Tag Archives: radioactivity

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

So, where are we now, my friends?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And so now we come to the week ahead.

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

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

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

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

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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.

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.

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.

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.