Tag Archives: Vermont

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

wakethehellup.wordpress.com

wakethehellup.wordpress.com

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.”

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.