Tag Archives: decommissioning

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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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.

Words of fury, despair

Vermont Yankee is old and unsafe

Vermont Yankee is old and unsafe

An editorial published on RutlandHerald.com:

Vermont Yankee produces about 30 tons a year of the most toxic and long-lasting waste known to man, which will stay forever on the banks of the Connecticut River in casks that, over its half-life of 250,000 years, will crack every 100 years or so, leaving this unspeakable waste to thousands of generations of our children (if they live). Ray Shadis called it “the gift that keeps on killing.” Every minute of the day and night it releases radioactive material in the air, none of which is safe, and since children are most vulnerable, they, our children, have been and will continue to be, victims of cancers and leukemias as long as the reactor is rattling along like a broken down old car.

On top of all that there is a sneaky connection between nuclear reactors and the military, with “depleted” uranium (which is making the world for the world’s children a radioactive wasteland) and nuclear bombs, which are all part of the atom-smashing process. Helen Caldecott called Vermont Yankee a “cancer and a bomb factory that must be shut down.”

I understand completely why Sally Shaw placed compost (which she called “good waste”) on the table behind which Entergy’s officials and the NRC sat. Anyone who doesn’t understand, and because of that, not only condemns her, but in the Legislature, might vote to poison us and keep us in constant fear for our children and grandchildren for 20 more years, was never on the side of desperate parents and grandparents anyway, and care nothing about our children.

There are times when I am so tired of feeling sad, hopeless, and cynical in the face of corporate power, that I can hardly find the right words. However, criticism of Sally’s despair and fury, which I share, made me find some.

Thank you, Sally.

JANE NEWTON
South Londonderry

(Thank YOU, Jane. You are NOT alone!)

We don’t need dirty money for our playgrounds

Vermont Yankee needs a “Certificate of Public Good” in order to get the 20-year extention to operate beyond the nuclear power plant’s scheduled closing. In a county of just over 40,000 people, there were approximately 75 who bothered to show up for the latest meeting of Vermont’s public service board to weigh in on whether Entergy Nuclear Vermont Yankee deserve the required certification.

According to the Brattleboro Reformer’s news story of May 1 (http://www.reformer.com/ci_12270340), the audience appeared evenly split on whether to grant this certificate or not. Reporter Bob Audette notes that those opposed focused on the environmental impact, the potential costs involved, and the negative impact the over-extended plant will have on the Vermont brand.

Those in favor of granting the certificate seemed to focus only on the tens of thousands of dollars that Entergy has “donated” to local non-profits, as if the local towns would suffer harshly without such charity. It seems to me that a rudimentary review of profits reaped by Entergy Nuclear versus their supposedly charitable investment in local towns would render this argument laughable in the face of the financial burden their spent fuel rods will cost to contain and secure once they have divested themselves of the no-longer-viable plant… twenty years beyond when it was scheduled to close… twenty years beyond when it was built to last.

Let us remember that we were promised a national storage facility for spent nuclear fuel rods… the Yucca Mountain fantasy that will never be. Have we considered the financial burden to the state and to the country based on the reality that the facility will never be built? Has any Vermonter looked over to Maine to review the state costs related to the decomissioning of Maine Yankee in light of the lack of federal safe-keeping of their spent fuel rods?

Fuck Entergy’s playgrounds. Who the hell wants a new playground built from the supposed charitable contributions from a corporation who maintains facilities like this?

Entergy Nuclear Vermont Yankee on August 21, 2007

Entergy Nuclear Vermont Yankee on August 21, 2007

June 18, 2004 - Fire at Vermont Yankee

June 18, 2004 - Fire at Vermont Yankee

Are your tire swings worth it? Why don’t you show the children these photos and ask them if they think it’s worth it to accept their money for playgrounds or little league? I trust that the children will know better. In fact, I already know that they do know better.

A “Certificate of Public Good”? You must be JOKING. Where is the public good in this equation? It DOES NOT EXIST.

Wake up, Vermont. These Louisiana folks are not your friends… and no amount of playground building changes the fact that they want to squeeze as much profit out of a dangerously aging nuclear power plant as they are able to, without regard for the potential short- and long-term financial burdens placed on the state and its residents.

Do not sit idle while your playgrounds are glowing. WAKE UP. Please.

Good Morning, People!

From The Burlington Free Press: http://www.burlingtonfreepress.com/article/20081125/NEWS02/81124033

Nuclear plant renewal dealt setback

By Sam Hemingway • Free Press Staff Writer • November 25, 2008

Entergy Nuclear’s hopes for renewing its Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant’s license for another 20 years were dealt a surprise setback Monday when a federal panel raised concerns about possible metal fatigue problems at the facility.

The Atomic Safety and Licensing Board, a panel that acts as the judicial arm for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, said in a 154-page decision that Entergy needs to do more tests now, not later, on metal nozzles used to supply water and maintain the temperature in the reactor core.

Entergy had proposed putting off such tests until sometime after the anticipated 2012 date for renewal of its license. One of the nozzles is critical to protecting the reactor’s core in the event of an accident.

The board said it would not issue a license renewal for Vermont’s only nuclear power plant until the panel is satisfied that the metal fatigue issue regarding the nozzles has been adequately addressed.

“The key question is as follows: Is it legally and technically permissible to issue the license now, and allow Entergy to postpone the necessary metal fatigue analyses until later? Our answer is — no,” the three-member, quasi-judicial board ruled.

“To defer determining such a significant safety issue until after the license has already been issued would impermissibly remove it from the opportunity to be reviewed in the hearing process.”

Monday’s ruling was a victory for the New England Coalition, a Brattleboro nuclear watchdog group that had brought the metal fatigue issue before the board in the face of stiff opposition from Entergy lawyers and the NRC’s staff.

“We are the first citizen organization in the country to have one of our contentions sustained by the hearing board,” said Raymond Shadis, a coalition consultant. “Vermonters ought to be extremely proud of what this little, homegrown, organization has done.”

Shadis said the board did not go far enough in examining problems at Vermont Yankee and said his group would ask the board to reconsider its decision. He said the cost of appearing before the board had nearly bankrupted his organization, however, and he called on Vermont energy regulators to help pursue issues the group has raised.

“This is their opportunity to bring in their experts or help us a little,” Shadis said. The state supported the coalition’s contentions at the board’s hearings, but only minimally participated in the proceedings.

Sarah Hofmann, director of public advocacy for the state Public Service Department said that, in light of the board’s decision, Vermont will hire xperts to monitor Entergy’s handling of the metal fatigue issue.

“We’re very excited about this ruling,” Hofmann said. “It is an historic decision to actually have an intervenor or a state to prevail at the board level.”

An Entergy spokesman said late Monday saying the company would not appeal the board’s decision and that it had begun more extensive testing of the metal nozzle components as required by the panel.

“Time is of the essence,” said Laurence Smith, Vermont Yankee communications manager. “We are not going to wait.”

Smith, in a statement, said the company expects that once the additional testing is done, it will show that the nozzles are in good shape.

“Entergy … is confident that they will show that there is significant margin in the components so that they will continue to be in service safely throughout the license renewal period,” Smith’s statement said.

The board’s decision also contained a sharply worded rebuke of the NRC. The board noted that the NRC had initially required that the nozzles undergo a full testing regimen for any aging problems, but then relented and concluded that Entergy’s plan to do the work later was legal and permissible.

“This is an example of form over substance,” the board said. “Entergy re-labeled its TLAA (time-limited aging analyses) as an AMP (aging management program) and the NRC staff now deems it compliant.”

Read the entire article: http://www.burlingtonfreepress.com/article/20081125/NEWS02/81124033

Thank you, Ray Shadis and the New England Coalition!

Just Say No to Aging Nuclear Power Plants

Boston.com posted a piece in their BUSINESS IN BRIEF section:

Ruling appealed as Pilgrim nears license extension