergy Nuclear Vermont Yankee site.  Mr. Blanch is a veteran of the US Nuclear Navy; retired from a distinguished 40 year career in the nuclear industry, and currently serving as a nuclear safety consultant.

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NRC will take up citizen enforcement petition on Entergy Vermont Yankee leaks

A week ago, I received a most inspiring press release. Ray Shadis, Consultant to New England Coalition sent the following bit of good news:

On April 26, 2010, New England Coalition received notice from the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission’ s 10 CFR 2.206 Petition Review Board as follows:

The purpose of this e-mail is to inform you of the action taken by a Petition Review Board (PRB) on the 2.206 petitions from Mr. Mulligan, Mr. Shadis, and Mr. Saporito, for enforcement against Vermont Yankee (VY) due to the tritium leak.  The PRB, with the approval of the NRR Office Director, consolidated these petitions for review in accordance with the guidance in MD 8.11. The PRB met on April 22, 2010, and considered these 2.206 petitions (as consolidated) and made an initial recommendation to accept the petitions for review, in part.

All of you stated that the tritium leak is just one example of many maintenance and management failures at VY.  You each raised a concern regarding what you perceive as the NRC’s failure to look at failures at VY in an integrated manner.  Although the individual petition is written to request enforcement action due to the tritium leak, during the each transcribed phone call, all of you urged the NRC to take a broader approach to assess operational/performance failures at VY collectively, instead of individually.  This concern meets the criteria for review in accordance with MD 8.11.

With regards to the primary concern raised in these petitions (the leak itself), the PRB determined that it meets the criteria for review.

Mr. Shadis and Mr. Saporito now have a 2nd opportunity to address the PRB to provide comment on the initial recommendation in accordance with MD 8.11.

And, at 9:30 tomorrow morning (May 5th), they will call in to do so.

Ray continues, “NEC’s Enforcement petition stressed that NRC oversight had not foreseen nor prevented the series of component, maintenance, and management failures at Entergy Vermont Yankee which began with Entergy’s purchase and takeover of the plant in 2002. NEC pointed to such high visibility failures as the transformer fire, the cooling tower collapse, and the recent pipe leaks, as well as a series of low profile failures including steam dryer cracks, reactor nozzle cladding cracks, steam condenser and torus in-leakage, and the like.  NEC requested that the NRC submit Vermont Yankee to a diagnostic evaluation team inspection in order that it can evaluate both NRC and VY performance since Entergy assumed management of the besieged and troubled facility.”

Best of luck, Mr. Shadis and Mr. Saporito. I hope the logic and truth of your concerns are well heard.

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Tritium could affect VY cleanup costs

From the good Bob Audette of the Brattleboro Reformer:

Monday March 15, 2010

BRATTLEBORO — The possible remediation costs of contaminated groundwater at Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant in Vernon due to a leak of tritiated water is dependent on a number of conditions, said a spokesman for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

The tritium decay rate is just one of those factors, said Neil Sheehan. Tritium has a half-life of 12.3 years, which means it will have lost half of its radioactivity during that period of time.

Other factors include groundwater flows, whether pumping contaminated water out of the ground could actually spread the plume and calculations used to determine the maximum amount of radioactive exposure that members of the public could experience as a result of the contamination.

“Entergy is still developing that information,” said Sheehan, adding the NRC will review any and all remediation plans once they are completed.

Entergy, which owns and operates the power plant, has indicated it plans to place Yankee into SAFSTOR for several decades following shutdown, whenever that occurs, he said.

SAFSTOR is an NRC-approved method of mothballing a plant until much of the radioactive contamination at a plant has decayed and to allow a decommissioning fund to grow to the level sufficient to pay for cleanup.

Entergy has applied to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to extend the operating license of Yankee for another 20 years, from 2012 to 2032.

In 2008, Entergy told the NRC

that it has estimated there is 135,000 cubic feet of contaminated soil that would have to be removed at Vermont Yankee during decommissioning, with an estimated cost of $76 per cubic foot.

The total cost for that remediation would be $10,260,000, in 2008 dollars.

The 2008 report did not specify where the contamination came from, said Sheehan.

“The cost reported for soil remediation is based upon a preliminary assessment of the potential for contamination in the soil around the plant, based upon historical evidence,” stated the report. “A detailed site characterization was not performed. This allowance will be confirmed and/or modified based upon more detailed analyses to be performed in conjunction with the formulation of a license termination plan.”

How the tritium leak might affect cleanup costs is not known at this point, said Sheehan.

Read the entire article: http://www.reformer.com/localnews/ci_14677980

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Cease operating? Yeah, I think that’s a good idea.

From http://www.burlingtonfreepress.com/blog/politics/2010/03/on-tap-for-vermont-yankee.html

On tap for Vermont Yankee

Can a week go by without something happening that involves Vermont Yankee?

Not this week, at least.

Wednesday afternoon, the Public Service Board will hold a hearing on whether Entergy Nuclear Vermont Yankee should cease operating the nuclear plant until it finds and fixes the tritium leak.

The hearing will also consider whether there is cause to revoke the plant’s certificate of public good and whether the company should be penalized for the radioactive leaks.

Meanwhile, down at the plant, a “remotely operated vehicle” continues its probe of a tunnel and drainpipes that have been found to leak.

According to Monday’s dispatch from Entergy, “The inspection will allow engineers to determine the source for the small amount of leakage remaining internal to the tunnel and develop additional remediation steps that can be taken to completely eliminate the leak. As previously reported, water coming from the pipe is not reaching the environment. The water is being collected in a sump for processing through plant systems as designed.”

Does it help Yankee’s case before the board that there’s been progress in identifying the cause of the leak?

— Nancy Remsen

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Personally, I think they should just shut it the hell down.

Shadis tells it like it is: Entergy, NRC failures

NEC: Leak means other problems

From the Brattleboro Reformer:

By BOB AUDETTE

Thursday March 4, 2010

BRATTLEBORO — The discovery of a leak of tritiated water at Vermont Yankee is just one more sign that Entergy has mismanaged the nuclear power plant in Vernon, said Ray Shadis, technical consultant for the New England Coalition on Nuclear Pollution.

NEC is asking the NRC to force Yankee to cease operations until the source of the leak is found. On Wednesday, Shadis spoke before the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s Petition Review Board to explain in more detail the coalition’s request.

“It’s our view that the tritium leak is indicative of deeper issues at the plant,” he said. “During the tenure of Entergy Corporation at Vermont Yankee, there have been several high-profile events.”

Those included a transformer fire in 2004 and a cooling tower fan cell collapse in 2007.

The reason those incidents happened, said Shadis, is because Entergy has been deferring important maintenance tasks and has not been applying lessons learned from other power plant operators.

In the case of the transformer fire, he said, “The warning had been out there about the degradation of that particular item for 10 or 12 years prior, but Entergy … decided to ignore it,” despite the increased demand of a power uprate granted in 2003.

And Entergy could have prevented the cooling tower collapse if it had learned the lessons of similar incidents at other electricity generating facilities, said Shadis.

Entergy has applied to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to extend the operating license of Yankee for another 20 years, from 2012 to 2032. As part of its license renewal application, Entergy must detail its plan for how it intends to maintain the power plant’s systems, structures and components, including its pipes.

“The leak is proof positive that the aging management program that Entergy is proposing will not be adequate to protect against further leaks, primarily because the … program depends on a 10-year interval of surveillance and such opportunistic inspections that may occur when excavating for other purposes,” said Shadis.

Shadis was also concerned that there have been “failures of communication” between departments at Yankee. One reason for that is because each department has its own quality control team rather than one quality control department for the whole operation, he said.

Instituting that change “was a mistake, demonstrated by the many failures in quality control,” said Shadis.

Following 900 hours of inspections performed by an NRC engineering team in 2004, he said, 14 items of concern were identified.

“More than half of those items related directly to poor quality control,” said Shadis.

And now, he said, poor work practices might be the root cause for the leak of tritiated water.

The NRC issued a “demand for information” last week to review operations at the plant over the past five years. The NRC also wants to know how recent suspensions and reprimands may affect operations at the plant and whether testimony submitted by the five suspended employees in Yankee’s license renewal application is correct.

The coalition is also concerned about what effect the remediation on the contamination might have on decommissioning costs, especially, said Shadis, “When the licensee is only marginally able to meet NRC requirements in terms of the accumulation decommissioning funds.”

To prevent further contamination of the groundwater, which could drive up clean-up costs at the plant, the plant should be placed into cold shutdown and all systems be depressurized until the source of the leak is found, he said.

“They are adding to the (cost) every single minute that the leak continues,” said Shadis.

Paul Blanch, a former nuclear engineer and whistleblower who revealed major safety lapses at Connecticut’s Millstone plant in the late 1980s and early 1990s, said that Entergy’s rationale for keeping Yankee running while it looks for the leak is simply an excuse “to get to the finish line.”

Yankee will shut down this spring for its 18-month refueling outage and is on track to set a record run.

“The claim that we need to continue operating to identify the leak has no engineering basis whatsoever … it is an exaggeration,” said Blanch. “If the plant were shut down, the leak may or may not stop but the leak rate would be significantly reduced.”

Leak testing can be done after shutdown by pressurizing different systems of the plant, he said.

Shadis did not restrict his criticism to Entergy’s management of the plant. He was also critical of the NRC’s reactor oversight process, which he said has not been adequately addressing negative trends at nuclear power plants.

If the process was operating properly, he said, the NRC would have seen that Entergy’s maintenance has not been up to snuff, that its quality controls have repeatedly failed and communications between departments have not been all they could be.

The end result is structural, mechanical and human performance failures, said Shadis.

“Even supplemental inspections have failed to pick up on the full extent of operational and maintenance failures at Yankee,” he said.

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A surprisingly clear perspective from Alec Baldwin on nuclear power

I have often argued that one can not compare nuclear power to other options in a simple way. There are too many costs left un-calculated in the assessments that I’ve seen. Remove the government subsidies and loan guarantees. Factor in the cost of long term storage and security. THEN try to make your argument that nuclear power is the solution to our energy future.  I was pleased to come across Baldwin’s article, posted on the Huffington Post on February 23, 2010.

The Hidden Costs of Nuclear Power

Sitting in Bill Richardson’s office while he was Secretary of Energy under President Clinton was an opportunity that my colleagues and I from Standing for Truth About Radiation had worked hard to obtain. We wanted Richardson to not only close the research reactor at Brookhaven National Laboratory on Long Island, but also to shut down the Millstone plant in Waterford, Connecticut, which we asserted had been killing enormous amounts of fish with its water intake system for cooling. Local groups had been charging Millstone with destroying millions of pounds of local fish and with pumping superheated water back into the Long Island Sound, the temperatures of which had negatively impacted fish and shellfish habitat for decades.

Richardson, like any DOE Secretary before or after him, wasn’t all that interested in closing Millstone. Everywhere we went, government officials like Richardson invoked the figure “20 percent.” Twenty percent of domestic power in the US is derived from nuclear energy. The clean and safe source of power.

Often when discussing the advent of a new era in nuclear power generation, advocates for nukes, like Stewart Brand, who I referenced in my previous post, tread lightly over certain subjects, such as waste disposal and security issues. Other problems inherent in nuclear power generation, they simply ignore completely. One such issue is the impact of mining and processing radioactive materials into actual fuel. The mining and processing of material like uranium is one of the most carbon intensive processes used in creating energy. To mine, mill and refine uranium and to then submit the material to the enrichment, or gaseous diffusion, process takes vast amounts of energy. In sites around the US, massive coal burning plants pollute the air while providing the energy for uranium enrichment. Add to that the power needed to fabricate the enriched UF6 into fuel rods, and the resources needed to store the byproduct, reduced or depleted UF6. You begin to see that everything that leads up to a utility reactor going on line is anything but clean.

Another issue that nuke advocates sidestep is calculation of the true cost of bringing nuclear power plants on line. Just as oil, and thus gasoline, actually costs astronomically more than what we pay at the pump, due to the cost of US military interventions in the oil-rich areas of the world ( not to mention the costs in human lives, US and foreign), nuclear power has its own menu of hidden costs that are now, or one day will be, inherited by our children. Waste storage is the primary issue here. But the actual decommissioning and decontamination of reactors themselves will soon come to pass. Even with current licenses being foolishly extended and, thus, pushing the operational lives of these units years, even decades, beyond their original design, these units will eventually expire. The cost of closing them safely in current dollars is staggering. In the future, that will only get worse.

Scott Simon never asked Stewart Brand about Price Anderson. Even as utility operators put hundreds of millions into the Price Anderson fund respectively and billions collectively, one accident at, say, Indian Point, adjacent to New York City, would mean potentially many billions in costs. Who pays that? US taxpayers do, while Entergy, a private energy company, profits from the operation of the plant. Insuring these plants, over a hundred of them in the US, all aging, falls largely to US taxpayers. Another hidden cost. At least hidden in so far as most US citizens are concerned.

The original article can be found at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/alec-baldwin/the-hidden-costs-of-nucle_b_473585.html

Bye Bye VY!

Bye Bye Vermont Yankee

Vermont Senate Rejects Extension For Entergy Plant

By Mark Peters
Of DOW JONES NEWSWIRES

NEW YORK (Dow Jones)–The Vermont Senate overwhelmingly rejected extending the life of the state’s sole nuclear power plant, dealing a blow to Entergy Corp.’s (ETR) plan to run the reactor for an additional 20 years.

The New Orleans-based utility and power generator has been pushing to operate the reactor past March 2012, but has faced growing opposition amid concerns over the safety and operation of the plant. The vote runs counter to growing national interest in expanding nuclear generation by extending the operation of existing plants and restarting new reactor development for the first time in decades.

The state until recently had appeared split over the future of Vermont Yankee, which is scheduled to shut in March 2012. But the discovery of increased levels of tritium, a radioactive material that increases cancer risk, in test wells on the plant’s site fueled growing opposition. The safety concerns have been coupled with accusations Entergy misled state officials on the existence of underground piping potentially causing the leak.

“Don’t do business with someone you can’t trust,” said Senate President Pro Tem Peter Shumlin, speaking on the Senate floor before the vote.

Entergy said earlier Wednesday an internal investigation found employees didn’t intentionally mislead state officials, but the statements of employees “led to misunderstandings and, taken out of that context, the responses were incomplete and misleading.” The results of the review led the company to place five senior employees on administrative leave and reprimand six additional managers, including Entergy’s top official at the plant.

Vermont has the authority, rare among states, to decide on extending the operation of a nuclear power plant, which is typically left up to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Both the Vermont Senate and House of Representatives must back extending the plant’s life. The NRC also must rule on the proposed license extension, but hasn’t to date. The Vermont House hasn’t yet taken up the matter.

Entergy in a statement said efforts to win a license extension are “far from over.” The company is determined to keep working in the state legislature to make its case for the plant as a safe and reliable source of power. In the meantime, the company said it continues to focus “on winning back the confidence and trust of the citizens of Vermont.”

Read the entire article: http://online.wsj.com/article/BT-CO-20100224-717594.html


							

No Dirty Power for Jobs: VY Attempts Last Minute Bribe

Vermont Yankee makes cut rate power offer on eve of Senate vote

Hodes calls for plant shutdown until tritium leak is fixed

The Associated Press

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MONTPELIER – The Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant is offering cut-rate power to help the state build jobs – and to try to preserve its own operations.

Plant officials on Tuesday announced the Power for Jobs package that would reserve 25 megawatts of power from the Vernon plant that would be made available for economic development projects in Vermont at 4 cents per kilowatt hour.

The offer comes a day before the Vermont Senate was due to hold a vote on whether to allow the Vernon reactor to continue operating beyond the expiration of its current license in 2012.

The aging plant has been beset with problems in recent months. Since the beginning of the year, engineers have been searching for the leak of radioactive tritium from pipes on the grounds of the plant.

Senate President Pro Tem Peter Shumlin says he expects the 25-megawatt offer from Vermont Yankee owner Entergy Corp. will have no effect on the Senate debate set for Wednesday.

Also Tuesday, New Hampshire Congressman Paul Hodes called Vermont Yankee to be shut down immediately until the tritium leak is fixed.

Hodes, a Democratic U.S. Senate candidate, said that “reckless behavior, deliberate cover-ups and unfruitful internal investigations” by plant officials have undermined the trust of New Hampshire citizens who live near the plant.

Read the entire article: http://www.reformer.com/ci_14455061

Enough cover-ups: Shut Vermont Yankee Down Now

NRC: Tritium Leaked From Vt. Yankee In 2005

NH Lawmakers Call For Federal Investigation

POSTED: 11:34 pm EST February 22, 2010
UPDATED: 12:00 am EST February 23, 2010

CONCORD, N.H. — New Hampshire lawmakers are calling for a federal investigation after the Nuclear Regulatory Commission confirmed Monday a leak of the radioactive substance tritium that took place years before the leak currently under investigation at the Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Plant.Last week, a whistleblower brought a 2005 tritium leak to the attention of investigators, and now, the NRC said it happened and it’s under investigation along with another tritium leak reported in the recent months.

Read the entire article at http://www.wmur.com/news/22640191/detail.html

Expert details Yankee leak: Says quickest way to stop tritium is to shut down

http://www.rutlandherald.com/article/20100211/NEWS02/2110388/1003/NEWS02

By DANIEL BARLOW Vermont Press Bureau – Published: February 11, 2010

MONTPELIER – The plume of tritium leaking from the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant is suspected of being 35 feet deep, 200 feet wide and 400 feet long, according to the Legislature’s nuclear expert.

Arnie Gundersen, a member of the Vermont Legislature’s Public Oversight Panel for Vermont Yankee, told lawmakers Wednesday morning the quickest way to stop the tritium leak before finding its origin would be for the reactor to shut down.

Gundersen said that move would likely cost Entergy, the company that owns Vermont Yankee, about $1 million a day in electricity sales.

“If the plant shuts down, the tritium leak stops,” Gunderson told members of the Senate Natural Resources Committee at the Statehouse Wednesday. “It would take years for the tritium to move off-site, but you would not be adding anything to it if the plant shut down.”

Entergy officials have been struggling for weeks to find the cause of the tritium in nearby groundwater, believed to be caused by leaking underground pipes at the Vernon reactor. State officials now say they believe that tritium has leaked into the nearby Connecticut River.

Rob Williams, spokesperson for Vermont Yankee, said the plant’s continued operation helps them locate the source of the leak. He added that they would “shut down if it was necessary to protect public or worker health and safety or if it could aid the investigation.”

The revelation that the plant is leaking the radioactive isotope – coupled with allegations that Entergy officials misled the state about the existence of those underground pipes – has threatened the plant’s long-term future.

“It’s obvious that tritium is now in the river,” Gundersen told lawmakers, adding that testing for levels in that water is difficult right now because of the winter weather.

Gundersen again said he believes the source of the tritium leak is Vermont Yankee’s off-gas system – underground pipes that use steam from the reactor to carry out hydrogen and oxygen molecules that were separated in the plant’s condenser.

He said that steam would contain tritium, although he added that “we won’t know for sure until we find the leak.” But he stressed that officials should push Entergy to clean-up the tritium contamination from its own funds and not the decommissioning trust fund.

Gundersen estimated that it would cost about $10 million to clean up a contaminated area that is the size of a single football field and about 10 feet deep. It now appears that the contamination at Vermont Yankee is larger than that.

“This should not a decommissioning cost,” he told lawmakers. “This should come from the operating budget. The decommissioning funds are for the dismantling of the plant.”

Sen. Margaret “Peg” Flory, R-Rutland, questioned why no one realized sooner that Vermont Yankee did have underground radioactive pipes. Any blueprints of the plant from when it was constructed in 1972 should show these pipes, she said.

“What I’ve been struggling with is if these are essential parts of a nuclear power plant it would seem to be obvious that everyone knew there had to be something somewhere,” she said.

Gundersen said the Oversight Panel was shut out from directly interviewing Vermont Yankee officials and had to rely on information collected by the consulting firm hired by the Douglas administration. Those consultants and the Vermont Department of Public Service stressed that they had asked about the pipes and were told they didn’t exist, he said.

Gundersen said he does not want to attach a motive to why Entergy officials gave the state bad information. But he said it is clear there were more than just one or two bad apples in the company, noting that at least 12 officials with Entergy supplied wrong information in what he called an “organizational cancer.”

He also faulted the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for allowing nuclear power plants to voluntarily start tritium monitoring programs after the radioactive isotope began showing up at other plants across the country. If it wasn’t for this leak at Vermont Yankee, only one of these underground pipes would be tested before 2012, he said.

“Entergy is no better or worse than the rest of the industry,” Gundersen said. “They just don’t have their act together when it comes to these underground pipes.”

Massachusetts residents living downstream from Vermont Yankee tell Douglas to shut down the plant now

From: http://vtdigger.org/2010/02/11/massachusetts-residents-living-downstream-from-vermont-yankee-tell-douglas-to-shut-down-the-plant-now/

February 11, 2010

Dear Governor Douglas:

I believe the tritium leak at ENVY is a greater environmental disaster than you realize. Just one gram of tritium contaminates 500 billion liters of water up to the fed. limit of 20,000pCi/L. The leak has been allowed to continue at full speed for over one month. The level of tritiated water found in groundwater monitoring wells is now at 2.7 million pCi/L, near the level of the reactor water itself.  This represents a breach of containment, understood as the systems in the reactor and powerplant intended to isolate radioactive contamination from the public.

The groundwater belongs to the public, not to ENVY. ENVY’s leak has polluted our groundwater to the second highest level of all tritium leaks from reactors in the country. NRC rules have allowed contamination of groundwater resources at 27 leaking nuclear reactors. This is illegal in Vermont. Your agencies can stop the leak by shutting down the reactor, but they are waiting for you to give the nod. You must protect public trust resources. Please instruct your agencies (DPS, ANR, VDH) to act swiftly to turn off the reactor water that is contaminating the groundwater by shutting down the reactor.

It is not necessary to run the reactor at overpressure levels to find the leak. Drilling wells just maps the toxicity and extent of the plume, it does not find the leak. All power plants have design drawings, sophisticated gauges and flow meters on their pipes and engineers who can do mass balance calculations to detect leaks.  This has gone on far too long, is based on industry lies and incompetence and NRC tolerance of groundwater pollution, and MUST BE STOPPED IMMEDIATELY. Please do the right thing and act.

Thank you for your rapid consideration of my concerns.

Sally Shaw

Gill, Mass.

An 11th generation Vermonter and mother, living in the EPZ.

A letter from Sally Shaw’s husband, Bart Bales, follows.

Leak detection in plant systems with regard to the VT Yankee tritium leak.

By Bart Bales, P.E., M.S.M.E

February 9, 2010

This is an evaluation of the facts surrounding the VT Yankee tritium leak as reported in the press and to the public through the VT Dept. of Health’s website. It is the opinion of a registered mechanical engineer with twenty-five years of professional experience in energy engineering. It provides approaches to leak detection in power plant piping systems in general, and evaluates the approach being employed, according to public information, to find the tritium leak at VT Yankee.

1.    A plant operator should have up-to-date schematics for all piping and the expected pressures and flow rates throughout the piping network.

2.    Design pipe layouts and as-built pipe layouts are necessary elements for responsible operation and maintenance of a power plant.

3.    Use of design and as-built drawings and specifications along with gauge and instrumentation operating parameters should provide information sufficient to determine expected flow rates and pressures in the piping networks.

4.    The design documents at VT Yankee should enable plant personnel to identify a limited number of pipes that could contain tritiated water.

5.    Plant personnel should determine actual flows through and between elements and components of those piping networks that contain tritium, and determine quantities in various storage vessels by a mass balance calculation.

6.    These calculations can determine flows from within the plant enclosure to the piping network and storage vessels outside the enclosure and should provide information sufficient to identify the leaking pipe loop.

7.    Differences in flows into and out of parts of the network can help localize the leak as the mass balance will indicate a shortfall in expected values for the piping network containing the leak.

8.    This is a more prudent approach to leak detection that can allow the plant system to be operated at lower and safer pressures and flow rates until the leak is found and repaired.

9.    It is expected that there would be existing flow meters on all the various piping loops, especially those conveying radioactive liquids or gases. These should be calibrated, serviced or replaced and rendered reliably functional to determine flow rates and diagnose leaks.

10.     Maintenance of full pressure ratings throughout the power plant should not be necessary to accomplish leak detection. Maintenance of even moderate pressures in the piping will produce a sufficient gradient for leak detection.

11.     There is no justification for maintaining pressures at uprated or even original design conditions for leak detection.

12.     Fluid flow through holes in the leaking pipes erodes the edges of these holes.  Larger holes result in even higher rates of leakage.

13.     It should be recognized that the higher the pressure the greater the flow through leaks, and the faster the introduction of contaminants into the groundwater.

14.     A higher influx rate into the groundwater increases the rate of migration of the plume into adjacent areas and into the Connecticut River.

15.     A more responsible leak detection protocol would be to shut down the plant, evaluate and model analytically, prioritizing the pipe systems most likely to be leaking tritium, then test each system progressively in order of probability that it is the source of the leak.

16.     This approach to leak detection methods from inside the plant employs existing flow gauges or installation of mechanical measuring gauges, and use of ultrasonic or inflow measurements.

17.     For a plant operator or engineer to lack knowledge of location of piping networks and their contents is an unacceptable situation, especially in the handling of potentially hazardous fluids.

Shut Vermont Yankee Down NOW

Why didn’t you know about the tritium leak at Vermont Yankee? What was more important than learning that the old nuke plant up the road was leaking radioactive materials into your soil and ground water? WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?

WAKE THE HELL UP, DAMN IT!

I don’t care what your position is on nuclear or any other form of energy right now. While I encourage you to speak your mind and debate until you’re blue in the face, you have to stop screwing around. Believe me, we ain’t got all day.

Vermont Yankee is one of several nuclear plants built in the late 60’s and early 70’s that are now reaching the age of retirement, or so they were designed and built for.

Meanwhile, there are folks in Louisiana, amongst other places, who intend to squeeze ever possible cent out of their questionable recent investments at whatever level of increased risk exposure they can put on us that they can get away with.

And what are we doing? Pissing and moaning about the estimated 600 jobs of individuals who accepted their offer of employment with the full knowledge that the plant was slated to close in 2012. THAT IS THE LIFESPAN IT WAS DESIGNED TO SUSTAIN.

Fires, cooling tower collapses, emergency shut-downs and now toxic leaks, for which they have yet to locate the source of, and after reassuring  us just last year that there were no underground pipes moving radioactive anything, anywhere… honest, there’s not.

And we read the headlines that they didn’t intend to mislead us… Whoops! It must have just been a happy accident, then. Because every day that we are not working towards locating and acquiring the power we will need to replace once the old girl has been put to bed is extending the life support of a dying cause. At what cost? To whom?

The fact that there is even a debate about whether we grant to them (the now-even-more-powerful CORPORATION) the right to expose every one of us to the ever increasing risks for another twenty years is baffling to me. There is simply NO logic in the arguments to extend the license. It’s just not worth the risk. I can prove that from a financial perspective, an environmental perspective, an historical perspective, and probably a few others.

I have not found one argument or line of reasoning that comes close to offsetting the foolish and potentially catastrophic risk of choking another two decades from a power source that was only deemed to be “clean, safe and reliable” for another two years. And from the increasing evidence, it is only a fool that shields his eyes from the threats standing right before him. (Yes, that’s the one… that rabid one… who is currently foaming at the mouth.)

What can you do? I have an idea. You can help pay for the lawyers who are calling Entergy’s bluff. Last week, the New England Coalition on Nuclear Pollution (www.necnp.org) filed an Enforcement Petition  and Request for Expedited Action to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission “to address conditions trending to degradation of public safety margin at Vermont Yankee Power Station”. This is but one of several legal actions the New England Coalition has initiated for the benefit of all of us to prevent exposure to further risk from this aging plant.

What is the fair value of your grandchildren’s right to live on clean land in southern Vermont? What is the value of your clean drinking water? Do what you can, and do it now. Seriously, there is NO TIME TO LOSE.