Tag Archives: Vermont Yankee

New England Coalition petitions Vermont Supreme Court to shut Vermont Yankee down now

New England Coalition (NEC) had their argument against Vermont Yankee heard in Vermont Supreme Court today. Their petition is to have the plant shut down immediately, as it has been operating without a license since last March, which the state’s public service board has failed to come to a decision on renewing or not.

Entergy’s lawyer argued that the expired nuclear plant is still operating because of a previous Federal ruling prohibiting the state from shuttering the plant beforeexisting case in Federal court is completed.

It is unknown when the Vermont Supreme Court will rule on the matter. The hearing by the Public Service Board on Yankee’s CPG will not be heard until summer.

In the meanwhile, the leaks continue…

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NRC hearing on Vermont Yankee set for Wednesday

Officials from the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission will be on hand for a public hearing this week on the agency’s annual review of the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant.

The NRC gave the Vernon reactors good marks in a review issued in March, and now is inviting public comment at a session set for this Wednesday from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Brattleboro Union High School.

The session will feature presentations by officials from the NRC, followed by a period devoted to comments from the public.

Source: Boston.com http://bo.st/keyocd

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NRC asked to take a breather

On Friday, April 15, 2011, the good Bob Audette, staff reporter for the Brattleboro Reformer, reported that “forty-five groups and individuals either opposed to or in support of increased safety measures at nuclear power plants around the nation submitted a petition Thursday to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission asking it suspend all re-licensing activities of existing plants and all licensing activities of proposed plants.” in order to give the NRC the opportunity to determine what lessons can be learned from the nuclear disaster in Fukushima, Japan. (http://www.reformer.com/ci_17851311)

One spokesperson, attorney Diane Curran, who specializes in nuclear safety and security, has gone so far as to state that the NRC has violated the law in granting the 20-year license extension to Entergy Nuclear Vermont Yankee within days of the damage done to reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi plant after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

It seems quite reasonable that the NRC — whose role is to REGULATE nuclear power plants — would want to wait and see and carefully consider the events at Fukushima before granting a twenty year license extension to a leaking plant at the end of the lifespan it was designed for. Remember that Vermont Yankee is a boiling water reactor, the same type as the plant in Fukushima.

Japanese nuclear regulators declared this week that the severity of the disaster at Fukushima has been classified a Level 7 on the International Nuclear Event Scale, putting it on par with the 1986 accident at Chernobyl. (http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/france-wants-nato-to-fight-harder-against-gaddafis-forces/2011/04/12/AFxrFEND_story.html and http://edition.cnn.com/2011/WORLD/asiapcf/04/16/japan.nuclear.reactors/?hpt=T2)

The license extension for Vermont Yankee is one of 21 proposed nuclear reactor projects in 15 states that would be placed on hold until the post-crisis analysis can be completed. There was a year and a half hold on nuclear projects after the accident at Three Mile Island. It is good common sense to step back now and learn everything possible about the events in Japan so that we can carefully assess our risk potential in light of this new and quite tangible information.

I wish to extend my thanks to the organizations like the New England Coalition and Pilgrim Watch — and the many individuals who comprise them — for their continued efforts to enforce common sense through legal channels, especially when the regulatory body we rely on does not appear to have the best interests of the public as their foremost priority.

Now is the time for continued damage control, thorough assessment, and thoughtful conclusions so that all current and future nuclear projects can be reviewed with greater clarity and accuracy.

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NRC petitioned to do their job

Ray Shadis, technical consultant to the New England Coalition, offered the following commentary on yesterday’s article in the Brattleboro Reformer by the good Bob Audette:

“This article captures the gist of an enforcement petition meeting with the NRC’s Petition Review Board.  The PRB has agreed to recommend that NRC take up four of seven issues (regarding Entergy’s management and maintenance failures be and defects in NRC’s Reactor Oversight Process) raised by New England Coalition in its February 8th enforcement petition. The PRB recommended that three issues (regarding omissions and/or inaccuracies about aging management of buried piping  in Entergy VY’s License Renewal Application (LRA) do not meet the criteria for NRC review because these issues can be handled via the licensing hearing. This is a bit of a struggle as the hearing record has been closed for over a year and the hurdles to reopening are high and many. It is our understanding that this portion of the LRA is already under examination by NRC, but without our involvement, we fear a lack of vigor and rigor.  Paul M. Blanch of west Hartford, Connecticut was also on the PRB call and made it plain that the question was not what water quality regulations have been violated, but what regulations pertaining to management and operation. Paul reiterated NEC’s tentative conclusion, based on NEC’s site visit, that there remains inadequate assurance that Entergy has identified all leaks contributing to groundwater contamination. It should also be noted that Entergy VY lead engineer, Jim Divincentis, also attended the PRB meeting, but offered no comment on the petition or petitioners remarks when afforded the opportunity by the PRB. Likewise, NRC legal counsel refused to elaborate when asked on the PRB decision that License Renewal Application issues should be handled via the licensing hearing.”

Thursday May 6, 2010

Critic: NRC inspectors are ‘too cozy’ with Entergy

By BOB AUDETTE / Reformer Staff

BRATTLEBORO — The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has failed the public, said a pair of anti-nuclear activists during a teleconference with the NRC’s petition review board (PRB) Wednesday morning.

The review board heard arguments from Thomas Saporito, of endangeredplanetearth.blogspot.com, and Ray Shadis, of the New England Coalition on Nuclear Pollution, who have been contending that Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant in Vernon should be shut down until a number of maintenance issues are resolved, including the remediation of tritium-contaminated groundwater.

Saporito said the NRC’s resident inspectors at Vermont Yankee are “too cozy” with plant personnel and because of that, violations and unsafe conditions are not being detected in a timely manner.

He asked that the NRC’s Office of the Inspector General conduct an audit of the resident inspectors’ activities.

“The NRC’s resident inspectors are not doing their jobs to an effective level,” said Saporito, while Entergy has been violating numerous safety margins.

The NRC also failed to tell state agencies that contrary to what Yankee representatives were saying during hearings in Montpelier, the power plant has a number of underground piping systems that carry radionuclides, he said.

The OIG should conduct an additional investigation to determine if the NRC was negligent in not notifying Vermont, said Saporito.

He pointed to a number of issues that could have been prevented if the NRC had been doing its job. They include:

— Not conducting an adequate risk assessment for maintenance activities that affected the availability of the low pressure coolant injection subsystem;

— The failure of Entergy, which owns and operates Vermont Yankee, to initiate corrective actions related to the plant’s cooling towers;

— Entergy’s failure to take timely and appropriate corrective actions to address a repeat functional failure of the reactor’s high pressure coolant injection system, and;

— Entergy’s failure to initiate a condition report related to water accumulating in the turbine building supply fan housing plenum area, which led to the inoperability for four hours of one the plant’s emergency diesel generators; and its failure to perform an engineering analysis of scaffolding installed in the cooling tower meant to shore up safety-related pipe supports.

In its 2009 fourth quarter plant inspection findings, the NRC stated all of the failures were of very low safety significance and that Entergy had taken or was in the process of taking actions to address all those issues.

Saporito contended that all of Entergy’s maintenance activities related to those issues were the result of a “systemic and pervasive” failure by the licensee to properly identify and resolve the deficiencies and were contrary to NRC regulations demanding timely resolution.

Because of that, it was a failure on the part of the NRC to protect the health and safety of the general public and the environment, he said.

Shadis told the review board that the coalition had identified several examples where it believed there was not enough follow through on maintenance issues and where the reactor oversight process had “apparently failed to track maintenance and management issues from one event to the next.”

The NRC should take time to review all documents related to accidents and equipment and maintenance failures at Yankee since Entergy bought the plant in 2002, said Shadis.

Then the NRC should ask itself if it has the appropriate “questioning attitude” and ability to posit possible problems to conduct its oversight of nuclear power plants, he said.

Shadis also questioned if enough work has been done to rule out the plant’s condensate storage tank as a source of the leak of tritiated water.

“Everything we saw and heard from the company gave us no confidence that the leaks that have been found represent all the leaks,” he said.

Saporito said because the licensee had lied under oath to the state the NRC had “no reasonable assurance” Entergy was supplying it with correct information related to the leak of tritiated water.

“The NRC can’t be sure the tritium hasn’t entered the environment at some point not captured by the wells,” he said.

Shadis did admit that the levels of tritium detected in the groundwater do not exceed the NRC’s “as low as reasonable achievable” radiation standards or the Environmental Protection Agency’s drinking water limits for tritium.

“The groundwater however certainly exceeded the EPA maximum concentration limits by a factor of 100 or more,” he said.

The pair also contended that Entergy doesn’t fully understand the power plant’s design basis and that Yankee’s buried tanks and underground inspection program is inadequate.

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

Original article: http://www.reformer.com/localnews/ci_15027404

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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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Cease operating? Yeah, I think that’s a good idea.

From http://www.burlingtonfreepress.com/blog/politics/2010/03/on-tap-for-vermont-yankee.html

On tap for Vermont Yankee

Can a week go by without something happening that involves Vermont Yankee?

Not this week, at least.

Wednesday afternoon, the Public Service Board will hold a hearing on whether Entergy Nuclear Vermont Yankee should cease operating the nuclear plant until it finds and fixes the tritium leak.

The hearing will also consider whether there is cause to revoke the plant’s certificate of public good and whether the company should be penalized for the radioactive leaks.

Meanwhile, down at the plant, a “remotely operated vehicle” continues its probe of a tunnel and drainpipes that have been found to leak.

According to Monday’s dispatch from Entergy, “The inspection will allow engineers to determine the source for the small amount of leakage remaining internal to the tunnel and develop additional remediation steps that can be taken to completely eliminate the leak. As previously reported, water coming from the pipe is not reaching the environment. The water is being collected in a sump for processing through plant systems as designed.”

Does it help Yankee’s case before the board that there’s been progress in identifying the cause of the leak?

— Nancy Remsen

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Personally, I think they should just shut it the hell down.

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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Bye Bye VY!

Bye Bye Vermont Yankee

Vermont Senate Rejects Extension For Entergy Plant

By Mark Peters
Of DOW JONES NEWSWIRES

NEW YORK (Dow Jones)–The Vermont Senate overwhelmingly rejected extending the life of the state’s sole nuclear power plant, dealing a blow to Entergy Corp.’s (ETR) plan to run the reactor for an additional 20 years.

The New Orleans-based utility and power generator has been pushing to operate the reactor past March 2012, but has faced growing opposition amid concerns over the safety and operation of the plant. The vote runs counter to growing national interest in expanding nuclear generation by extending the operation of existing plants and restarting new reactor development for the first time in decades.

The state until recently had appeared split over the future of Vermont Yankee, which is scheduled to shut in March 2012. But the discovery of increased levels of tritium, a radioactive material that increases cancer risk, in test wells on the plant’s site fueled growing opposition. The safety concerns have been coupled with accusations Entergy misled state officials on the existence of underground piping potentially causing the leak.

“Don’t do business with someone you can’t trust,” said Senate President Pro Tem Peter Shumlin, speaking on the Senate floor before the vote.

Entergy said earlier Wednesday an internal investigation found employees didn’t intentionally mislead state officials, but the statements of employees “led to misunderstandings and, taken out of that context, the responses were incomplete and misleading.” The results of the review led the company to place five senior employees on administrative leave and reprimand six additional managers, including Entergy’s top official at the plant.

Vermont has the authority, rare among states, to decide on extending the operation of a nuclear power plant, which is typically left up to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Both the Vermont Senate and House of Representatives must back extending the plant’s life. The NRC also must rule on the proposed license extension, but hasn’t to date. The Vermont House hasn’t yet taken up the matter.

Entergy in a statement said efforts to win a license extension are “far from over.” The company is determined to keep working in the state legislature to make its case for the plant as a safe and reliable source of power. In the meantime, the company said it continues to focus “on winning back the confidence and trust of the citizens of Vermont.”

Read the entire article: http://online.wsj.com/article/BT-CO-20100224-717594.html


							

No Dirty Power for Jobs: VY Attempts Last Minute Bribe

Vermont Yankee makes cut rate power offer on eve of Senate vote

Hodes calls for plant shutdown until tritium leak is fixed

The Associated Press

//
MONTPELIER – The Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant is offering cut-rate power to help the state build jobs – and to try to preserve its own operations.

Plant officials on Tuesday announced the Power for Jobs package that would reserve 25 megawatts of power from the Vernon plant that would be made available for economic development projects in Vermont at 4 cents per kilowatt hour.

The offer comes a day before the Vermont Senate was due to hold a vote on whether to allow the Vernon reactor to continue operating beyond the expiration of its current license in 2012.

The aging plant has been beset with problems in recent months. Since the beginning of the year, engineers have been searching for the leak of radioactive tritium from pipes on the grounds of the plant.

Senate President Pro Tem Peter Shumlin says he expects the 25-megawatt offer from Vermont Yankee owner Entergy Corp. will have no effect on the Senate debate set for Wednesday.

Also Tuesday, New Hampshire Congressman Paul Hodes called Vermont Yankee to be shut down immediately until the tritium leak is fixed.

Hodes, a Democratic U.S. Senate candidate, said that “reckless behavior, deliberate cover-ups and unfruitful internal investigations” by plant officials have undermined the trust of New Hampshire citizens who live near the plant.

Read the entire article: http://www.reformer.com/ci_14455061

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.

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.”

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.

Entergy pushes ahead with Enexus spin-off

By Bob Audette, Brattleboro Reformer Staff

BRATTLEBORO — By the end of July, Entergy Nuclear hopes to have an answer from New York and Vermont on whether the spin-off of six nuclear reactors into a separate holding company will be allowed to go ahead.

“We continue to see value in pursuing a spin-off of Enexus, which will have our non-utility nuclear assets,” said J. Wayne Leonard, Entergy’s chief executive officer, during an earnings call on May 4.

Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant, which is owned and operated by Entergy, is one of the six reactors Entergy wants to spin off into a new company called Enexus.

Those six reactors are called “merchant plants” or “standalone assets” because they sell power to the open market.

Other reactors owned by Entergy Nuclear, and which will remain under its umbrella, produce power with a cost that is regulated by a government entity.

Entergy needs a certificate of public good from Vermont’s Public Service Board to include Vermont Yankee in the spin-off. But if the board listens to the Department of Public Service, it won’t get the certificate.

“We do not support the transaction, primarily because Entergy is investment grade and Enexus is not,” said Sarah Hofmann, public advocate for DPS. “Why would we want to go with a lesser company? We don’t believe the transaction would promote the public good.”

Read the full story >http://www.reformer.com/ci_12333053

Words of fury, despair

Vermont Yankee is old and unsafe

Vermont Yankee is old and unsafe

An editorial published on RutlandHerald.com:

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

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

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

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

Thank you, Sally.

JANE NEWTON
South Londonderry

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

We don’t need dirty money for our playgrounds

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

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

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

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

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

Entergy Nuclear Vermont Yankee on August 21, 2007

Entergy Nuclear Vermont Yankee on August 21, 2007

June 18, 2004 - Fire at Vermont Yankee

June 18, 2004 - Fire at Vermont Yankee

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

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

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

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

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.

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