Tag Archives: Entergy

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.


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.

Vermont Yankee Entergy: wading in the shallow end of safety

This may be a sign of just how responsibly and seriously Entergy intends to take safety concerns while the plant prepares for what the NRC calls SAFSTOR (SAFe STORage)for up to 60 years.

From VtDigger.com: The Intex “Easy Set” swimming pool retails for anywhere from $35 to $500 depending on its dimensions and it’s billed as one of “the easiest family and friend-sized pools to set up in the world.”

But in Vernon, the Easy Set is serving a much different purpose than the one advertised on the manufacturer’s colorful website: It’s being used to help manage a complex groundwater-intrusion problem at Vermont Yankee.

That news about Vermont Yankee will likely not surprise anyone who remembers how Entergy let the operating boiling water reactor’s wooden cooling tower deteriorate so badly that that by 2007 it collapsed into a pile of timber leaking water.vermontcoolingtower

Well give them credit; rushing out to Home Depot to buy a bunch of cheap plastic swimming pools for this is better than just mops and buckets.  However they might want to use the term SOTASAFSTOR (SOrT Aa SAFe STORage) to be more accurate about Vermont Yankee’s condition.

The NRC reports the kiddie pools are located in the lower level of the turbine building and are “[…] placed such that any leakage would drain into the plant’s radioactive waste treatment system,” And no need to worry: the low level radioactive kiddie pools are only temporary  until the technicians come up with a better plan.

No worriesEntergy Vermont Yankee spokesman Marty Cohn echoed that, saying “there is no health or safety impact to the public or employees from this issue.” The swimming pools are a temporary measure, he added.

“The integrity of the pools was found to be adequate and the water found to be acceptable for those types of pools,” Cohn said. “Drains near these pools lead to sump pumps, which in turn lead to a waste-processing system.”VYkidpool

And while they mop up the contaminated water, Entergy and the plant’s surrounding town are “condensing” their emergency plan capacity. Beginning in April the emergency zone shrinks to the nuclear power plant site’s boundary, and one person on site is trained to extinguish basic fires and act as liaison to local agencies

Only a “catastrophic” event — like if all the water is released from the cooling pools and the fuel then reheats — would require a response from outside towns. And even then, according to plant owner Entergy, an emergency would unfold slowly.

“We’d have anywhere from 10 hours to 10 days to react,” said Brattleboro Fire Chief Mike Bucossi, “and reverse the process of those fuel rods.”

Yes VY, fill up the pools! Even in a catastrophe — according to Entergy — there is “anywhere from 10 hours to 10 days to react” — time enough to wade in the shallow end.

Shaking Entergy’s Piggy Bank

Does anyone other than me find it a little disconcerting that Entergy has managed to spend-down fully 10% of its decommissioning fund for Vermont Yankee in 2015 alone?

I don’t know about you, but I would very much like Vermont Auditor Doug Hoffer to take a look at how the decommissioning fund is being managed. He’s done a masterful job of casting a dispassionate eye over the efficiency of many government agencies, so I think he has more than demonstrated his mastery of such matters.

So far, Vermonters have nothing to rely upon other than Entergy’s own say-so that growing the decommissioning fund is right on track.

I know that we don’t get to say thing-one about matters of safety…like, for instance the plan to keep thousands of spent fuel rods on site in unconcealed casks, easily visible to nefarious fly-overs; or the fact that emergency planning is about to go away.

But, as the decommissioning fund arguably belongs to Vermont as much as to Entergy,
it seems entirely appropriate to ask that our auditor take a gander at the books.

(I write this as me, myself and I. Although I am pleased to be associated with Fairewinds Energy Education in a purely non-technical capacity, this diary was written with no input from Fairewinds.)

Tired of troublesome facts? Blame the messenger.

For anyone who has been following Arnie Gunderson on Fairewinds’ videos since the Fukushima meltdowns it may be no surprise that they are attracting considerable attention. Not surprisingly the videos, produced on a shoestring, are straight forward and informative.

Pro nuclear power blogger Rod Adams has noticed too, and this isn’t the first time. Last March, Adams was taken to task by the Brattleboro Reformer for an unsuccessful effort to smear Gundersen’s reputation. He penned a letter to the editor attempting to blunt Gundersen’s critique of Vermont Yankee by attacking his reputation. The Reformer called out his methods in an editorial titled: If you can’t refute the message then try to discredit the messenger.

It’s archived unfortunately, but in it the Reformer noted the ongoing efforts at personal destruction:

That’s the tactic several Vermont Yankee advocates have taken to impugn the character and devalue the experience of Arnie Gundersen, a nuclear safety advocate who has been highly critical of the operation of the nuclear power plant in Vernon.

The writer [Rod Adams] of Atomic Insights (atomicinsights.blogspot.com) accused Gundersen of inflating his resume…,

Gundersen, a former nuclear industry senior vice president, was once praised by the Chairman of the NRC for his congressional testimony about problems in the nuclear industry to the Committee on Governmental Affairs in 1993. Former NRC Chairman Selin said “Everything Mr. Gundersen said was absolutely right; he performed quite a service….”

Fast forward to the latest effort (here) where Adams pulls no punches and accuses Gundersen (not TEPCO) of causing fear, uncertainty and doubt. He confesses to being tired due to the effort required to respond and debunk what he says are false claims. Yet Adams marshals enough strength to author a long attack piece and at the close flatly explains he believes it is simply more effective to attack the messenger rather than argue the facts. His confessed tactic in simple and straight forward terms:

Several people have challenged me with regard to my efforts to expose Gundersen as having strong personal and financial motives to attack his former industry. [Note: Adams has had a business relationship with the French nuclear firm Areva currently contracted by TEPCO and is marketing small nuclear reactors] They do not like my efforts to show that he has not been completely forthcoming about his experience. They have told me that it is not fair to focus on the messenger; they say I should focus on countering his assertions instead.

My response is to remind people that it is often far more effective to aim at the archer than to aim at the arrows. (Of course, I am speaking figuratively here. My weapon is my keyboard.)

The Energy Collective blog is an energy industry (Siemens AG) sponsored site with a variety of bloggers that offers interesting information on all forms of power sources in that context. It is significant that Adams is readily taken to task in the comment section by a fellow Energy Collective diarist for his tone and destructive methods on what should be his home turf.

This [Adams’ diary] post doesn’t create the context that correctly illustrates the news reporting climate that’s shrouded Fukushima, in your article debunking Arnie. That includes those we would expect to hear from which includes TEPCO, the Japanese government and the IAEA. Gundersen has also been completely correct in many of his assertions from day one, but you haven’t pointed that out.