Tag Archives: nuclear power plant

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.”

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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.

Entergy would like you to believe this is unrelated to an aging plant

Nuclear reactor malfunctions, shuts down at Indian Point.

Breakdown is second problem in two weeks
Indian Point nuclear power plant
Times Herald-Record
Posted: May 28, 2009 – 10:39 AM

BUCHANAN – A nuclear reactor at the Indian Point power plant in Buchanan automatically shut down this morning due to a malfunction. This is the site’s third unplanned break-down in three months.

According to officials with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the problem occurred around 5:30 a.m., when “a high vibration condition was detected on a main feedwater pump” in reactor Unit 3. The malfunction triggered a “high-level alarm,” then a turbine trip, then the reactor trip, said the NRC, in a statement.

This is the second time in two months that Unit 3 has malfunctioned. Plant operators manually tripped the reactor on May 15 after a main feedwater regulating valve in a steam generator failed, resulting in rising coolant levels that could not be controlled.

Read the rest of the story: http://www.recordonline.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20090528/NEWS/90528021

Nuclear power is NOT a safe answer to America’s energy future. It is expensive, dangerous, and an immoral burden to leave on our children.

the nuclear plants are old and failing

NRC taken to task for granting exemptions to nuclear power plant safety requirements without public notice

Indian Point barriers to be subject of Federal appeals court ruling

Wednesday, May 20th 2009, 5:35 AM

http://www.nydailynews.com/ny_local/2009/05/20/2009-05-20_high_court_to_rule_on_barriers_okd_for_indian_point.html

Indian Point nuclear power plant

Indian Point nuclear power plant

A matter of 24 minutes could affect the lives of 20 million people within 30 miles of the Indian Point Nuclear Plant.

That’s the core of an argument awaiting a ruling from a federal appeals court in a case against the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for allowing lower-quality fire barriers at the Westchester County plant 24 miles outside of the city.

The case also marks the first time the NRC is challenged to grant so-called exemptions that affect public safety without alerting the public.

The court case comes on the heels of an NRC public meeting Thursday night on safety at Indian Point.

The meeting will be at 6:30 p.m. at the Doubletree Hotel, 455 South Broadway in Tarrytown, with an informational open house starting at 5:30 p.m. The NRC will address ground-water contamination, radioactive spent fuel storage and emergency planning.

Last week, State Assistant Attorney General John Sipos and Assemblyman Richard Brodsky (D-Westchester) told a three-judge panel in Manhattan Federal appeals court that the NRC’s decision drastically compromises the safety of workers at Indian Point and some 20 million others within 30 miles of the nuclear plant.

Last year, the NRC granted a request from Entergy, the plant owners, to use fire safety insulation material that resists fire for only 24 minutes – not enough time to catch and contain a fire with the current hourly inspection schedule, the plaintiffs said.

Sipos and Brodsky also argued in court there would be a danger of fires in electrical junction boxes that control safe, emergency shutdowns, if needed.

NRC attorney Robert Rader countered that NRC staff determined there was a “reasonable assurance” fire-protection measures approved by the exemptions would control any credible blaze at the plant.

Rader said the NRC analyzed the requested exemptions in depth and found them adequately protective and were assured that the “underlying purpose of the fire protection rule had been met.”

The NRC said that using lower-quality fire barriers has been allowed at many other plants in the country, and the NRC has granted similar exemptions to certain fire safety standards over the last eight years.

The dispute also involves the NRC’s rules for granting exemptions without requiring public notification or participation.

Rader said the agency’s rules for granting exemptions are spelled out in the Atomic Energy Act as part of the “comprehensive regulatory framework” and the “ongoing review of nuclear power plants located in the United States.”

Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/ny_local/2009/05/20/2009-05-20_high_court_to_rule_on_barriers_okd_for_indian_point.html#ixzz0G3Sa3JF5&B

New England Coalition for the People – vs – Entergy Nuclear

You go, Ray!

New England Coalition on Nuclear Polution

NEW ENGLAND COALITION ON NUCLEAR POLLUTION

FIGHT FOR THE CENTURY

NEC for the PEOPLE -vs – ENTERGY NUCLEAR

11 DAYS IN THE RING

STARTING ROUND: MAY 18, 2009

VENUE: VERMONT PUBLIC SERVICE BOARD HEARING ROOM- MONTPELIER

THE PRIZE: OUR HEALTH, HOMES, ENVIRONMENT, FARM PRODUCTS, TOURISM AND OUTDOOR SPORTING ACTIVITIES

RINGSIDE SEATS: WATCH THE MATCH IN PERSON OR AT WWW.NECNP.ORG

The sparring started May 18: several weeks of technical hearings (similar to a trial and courtroom) before the Vermont Public Service Board. Entergy is seeking a Certificate of Public Good to operate their reactor until 2032 – 20 years beyond it’s design life and present scheduled closure in 2012. NEC is the sole intervenor challenging Entergy on technical, environmental and safety issues. While others concern themselves only with economics, we are fighting for our (and future generations) health, homes and livelihoods. You are encouraged to show your support for NEC by attending the hearings and bear witness to this historic battle. It’s inspiring to look over a shoulder in the courtroom and see friends like you while Staff Advisor Raymond Shadis and attorney Jared Margolis representing NEC in this docket present our case against Entergy and their lawyers from a 900 attorney law firm.

At this pivotal time your financial contributions are critical to maintaining our stamina in the ring. If you have made a donation recently, Thank You! Secure donations can be made online using PayPal or a credit/dept card or by mailing a check. Thank you for your support.

The People’s Advocate for Safe Energy Since 1971

P.O. Box 545, Brattleboro, VT 05302 802.257.0336

http://www.necnp.org/

Since 1971 NEC has advocated for safe energy in New England and has provided education and resources for alternatives to nuclear power. New England Coalition is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. All contributions are tax-deductible.

NRC challenged in U.S. Court of Appeals for easing safety requirements at Indian Point

Finally! An autocratic agency with Byzantine regulations is being called to account by the State of New York and Representative Richard Brodsky.   Granting exemptions to existing licensing at the behest of Entergy without public hearings is a violation on the NRC’s charter to protect public health and safety.  The serious matter of fire safety cannot be brushed aside.   This issue strikes to the very heart of the way safety and the public’s right to know has been systematically ignored. Under any reasonable, transparent review process this would have been handled as part of an amendment licensing process and not through a obscure back door out of the public eye.”  – Marilyn Elie, Founding member of Westchester Citizens Awareness NetworkPublic Advocacy Groups and Attorney General to Argue Against Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s Unsafe Fire Safety Exemption Granted to Indian Point before the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit

On Monday, May 11 oral arguments will take place at the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit Ceremonial Court Room, 9th floor, 500Pearl St., New York City at 10:00 a.m. in a case that has been brought against the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) by several public interest groups including the Westchester Citiz en’s Awareness Network (WestCAN), the Rockland County Conservation Association, Inc. (RCCA), the Public Health and Sustainable Energy (PHASE), the Sierra Club’s Atlantic Chapter, and Assemblyman Richard Brodsky (D-Westchester), and  New York State Attorney’s General Office has filed an amicus brief.  The groups challenge the NRC’s decision to exempt Indian Point Nuclear Facility Unit 3 from fire safety regulations that reduced fire safety standards from one hour to twenty-four minutes.

Under the NRC regulations, a nuclear power facility built prior to 1979 must enclose the cable and equipment necessary for a safe shutdown by using a fire barrier with a one-hour fire rating. According to the exemption Indian Point’s fire rating has been reduced to twenty-four minutes, a 76% reduction fire safety standard.

Since 1993, the NRC has known that the fire barrier utilized at Indian Point does not meet the one-hour duration.  According to the 1993 test, the fire barrier only lasts 23.2 minutes, however the NRC took no action until 2005.  The 2005 test confirmed that the fire barrier failed to perform for one hour and exceeded temperature limits within thirteen to forty-two minutes.

In 2006, the NRC issued a letter to certain nuclear plants requesting that they propose a resolution for the problems associated with the fire barrier.  In response, the owners of Indian Point nuclear facilities, Entergy Nuclear Operations, Inc., requested an exemption from the one hour fire safety standard.    On August 16, 2008, the request was revised requesting a reduction from one hour to twenty-four minutes for certain areas.  Thirty-four days later the NRC granted the exemption.

The NRC must not prompt any exemptions to regulations which increase the likelihood of catastrophic risks.  The public has been made vulnerable by the NRC’s secretive reduction in fire safety without notice or opportunity for hearings.”  Annie Wilson for Sierra Club – Atlantic Chapter

The result of the NRC’s decision to grant the exemption from one hour to twenty-four minutes means that a single fire must be detected, fire brigade assembled and fully extinguished in less than twenty-four minutes.  Like most operating nuclear reactors, Indian Point Unit 3 contains miles of electrical cables that control and power safety systems, including valves, pumps, motors, and gauges designed to ensure the prompt shutdown of the nuclear reactor.  A fire at Indian Point that damaged those cables could disable the critical systems served by the cables preventing safe shut down and ultimately may lead to a major radiation release that could have a disastrous impact on the health and property of the people of New York.

Petitioners will argue that the NRC improperly granted the “exemption”, lacked authority to grant exemptions, failed to allow required public participation, failed to give proper notice, failed to consider relevant evidence in making its decision, and violated National Environmental Policy Act.  Petitioners will further argue that the NRC created a potentially illegal loophole by permitting mischaracterization of the request as an “exemption” rather than an amendment, thereby violating the Atomic Energy Act.

Entergy is sailing up the river in a boat loaded with non-compliance. They are supposed to protecting the public, not accommodating private industry.”  Maureen Ritter of PHASE (Public Health and Sustainable Energy)

The NRC’s decision drastically compromises the safety of the Indian Point nuclear facilities.  Upwards of twenty million people work, live, or travel within fifty miles of Indian Point.  This case marks the first time the NRC’s right to grant exemptions without notice and hearings has been challenged.

The case will be argued on Monday, May 11 before Honorable John M. Walker, Jr., Honorable Sonia Sotomayor, and Honorable John Clifford Wallace of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

Assemblyman Richard Brodsky will be arguing for the Petitioners.  Assistant Attorney General John Sipos, Esq. will be arguing on behalf of the New York State Attorney General’s Office.  A representative will be arguing on behalf of the NRC, as well as a representative from  Entergy Nuclear Operations, Inc.

Fires are recognized as one of the most significant safety hazards at nuclear power plants, they are not uncommon. The NRC’s reckless willingness to dramatically reduce the safety margins to 24 minutes is an egress abdication of is responsibility.    The regulations that were exempted are critical safety regulations related to the electrical cables and where enacted in response to the Brown’s Ferry fire.   Brown’s Ferry fire started in the insulation of electrical cable trays, it raged for nearly 7 hours, burnt and reactors were out of control for almost two days.” Michel Lee, Board member of Nuclear Information Resource Service (NIRS) and Chair on Council on Conservation & Intelligent Energy Policy (CCIP)

Massachusetts joins NY and CT in appeal of NRC ruling

State appeals NRC ruling

GateHouse News Service
PLYMOUTH — Attorney General Martha Coakley and her counterparts in New York and Connecticut are appealing a Nuclear Regulatory Commission decision that could impact the relicensing of Pilgrim Station Nuclear Power Plant.

Massachusetts, New York and Connecticut officials have filed a brief in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York challenging the NRC’s ruling that there was no “new and significant information” on the risks of severe accidents in the spent fuel pools at nuclear plants, including Pilgrim and Vermont Yankee, caused by terrorist attack, human error, equipment malfunction, or natural disaster.

In 2006, Massachusetts filed a petition claiming that new and significant information on these risks to Pilgrim and Vermont Yankee, both owned by Entergy Nuclear Operations, and should be part of the relicensing process for each nuclear power plant.

“Our appeal is intended to ensure that the NRC give due consideration, including a meaningful opportunity for public comment, on these important environmental and public safety issues,” Attorney General Coakley said in a press release.

Original article: http://www.wickedlocal.com/plymouth/news/x2133272855/State-appeals-NRC-ruling (published May 6, 2009)

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!)

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

NRC definitely having “issues” dealing with New England

Nuclear Regulatory Commission under fire over fire

Rep. Markey looking for answers from regulators on Pilgrim safety oversight


The Patriot Ledger
Posted Nov 05, 2008 @ 05:30 AM

QUINCY —

U.S. Rep. Edward Markey is using a fire last week at the Pilgrim nuclear power plant in Plymouth to turn up the heat on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Markey sent a letter to the federal agency on Friday, posing a long list of questions about the Oct. 29 fire in an outbuilding at the plant property that the plant operator says was contained to one room.

The Malden Democrat, a senior member of the House Energy and Commerce committee, has longstanding concerns about the NRC’s oversight of its fire safety rules. Markey believes that the agency isn’t doing enough to ensure that nuclear plant operators meet or exceed the agency’s fire safety standards.

“I have yet to be persuaded that the NRC is on a path to do the right thing and require the nation’s plants to be brought (into) compliance with NRC’s fire protection regulations,” Markey wrote in the letter to NRC Chairman Dale Klein. “This latest event only heightens my concern and my interest in assuring that all appropriate measures are undertaken to protect these facilities against dangerous fires.”

Diane Screnci, a spokeswoman for the nuclear agency, said the two NRC inspectors assigned to the plant are investigating the fire’s cause and reviewing plant owner Entergy Corp.’s steps to ensure such a fire doesn’t happen again. Screnci said the agency received Markey’s letter and will respond as quickly as possible to the congressman.

Read the entire story >

Inspectors got an obstructed view

NRC cites visibility for probe failure

November 18, 2008

VERNON — A special inspection team from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission failed to find five degraded support columns in the only safety-related cell in Vermont Yankee’s cooling towers because inspectors didn’t have a clear view of the interior of the cell, according to an NRC spokesman.

The columns, estimated to be 40 feet tall, were either bowed or cracked and were in the interior of the cooling towers, where inspectors’ views were obscured by louvers that cover the structural timbers but accommodate the trickling and cooling of the water.

“There was no way the special inspection team could see these with fill and louvers in place,” according to NRC spokesman Neil Sheehan.

“It’s almost better not to have a regulator, than to have a regulator that just obscures the picture,” said Raymond Shadis, senior technical advisor to the New England Coalition, a Brattleboro-based anti-nuclear group. “The work that the NRC has done is counter-productive to public safety.”

Deteriorating cooling towers produce loose debris, which falls into the cooling tower basin underneath the towers, Shadis noted. “You cannot have loose debris in the cooling tower basin without affecting safety,” he added.

Shadis said the coalition also plans to file a formal complaint with the Office of Inspector General regarding the NRC oversight. “This is a very serious matter. It has to be handled in a formal way, we want a serious response — the fact is — at every level, headquarters, at NRC Region One, at the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board, at the Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards, on very level of review, NRC has fallen on its face.”

Read the entire story >

Entergy Nuclear Vermont Yankee is counting on YOU

… to help bear the expense of cleaning things up once the plant is at last permitted to enter its delayed retirement.

TimesArgus.com reports an AP story by Dave Gram [http://www.timesargus.com/article/20081119/NEWS02/811190355/1003/NEWS02] :

Vermont Yankee decommissioning fund suffers large loss

November 19, 2008

A sign warns of radioactivity inside the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant. State officials note the fund that holds money for decommissioning the plant has taken another big hit.

A sign warns of radioactivity inside the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant. State officials note the fund that holds money for decommissioning the plant has taken another big hit.

MONTPELIER — The fund set aside to pay for dismantling the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant when it shuts down was already about $400 million short of what would be needed to do the job, according to an estimate by a subsidiary of the plant’s owner.

Then it lost nearly $76 million more amid the turmoil in the financial markets during the past 13 months, with more than $33 million of that loss coming last month, according to the state Department of Public Service.

The health of the decommissioning fund — money set aside to haul away the plant’s radioactive components when it is retired — has been a hot issue this year. Gov. Jim Douglas vetoed a bill passed by the Legislature calling on Vermont Yankee owner Entergy Nuclear to shore up the fund, amid complaints from lawmakers that

Vermonters might end up stuck with the bill

.

Read More >

Thanks, again, Bob Audette, for reporting on the safety issues at Vermont Yankee

From the good Bob Audette of the Brattleboro Reformer (http://www.reformer.com/ci_10961916):

More cracks found in VY steam dryer

Wednesday, November 12
BRATTLEBORO — Opponents of the relicensing of Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant want to know why a press release announcing the successful refueling of the reactor did not include notification that 16 additional cracks had been found in the plant’s steam dryer. In its press release Yankee stated the steam dryer had been inspected and it “remains in very good condition.”

No mention was made of the cracks, said Rob Williams, spokesman for Yankee, because they were not new and had been discovered using enhanced inspection techniques. Inspections of the steam dryer during three refueling outages were required by Vermont’s Public Service Board when it authorized the plant to increase power production by 20 percent in 2004.

“In our best engineering judgment, these cracks have been there since the early days of plant operation,” said Williams.

“Why should we trust them?” asked Ray Shadis, technical consultant to the New England Coalition on Nuclear Pollution, which raised issues with the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board about fatigue cracks in the dryer.

Shadis said Entergy, which owns and operates Vermont Yankee, has not been totally up-front about problems at the power plant, including a failure last May of a gantry crane used to move nuclear waste and the collapse of a cooling tower in August 2007.

“They would not have told us about the collapse except for the fact that the photos got out,” said Shadis. Pictures of the cooling tower collapse were forwarded to NEC by an anonymous source several days after the failure. Shadis said Entergy doesn’t do themselves any favors by not being as forthright as possible with information about the plant.

“Just tell us the way it is.”

A spokesman for the anti-nuclear Citizen Awareness Network also expressed his dismay.

“Frankly, there is no reason to trust them based on their previous behavior,” said Bob Stannard. “We have been told time and time again that things are fine there. The state was assured the cooling towers were fine just a couple of days away from having it almost collapse again.”

Earlier this year Entergy revealed changes to the cooling towers meant to prevent a collapse such as had occurred in 2007 had led to sagging in a distribution pipe’s support system. Entergy voluntarily supplied the information to the media after the problem was discovered.

The cracks identified during the most recent refueling outage and were not of the type that were of concern to NEC, said Williams.

“All were determined to be due to intergranular stress corrosion cracking.”

NEC was concerned with metal fatigue, said Shadis, which happens when metal is flexed. The steam dryer is a static device with no moving parts meant to extract water vapor from steam produced by the reactor before it is sent to the power turbine.

Intergranular stress corrosion cracks occur “due to the relief of metal stress first induced by the heat of the original weld process,” said Williams.

None of the additional cracks nor any of the previously identified cracks have grown since the last inspection, he said, nor were they related to metal fatigue.

The additional cracks weren’t included in the original press release, he said, because close to 5,000 tasks were performed during the outage — including inspections and parts replacements — making it nearly impossible to inform the public of everything that was done while the reactor was being refueled.

It’s up to the licensee to inspect the plant and up to regulators to oversee the process, he said.

“The dryer is in good condition and that’s why it passed the inspection,” he said.

Entergy is required to submit a report to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission following all outages, wrote Neil Sheehan, NRC spokesman, in an e-mail to the Reformer.

“They will need to document for us the results of their steam dryer inspections, as they have in the past,” wrote Sheehan. “(But) Entergy does not need to file a report with us on every task undertaken during the outage.”

Sheehan wrote that the NRC supplements its regular inspection program during outages because they are periods of high activity.

“That includes bringing in specialists coming in to evaluate discrete outage activities, such as the replacement of large components.”

Whether Entergy is required to submit a report to Vermont’s Department of Public Service was not known Tuesday night. DPS did not return a phone call for comment on matter.

In addition to determining the steam dryer was in good condition, Entergy inspection teams checked the reactor vessel as well as its surrounding containment structure and both were found to be in good condition, according to Williams.

Upgrades to the plant during the outage included service water valves and piping, the safety-related cooling tower cell, installation of a new main feedwater pump motor and routine refurbishment of the main turbine valves.

“Our team carefully selected the tasks to be done, planned each task and brought the plan together in a very successful outage,” stated Entergy Vermont Yankee Site Vice President Mike Colomb.

The next refueling outage is scheduled for the Spring of 2010, at which time another inspection of the steam dryer will be conducted.

Though it’s too late to bring the new cracks to the attention of the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board, which is reviewing evidence on metal fatigue cracks in the steam dryer submitted by NEC, Shadis said the organization will present the information to the Vermont Public Service Board, which is reviewing whether the plant should receive a certificate of public good to continue to operate from 2012 to 2032.

“That’s for certain,” he said.

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

[ BLOGGER’S NOTE: GO RAY! ]

The Rutland Herald also reports: Legislators want rewrite for plant radiation rules

November 14, 2008

Associated Press

MONTPELIER — Vermont lawmakers want the state Department of Health to rewrite a rule about how radiation from Vermont Yankee is measured.

And the special legislative panel wants to be sure the public has a chance to comment on it.

Opponents of the nuclear plant have said the Health Department reinterpreted a rule on how it calculates radiation releases, allowing radiation at the edge of the plant’s property to exceed state limits.

On Wednesday, a special legislative panel voted unanimously to declare that part of the rule was unclear.

Lawmakers say changes made to the rule never went through a formal rule-making process.

Health Commissioner Wendy Davis plans to review the committee’s findings.

Rutland Herald reports: New Yankee discoveries raise doubts about NRC

November 14, 2008

By Susan Smallheer Herald Staff

BRATTLEBORO — The discovery of more degraded wooden support beams in Vermont Yankee’s cooling towers — this time in the reactor’s only safety dedicated cell — raised questions Thursday about how thorough a special Nuclear Regulatory Commission inspection was this summer.

Workers at the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant had to immediately replace five deteriorated major support columns in the one safety-related cell of the reactor’s two cooling towers during the plant’s recent refueling outage, according to the NRC.

The degraded columns, which are about 40 feet tall, were discovered after Entergy Nuclear started its gradual overhaul of the two cooling towers, replacing the wood with fiberglass. The overhaul is expected to take a couple of years.

Entergy Nuclear spokesman Robert Williams said the columns were bowed and cracked. “All could have been deemed acceptable for continued service, but we conservatively chose to replace them rather than wait until the next refueling outage,” Williams wrote in an e-mail.

He noted that two 2-by-4-inch “transverse” timbers were also replaced.

The news of the compromised columns surprised the Department of Public Service, which said the safety cell of the west cooling tower had been inspected by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission this summer, after other problems developed in the east cooling tower.

“We are eager to hear the NRC’s explanation,” said Stephen Wark, spokesman for the department, noting that the NRC had sent a special team of inspectors to the Vermont reactor in July, after a large leak developed in the eastern tower because of a lack of adequate supports.

Neil Sheehan, spokesman for the NRC, declined to say exactly what was wrong with the wooden timbers, saying only they had to be replaced because of “aging.” But he said workers have been classifying all the wood in the cooling towers according to how quickly they should be replaced, giving each a grade of 1, 2 or 3. The timbers in question required immediate replacement, he said.

“Entergy replaced four or five columns as well as a number of diagonal braces. As for other timbers in the cell, they were categorized based on their condition. Some were determined to be in need of immediate replacement and they were changed out. Our senior resident inspector observed the work as timbers were being taken down and replaced,” Sheehan said.

“This will improve the structural integrity” of the cell, he said.

The cooling towers are currently not in service because of the cool weather and the cool temperature of the Connecticut River, which is used for cooling water by the reactor. Typically, the cooling towers are not in service from mid-October until mid-May.

Sheehan noted that the safety cell provided back-up cooling for the reactor in the event of a “catastrophic” event, such as the loss of cooling water from the Connecticut River.

Wark said that Uldis Vanags, the state nuclear engineer, had been informed by Entergy Nuclear about the problem, as well as the five panel members of the state’s special inspection team.

The cooling towers have become a persistent source of problems at the Vernon reactor, ever since the west cooling tower partially collapsed in spectacular fashion on Aug. 21, 2007. The plant sharply reduced power for weeks as it made emergency repairs. Problems cropped up twice this summer in the west cooling tower, also causing Entergy Nuclear to cut power production.

Contact Susan Smallheer at susan.smallheer@rutlandherald.com.

Another fire at a New England nuclear plant

As seen in the Boston Globe this morning…

A “small” fire was extinguished at Pilgrim Nuclear Station that supposedly started in a cabinet where safety equipment is calibrated. Rest assured, citizens of New England, because there were no injuries and according to the report, no radioactivity was released in the fire.

(Do you think they would tell you if it was?)

Reassuringly, the fire was classified as an “unusual event” because it took more than ten minutes to extinguish and off-site responders were needed. (Thankfully, these were members of the Plymouth Fire Department and not Chernobyl’s Liquidators.)

Hey good people of Massachusetts… WAKE THE HELL UP!

And PLEASE don’t forget that no matter who our next president will be, SAFE NUCLEAR POWER IS AN OXYMORON.

Cooling towers at Vermont Yankee continue to be uncool

State wants more tower inspections

By BOB AUDETTE, Reformer Staff

Saturday, September 20
BRATTLEBORO — Recent problems with Vermont Yankee’s cooling towers “are totally unacceptable,” stated Vermont Department of Public Service Commissioner David O’Brien, in a letter to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

“We need your help in getting to the bottom of these repeated cooling tower failures,” O’Brien wrote Friday, requesting the NRC conduct additional inspections of the system.

Recently, the NRC sent an inspection team to the nuclear power plant in Vernon to determine whether prior cooling tower problems were affecting the operation of a cooling fan cell designed to be available during an emergency.

The NRC has not yet indicated when that report will be available to the public.

“Our special inspection of the cooling tower leakage identified at Vermont Yankee in July is still open,” wrote NRC spokesman Neil Sheehan, in an e-mail to the Reformer. “We are evaluating the most recent event against what we saw during the special inspection.”

On Tuesday morning, a Yankee maintenance worker discovered a 60-gallon-per-minute leak in the pipe that feeds water to the east bank of cooling fans.

Yankee has two banks of 11 cooling fan cells each. In August 2007, one of the 11 cells in the west bank collapsed due to the failure of rotted wooden support members.

Yankee management admitted the collapse was due to shortcomings in the plant’s tower maintenance and inspection program.

During the in-house review, Yankee technicians developed a program to replace certain wooden supports with fiberglass supports.

On Wednesday, Yankee employees identified several wooden beams that required replacement ahead of the schedule created after the August 2007 collapse.

Last month, brackets used to attach the header pipe to new fiberglass supports in the east tower failed, causing a leak of about 100 gallons per minute. The leak was blamed on a faulty bracket design.

“The cooling towers have presented problems over the last two years with leaks due to faulty or degraded materials that comprise the towers,” stated DPS spokesman Stephen Wark, in an e-mail announcing the letter to the NRC. “We are asking the NRC to come back and do additional inspections to determine if this new development impacts safety or the seismically rated cells.”

If there is any “new and significant information,” that arises from this latest leak, wrote Sheehan, the NRC has the option of keeping the special inspection open to further evaluate the cooling towers.

“We’ll review (O’Brien’s) request and respond to it in a timely manner,” wrote Sheehan. “As we’ve noted in the past, our primary focus is on the safety-related cell in the west cooling tower since that could, under some very low-probability scenarios, be needed for the shutdown of the plant.”

One cooling fan cell of the west tower is specially designed to withstand natural disasters such as an earthquake or hurricane. The NRC’s special inspection team came to Vernon to evaluate the safety cell’s integrity in light of the recent problems with the cooling towers.

Entergy, which owns and operates Vermont Yankee, has applied to the NRC to extend the power plant’s operating license for another 20 years, from 2012 to 2032. The NRC has indicated it has found no significant safety or environmental reasons for not issuing the license renewal and is expected to release it final decision in November.

Vermont’s Public Service Board is conducting hearings to determine whether Yankee should receive a certificate of public good to continue operations past 2012. The PSB must decide whether keeping the plant online for another 20 years is in the best interest of Vermonters.

The state Legislature also has the power to prohibit continued operation of the plant.

To inform both the PSB and the Legislature, “a thorough, independent, and public assessment of the reliability of the systems, structures, and components of the Entergy Nuclear Vermont Yankee facility” was authorized by the state.

“Our comprehensive vertical audit inspection team will be looking at the failures from a reliability standpoint through engineering and management assessments,” wrote Wark.

A spokesman for Vermont Yankee said plant managers were working with DPS and the NRC to make sure both agencies get the information they need. The spokesman had no comment on the DPS request for additional inspections.

“The NRC will do what is appropriate,” said Larry Smith. “They’ve been fully briefed on the cooling tower issue.”

The plant was expected to be back up to 100 percent early Friday night.

Original article: http://www.reformer.com/ci_10516112

Is there any amount of radioactive material too small to pose a health risk?

Nuclear Plant Logs 3rd Radiation Leak

Published: July 20, 2007

KASHIWAZAKI, Japan, July 19 — Troubles at a Japanese nuclear power plant damaged by an earthquake on Monday continued Thursday when the plant’s operator reported that it had detected a third radiation leak.

In a statement, Tokyo Electric Power, the operator, said that it had found tiny amounts of radioactive material in an exhaust filter at the plant, which was shut down Monday during a magnitude-6.8 earthquake near this city in northwestern Japan. The material was detected Wednesday, meaning it might have leaked a day or two after the earthquake, Tokyo Electric said.

The company said the amount of radioactive material was too small to pose a health risk. Still, the discovery is sure to add to criticism of Tokyo Electric, which has repeatedly apologized for delays and mistakes in reporting the extent of damage at the plant.

The company said the force of the earthquake set off a string of accidents, including a spill of slightly radioactive water and an earlier leak of radioactive material into an exhaust filter.

DEC says Indian Point affecting aquatic life

From North County News (http://www.northcountynews.com/news/ncn_news2.asp)

By Abby Luby

Photo courtesy of the NRC

Photo courtesy of the NRC

An example of a cooling tower – this one is about 70-feet tall; a mechanical draft cooling tower at the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant.

State wants new cooling system

In a long-awaited landmark decision, New York State has formally ruled that the water cooling system at the Indian Point Nuclear Power Plants adversely affects aquatic life in the Hudson River and that the system has to be replaced.

For the last 30 years local environmental groups have been appealing to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to enforce the Clean Water Act by ordering Indian Point to replace its outdated water cooling system. Studies have shown the system has been responsible for killing about 1.2 billion fish a year. That number includes fish eggs, as well as small and large fish.

The water cooling system takes in and flushes out over 2.5 billion gallons of river water daily. Water going inside the plant absorbs the heat of the turbines that produce electricity and then the heated water returns to the river affecting aquatic life.

The DEC ruling signals the first time the state has gone on record saying Indian Point’s current cooling system kills fish. The news pleased environmental groups such as Riverkeeper, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and Scenic Hudson, who have long argued for a new water cooling system.

“We’ve won the argument that the water cooling system has adverse affects,” said Phillip Museegas of Riverkeeper. “That’s a big one for us.”

Hearings will now be held next spring to hear arguments to determine what cooling system is best for Indian Point.

Jim Steets, a spokesman for Entergy, which owns Indian Point, said the DEC decision was fair because it allows for the energy company’s input.

“The process that was laid out gives us ample opportunity to make our case about the cooling methods which will make the most sense for Indian Point,” he said.

In effect, the DEC ruling said Entergy can no longer argue that its system doesn’t impact fish, said DEC spokesperson Yancy Roy.

“The decision means that the state is recommending Indian Point use closed cycle cooling,” Roy said. “But there are other mileposts to be met.”

Now both sides can raise questions about feasibility, impacts and alternatives to closed cycle cooling.

Indian Point currently uses a water cooling system known as “once-through” cooling, a relatively inexpensive system that helps generate power efficiently. The down side of once-through cooling is that the system traps larger fish against the intake screens. The smaller fish and larvae are sucked past the screens and into the cooling system. To date, 60 nuclear power plants of the 103 in the United States use once-through cooling systems.

The environmentally friendly “closed-cycle” cooling re-circulates the water in a closed system, substantially reducing the large amount of water needed from the Hudson River. The system also cools the returning water, lessening the effects on aquatic life.

The DEC has been extending Indian Point’s Clean Water Act permit using the once-through system since 1981. At that time a deal was made with then owner Con Ed that allowed the utility to operate without installing closed cycle cooling by agreeing not to construct a pump storage facility at Storm King, on the west side of the Hudson River.

Con Ed’s permit expired in 1992 but the DEC continued to issue temporary operating permits. In 2003, the DEC granted another permit stipulating that Entergy, who purchased Indian Point in 2001, install closed cycle cooling. Entergy has been challenging that ruling for the last five years.

Taking years to get a DEC ruling on the negative impacts on aquatic life seemed to be a convoluted process compounded by the industry deregulation of the 1990s, said Warren Reiss, general counsel for Scenic Hudson.

“Privately owned utilities were fighting tooth and nail against installing closed cycle cooling,” Reiss said. “These utilities have huge resources and hire hordes of lawyers, engineers and biologists – the best money can buy. If closed cycle cooling costs them tens of millions of dollars to install, they are very happy to spend just $1 million a year on lawyers to avoid that. To date, they have been very successful.”

Entergy has maintained that a new closed cycle cooling system would mean building huge cooling towers similar to the large concrete chimneys at Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania and would be cost prohibitive.

“We’ve done a study of cost estimates and the system that would be most appropriate for Indian Point will cost about $1.5 billion,” said Steets. “The towers wouldn’t be quite as big as Three Mile Island, but they would be about 100 feet wide and 150 feet tall. That would triple the footprint of Indian Point.”

Grassroot groups working to shutter Indian Point, such as Westchester Citizens Awareness Network (WESTCAN), have said the large, expensive cooling towers proposed by Entergy are propaganda.

“They talk about the costliest and most obtrusive technology available,” said Marilyn Elie, co-founder of WESTCAN. “They say that it’s economically unfeasible when they really have no intention of using such a system. It’s a bait-and-switch tactic geared towards scaring the public.”

Don Jackson, branch chief of Region One for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), said there are many different types of cooling systems from which to choose.

“It all depends on the needs of the plant,” he said. “Engineers from Indian Point will have to make a business decision on that.”

The NRC doesn’t have an opinion on what kind of cooling system is chosen because it doesn’t usually impact the safe, day-to-day operation of the plant, Jackson added.

The Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Plant on the Connecticut River in Vermont is also owned by Entergy and employs a cooling system with banks of 20 towers that are 70-feet tall.

Steets said that millions of dollars have already been spent upgrading the cooling system at Indian Point. The upgraded system now has variable speed pumps that limit the intake of water from the river and a fishery turn-screen that intercepts fish before being brought into the plant.

“In the last 15 years, Entergy, and Con Ed have spent over $40 million upgrading the cooling system for units 1 and 2,” Steets said. “So does it really make sense to replace the cooling system that has just a marginal impact? That’s the question that needs to be resolved.”

The DEC spring hearings will resemble a trial setting and will be open to the public.

“We are cautiously optimistic that this will result in a final decision requiring Indian Point to implement closed cycle cooling,” said Reiss.