Tag Archives: nuclear safety

New England Coalition urges in-depth review of Vermont Yankee

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

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

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

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

About the New England Coalition

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

wakethehellup.wordpress.com

wakethehellup.wordpress.com

Advertisements

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.

30 Years Later, Three Mile Island’s Alarms Are Heard

Three Mile Island radiation leak investigated

Three Mile Island nuclear plant, seen in March 1979, was the site of the worst U.S. nuclear accident.

(CNN) — Authorities at Pennsylvania’s Three Mile Island nuclear plant were investigating what caused a weekend radiation leak that resulted in 150 workers being sent home, officials said Sunday.

An airborne radiological contamination alarm sounded about 4 p.m. Saturday in the Unit 1 containment building, according to a statement from Exelon Nuclear, which operates the Three Mile Island plant near Middletown, Pennsylvania. The unit had been shut down since October 26 for refueling, maintenance and steam generator replacement, the company said.

“A monitor at the temporary opening cut into the containment building wall to allow the new steam generators to be moved inside showed a slight increase in a reading and then returned to normal,” the company said. “Two other monitors displayed normal readings.”

Three Mile Island was the scene of the worst U.S. nuclear accident, a partial meltdown in 1979 that resulted in the plant’s second reactor being shut down permanently.

Read the entire article >

Nuclear Power Is Not The Answer

Nuclear Power Is Not The Answer

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 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)

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! ]