Tag Archives: tritium

Tririum continues move towards Connecticut River

NRC Answers Vermont Yankee Questions

Information Session Held To Discuss Tritium Leak

POSTED: 5:52 pm EDT April 19, 2010

BRATTLEBORO, Vt. — Officials with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission answered questions from the public on Monday about the leak of a radioactive substance from the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant.

NRC Information Session, April 2010Experts on nuclear power fielded questions about tests earlier this year that showed that groundwater near the plant was contaminated with tritium.

At Brattleboro Union High School, poster boards showed a map of the plant where wells were set up to test water for radioactivity. Another explained how much radiation the average person absorbs every year.

Another diagram illustrated what went wrong to trigger the tritium leak.”Well, this is a more general diagram of a nuclear power plant, and it shows the nuclear plant and it shows a damaged pipe and how that would create a tritium plume,” said Diane Screnci of the NRC.

There were many distractions at the from activists abruptly setting up recording equipment, to people in the back that yelled to shut down Vermont Yankee, but nothing could distract from one of the most important statements from regulators.

“There is a presumption — and we all agree to it — that the groundwater from the source of the contamination is now, has been and will continue as a continuation takes place (and) move toward the Connecticut River,” NRC representative John White said.

Regulators said they assume small amounts of the radioactive isotope will probably flow into the state’s largest river. There seemed to be significant fear, at least among the people who spoke, that the radioactive tritium in the water could cause health problems or contaminate farms south of the power plant that depend on the river for irrigation.Nuclear regulators were calm and collected when they told the group that radioactive tritium from Vermont Yankee is probably going to wash into the Connecticut River — even if it’s in small amounts.

Read the entire article: http://www.wmur.com/news/23199944/detail.html

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Tritium could affect VY cleanup costs

From the good Bob Audette of the Brattleboro Reformer:

Monday March 15, 2010

BRATTLEBORO — The possible remediation costs of contaminated groundwater at Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant in Vernon due to a leak of tritiated water is dependent on a number of conditions, said a spokesman for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

The tritium decay rate is just one of those factors, said Neil Sheehan. Tritium has a half-life of 12.3 years, which means it will have lost half of its radioactivity during that period of time.

Other factors include groundwater flows, whether pumping contaminated water out of the ground could actually spread the plume and calculations used to determine the maximum amount of radioactive exposure that members of the public could experience as a result of the contamination.

“Entergy is still developing that information,” said Sheehan, adding the NRC will review any and all remediation plans once they are completed.

Entergy, which owns and operates the power plant, has indicated it plans to place Yankee into SAFSTOR for several decades following shutdown, whenever that occurs, he said.

SAFSTOR is an NRC-approved method of mothballing a plant until much of the radioactive contamination at a plant has decayed and to allow a decommissioning fund to grow to the level sufficient to pay for cleanup.

Entergy has applied to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to extend the operating license of Yankee for another 20 years, from 2012 to 2032.

In 2008, Entergy told the NRC

that it has estimated there is 135,000 cubic feet of contaminated soil that would have to be removed at Vermont Yankee during decommissioning, with an estimated cost of $76 per cubic foot.

The total cost for that remediation would be $10,260,000, in 2008 dollars.

The 2008 report did not specify where the contamination came from, said Sheehan.

“The cost reported for soil remediation is based upon a preliminary assessment of the potential for contamination in the soil around the plant, based upon historical evidence,” stated the report. “A detailed site characterization was not performed. This allowance will be confirmed and/or modified based upon more detailed analyses to be performed in conjunction with the formulation of a license termination plan.”

How the tritium leak might affect cleanup costs is not known at this point, said Sheehan.

Read the entire article: http://www.reformer.com/localnews/ci_14677980

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Shadis tells it like it is: Entergy, NRC failures

NEC: Leak means other problems

From the Brattleboro Reformer:

By BOB AUDETTE

Thursday March 4, 2010

BRATTLEBORO — The discovery of a leak of tritiated water at Vermont Yankee is just one more sign that Entergy has mismanaged the nuclear power plant in Vernon, said Ray Shadis, technical consultant for the New England Coalition on Nuclear Pollution.

NEC is asking the NRC to force Yankee to cease operations until the source of the leak is found. On Wednesday, Shadis spoke before the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s Petition Review Board to explain in more detail the coalition’s request.

“It’s our view that the tritium leak is indicative of deeper issues at the plant,” he said. “During the tenure of Entergy Corporation at Vermont Yankee, there have been several high-profile events.”

Those included a transformer fire in 2004 and a cooling tower fan cell collapse in 2007.

The reason those incidents happened, said Shadis, is because Entergy has been deferring important maintenance tasks and has not been applying lessons learned from other power plant operators.

In the case of the transformer fire, he said, “The warning had been out there about the degradation of that particular item for 10 or 12 years prior, but Entergy … decided to ignore it,” despite the increased demand of a power uprate granted in 2003.

And Entergy could have prevented the cooling tower collapse if it had learned the lessons of similar incidents at other electricity generating facilities, said Shadis.

Entergy has applied to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to extend the operating license of Yankee for another 20 years, from 2012 to 2032. As part of its license renewal application, Entergy must detail its plan for how it intends to maintain the power plant’s systems, structures and components, including its pipes.

“The leak is proof positive that the aging management program that Entergy is proposing will not be adequate to protect against further leaks, primarily because the … program depends on a 10-year interval of surveillance and such opportunistic inspections that may occur when excavating for other purposes,” said Shadis.

Shadis was also concerned that there have been “failures of communication” between departments at Yankee. One reason for that is because each department has its own quality control team rather than one quality control department for the whole operation, he said.

Instituting that change “was a mistake, demonstrated by the many failures in quality control,” said Shadis.

Following 900 hours of inspections performed by an NRC engineering team in 2004, he said, 14 items of concern were identified.

“More than half of those items related directly to poor quality control,” said Shadis.

And now, he said, poor work practices might be the root cause for the leak of tritiated water.

The NRC issued a “demand for information” last week to review operations at the plant over the past five years. The NRC also wants to know how recent suspensions and reprimands may affect operations at the plant and whether testimony submitted by the five suspended employees in Yankee’s license renewal application is correct.

The coalition is also concerned about what effect the remediation on the contamination might have on decommissioning costs, especially, said Shadis, “When the licensee is only marginally able to meet NRC requirements in terms of the accumulation decommissioning funds.”

To prevent further contamination of the groundwater, which could drive up clean-up costs at the plant, the plant should be placed into cold shutdown and all systems be depressurized until the source of the leak is found, he said.

“They are adding to the (cost) every single minute that the leak continues,” said Shadis.

Paul Blanch, a former nuclear engineer and whistleblower who revealed major safety lapses at Connecticut’s Millstone plant in the late 1980s and early 1990s, said that Entergy’s rationale for keeping Yankee running while it looks for the leak is simply an excuse “to get to the finish line.”

Yankee will shut down this spring for its 18-month refueling outage and is on track to set a record run.

“The claim that we need to continue operating to identify the leak has no engineering basis whatsoever … it is an exaggeration,” said Blanch. “If the plant were shut down, the leak may or may not stop but the leak rate would be significantly reduced.”

Leak testing can be done after shutdown by pressurizing different systems of the plant, he said.

Shadis did not restrict his criticism to Entergy’s management of the plant. He was also critical of the NRC’s reactor oversight process, which he said has not been adequately addressing negative trends at nuclear power plants.

If the process was operating properly, he said, the NRC would have seen that Entergy’s maintenance has not been up to snuff, that its quality controls have repeatedly failed and communications between departments have not been all they could be.

The end result is structural, mechanical and human performance failures, said Shadis.

“Even supplemental inspections have failed to pick up on the full extent of operational and maintenance failures at Yankee,” he said.

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Enough cover-ups: Shut Vermont Yankee Down Now

NRC: Tritium Leaked From Vt. Yankee In 2005

NH Lawmakers Call For Federal Investigation

POSTED: 11:34 pm EST February 22, 2010
UPDATED: 12:00 am EST February 23, 2010

CONCORD, N.H. — New Hampshire lawmakers are calling for a federal investigation after the Nuclear Regulatory Commission confirmed Monday a leak of the radioactive substance tritium that took place years before the leak currently under investigation at the Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Plant.Last week, a whistleblower brought a 2005 tritium leak to the attention of investigators, and now, the NRC said it happened and it’s under investigation along with another tritium leak reported in the recent months.

Read the entire article at http://www.wmur.com/news/22640191/detail.html

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

So, where are we now, my friends?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And so now we come to the week ahead.

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

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

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

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

Shut Vermont Yankee Down NOW

Why didn’t you know about the tritium leak at Vermont Yankee? What was more important than learning that the old nuke plant up the road was leaking radioactive materials into your soil and ground water? WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?

WAKE THE HELL UP, DAMN IT!

I don’t care what your position is on nuclear or any other form of energy right now. While I encourage you to speak your mind and debate until you’re blue in the face, you have to stop screwing around. Believe me, we ain’t got all day.

Vermont Yankee is one of several nuclear plants built in the late 60’s and early 70’s that are now reaching the age of retirement, or so they were designed and built for.

Meanwhile, there are folks in Louisiana, amongst other places, who intend to squeeze ever possible cent out of their questionable recent investments at whatever level of increased risk exposure they can put on us that they can get away with.

And what are we doing? Pissing and moaning about the estimated 600 jobs of individuals who accepted their offer of employment with the full knowledge that the plant was slated to close in 2012. THAT IS THE LIFESPAN IT WAS DESIGNED TO SUSTAIN.

Fires, cooling tower collapses, emergency shut-downs and now toxic leaks, for which they have yet to locate the source of, and after reassuring  us just last year that there were no underground pipes moving radioactive anything, anywhere… honest, there’s not.

And we read the headlines that they didn’t intend to mislead us… Whoops! It must have just been a happy accident, then. Because every day that we are not working towards locating and acquiring the power we will need to replace once the old girl has been put to bed is extending the life support of a dying cause. At what cost? To whom?

The fact that there is even a debate about whether we grant to them (the now-even-more-powerful CORPORATION) the right to expose every one of us to the ever increasing risks for another twenty years is baffling to me. There is simply NO logic in the arguments to extend the license. It’s just not worth the risk. I can prove that from a financial perspective, an environmental perspective, an historical perspective, and probably a few others.

I have not found one argument or line of reasoning that comes close to offsetting the foolish and potentially catastrophic risk of choking another two decades from a power source that was only deemed to be “clean, safe and reliable” for another two years. And from the increasing evidence, it is only a fool that shields his eyes from the threats standing right before him. (Yes, that’s the one… that rabid one… who is currently foaming at the mouth.)

What can you do? I have an idea. You can help pay for the lawyers who are calling Entergy’s bluff. Last week, the New England Coalition on Nuclear Pollution (www.necnp.org) filed an Enforcement Petition  and Request for Expedited Action to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission “to address conditions trending to degradation of public safety margin at Vermont Yankee Power Station”. This is but one of several legal actions the New England Coalition has initiated for the benefit of all of us to prevent exposure to further risk from this aging plant.

What is the fair value of your grandchildren’s right to live on clean land in southern Vermont? What is the value of your clean drinking water? Do what you can, and do it now. Seriously, there is NO TIME TO LOSE.