Nuke security report: “opportunities exist for program improvement”


Vermont Yankee is in the decommissioning process; its owner Entergy has plans to sell the out-of-operation plant to an industrial demolition company, NorthStar Group Services Inc. However, VY may not be ready to cool down as an issue yet: Vermont’s attorney general is asking to intervene in the state Public Service Board’s review of the sale of the closed Vermont Yankee power plant, saying significant environmental and financial issues are at stake.

It seems Vermont AG Donovan wants to keep a sharp eye on good old Vermont Yankee. Considering Entergy’s past, spotty record on safety (or lack of it) – underground leaks, fire and a spectacular cooling tower collapse – and security (or lack of it, as in sub-contracted Wackenhut Security guards sleeping on the job) this is probably a good idea.

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Almost a year ago Entergy significantly scaled back its emergency notification and management protocols. And security concerns may also be an issue to watch as spent  nuclear fuel will remain onsite for some time to come. This February the NRC signed off on Entergy’s security changes for the now out-of-operation plant. Specifics regarding the changes are not public,as a precaution, but it is likely they involve lowering certain requirements.

One thing the NRC and certainly Entergy didn’t mention in public was that it was  auditing security rules for nuclear plants going through decommissioning. The NRC Office of Inspector General’s report, now available, recommends: [the NRC] clarify which fitness-for-duty elements licensees must implement to meet the requirements of the insider mitigation program; and to establish requirements for a fatigue management program. [PDF here]

Threats from “insiders” are defined by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) as individuals with authorized access to nuclear facilities or nuclear material who could attempt unauthorized removal or sabotage, or who could aid an external adversary to do so. 

In language laughably similar to the NRC’s well worn classic: “there was no apparent danger to the public” line, the OIG report notes that although security is now adequate, “opportunities exist for program improvement.”

It appears Vermont AG T.J. Donovan is correct in operating on the assumption that Entergy is still Entergy and the NRC is still the NRC: ineffectual and always willing to protect the bottom line over the health and safety of host communities. Kind of ironic that while the US Border Patrol has been unleashed on innocent Canadian shoppers hoping to visit Vermont, someone should be doing a better, sharper, more aggressive job guarding spent nuclear fuel just a few hundred miles south.

3 thoughts on “Nuke security report: “opportunities exist for program improvement”

  1. Still more worrisome at the dawn of Trump World. Consider the fact that financing a border wall that Mexico was supposed to pay for will now be done at the expense of TSA and Coast Guard funding. ‘Wonder what other national security agencies will also see significant de funding.

  2. It is always helpful to most citizens to stop and ask “What is the worst thing that could happen now?” Plant designers and operators do this, and the NRC regulations are based on this information.
    When VY, a boiling (light) water reactor was operating, worst case was a long loss of cooling-many hours. The result would have been like Fukushima, but that was not likely at Vernon, because the accident in Japan was caused by the Tsunami wave that wiped out the electrical equipment in the BASEMENT. At VY the electrical equipment is on the first floor which is elevated above grade, which is the 500 year flood, as I recall.
    When the plant shuts down, and no more radioactive products are being created, the radiation and hence the heat from it continuously decrease. Fuel in dry casks is not creating enough heat to damage the used fuel, and the amount of radioactivity that could be released from the insides of the reactor vessel, pipes and etc. is small enough so that the Emergency Planning Zone has shrunk to the fence line.
    Sabotaging the dry casks wouldn’t release enough to be of harm outside the fence, so who would bother?

    1. Exactly right,“What is the worst that could happen?”
      That must have been what the NRC considered when they determined there was room for improvement in fitness for the plants going through the decommissioning process in two areas-their for-duty elements requirements and some aspects of the of the insider mitigation program.
      And probably the same question T.J. Donovan understandably wants to ask Entergy and NorthStar on behalf of Vermonters.

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