Category Archives: re-licensing

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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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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Associated Press reports, “Vermont Yankee has been hampered by problems this year.”

In frighteningly Onion-esque fashion (www.theonion.com), the Associated Press states one of the most obvious facts in current news (original article here). Yes, Vermont Yankee has been hampered by problems this year. This is due to the simple fact that Vermont Yankee was only built to serve up to this point.

Vermont Yankee was built on the specification that it would be shut down in 2012. To be fair, those guys did a pretty decent job building the plant based on those parameters.  I mean, other than the transformer fire in 2004 and the leaking underground pipes this year, there haven’t been any major issues.

But facts are facts. No matter how much energy is produced by the plant… and no matter how many jobs will be lost in the process, this plant was only designed to last this long. We know it’s not right to fool with Mother Nature. Well, it’s downright STUPID to fool with a nuke plant which has reached its expiration date. Any reasonable person knows this, right?

Entergy Nuclear must think we are pretty stupid, though. They tried to extend the operating life of the plant for another twenty years. Thankfully, some of the leaders in Vermont were strong and vocal enough to prevent this. But now they are talking about selling the plant? You have got to be kidding me!

Wake up, people. A new leak of radioactive materials sprung this weekend. Entergy’s spokesperson says it’s not harmful. Last I checked, radioactive materials were indeed harmful, even in small doses.

This is a pathetically typical example of a corporation’s attempt to cash out right as their investment is reaching maturity. Don’t let them abandon their responsibilities. Make sure they close Vermont Yankee as was the plan from the very beginning. Please.

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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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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

//
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

Last week & the week ahead: Tales of a toxic, old nuke plant

So, where are we now, my friends?

Vermont Yankee is leaking radioactive materialsWell, over a month has passed since the leak of radioactive tritium was discovered at Vermont Yankee in Vernon, Vermont. They first reported the issue on January 7th.  And they still can’t seem to locate it. That’s 44 days and counting that radioactive materials have been leaking into the groundwater at Vermont Yankee.

They were doing some excavating to try to find it, but they ran into a few snags there, so they had to suspend that project last Wednesday. Apparently in all their careful planning, they didn’t account for irregularly shaped concrete forms in the foundation and structure of the advanced off gas pipe tunnel. Whoops. Yeah, and then there are those large rocks they are trying to figure out how to remove. I’m NOT kidding. I wish I was.

[Evacuation of pipes still on hold at Vermont Yankee, 02/20/10:
http://www.reformer.com/ci_14438160]

The radioactive tritium has reached the Connecticut River. And as I drove by the plant this morning, I noted a dozen or more ice fishermen within the same line of sight. Are they eating the fish they catch? I hope not.

[Vt. Health Chief: Tritium May in Connecticut River, 02/09/10:
http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2010/02/09/business/AP-US-Vermont-Yankee.html]

This week, it was disclosed that trace amounts of Cobalt-60 were also discovered in the pipe tunnel. Although Cobalt-60 has a shorter half-life — 5.27 years — than tritium, it is a gamma emitter, rather than a weak beta emitter like tritium, said Neil Sheehan, spokesman for the NRC.

Not to focus too much on the health risks of exposure to radiation, it is worthwhile to note that those exposed to a gamma emitter such as cobalt-60 are at significant risk, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

[Trace amounts of cobalt-60 found, 02/19/10:
http://www.reformer.com/localnews/ci_14430975]

And these jokers are still trying to create a new “shell corporation” called Enexus to transfer ownership (AND LIABILITY) of 6 of these old, toxic plants. Hmmmm… why would they do a thing like that? And why would any seemingly intelligent government official entertain – for even a moment – that this might be a good idea? Give me a break, fellas. I’m no contract lawyer, but that sure smells of manure to me!

[Legislative Leaders Say Administration Should Oppose Enexus, 1/25-26/10:
http://www.vpr.net/news_detail/87002/]

And here’s the icing on the cake. Entergy Nuclear still wants to continue operation of the toxic nightmare that is Vermont Yankee for another 20 years. I heard a pathetic lobbying ad on the radio on my drive home today, paid for by Vermont Yankee, urging Vermonters to call their senators in support of extending the license for this old plant to protect the supposed 1,300 jobs they provide and all that mountain of tax revenue received from the plant and its employees. Is there really even one person who can look me in the eyes and tell me that it is worth extending the license of a nuke plant that is currently leaking radioactive materials for an additional twenty years beyond what it was designed for? I couldn’t see the justification if the whole damn state worked at the plant! If you’re all dying of cancer, would it be worth keeping your jobs?

And so now we come to the week ahead.

Wednesday, February 24, has been decided as the date that the Vermont senate will vote on whether to give the Public Service Board the go-ahead to rule on the plant’s request to operate for another 20 years. As far as the wishy-washy governor is concerned, the vote means nothing. Yet a NO vote could delay another relicensing vote for up to a year, and send an appropriately strong message to Entergy that their business practices are unacceptable with regard to public safety and basic corporate responsibility. Senators, VOTE NO.

[Senate panel sets up Yankee vote, 02/19/10:
http://www.burlingtonfreepress.com/article/20100219/NEWS03/100218041/Senate-panel-sets-up-Yankee-vote
]

So there you have it. This is the pathetic and dangerous situation we currently face. If you see the logic in closing the plant, please let your representatives know it. Their votes should represent your views on Wednesday. But you need to express those views to be represented. Please don’t sit idle… because every day that passes renders these beautiful lands less habitable for you, your kids, and your grandkids… and then some. I love Vermont, and I can’t imagine that Vermonters would allow some greedy corporation from Louisiana to spoil it for lack of caution and care.

Take Vermont back, Vermonters. Now’s your chance.