Tag Archives: Vermont Yankee decommissioning

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.

Entergy Vermont Yankee takes a leak into the future

The Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant is shutdown, no longer generating power and starting the decommissioning process. And Entergy VY is still struggling with a persistent ground water intrusion problem (think very leaky basement) in and through the nuclear reactor turbine building.curleyleaks

Back when the plant was operating, there was, it seemed, always a steady drip, drip, drip of news coming out of the troubled plant — a high temperature electrical fire here, a decayed cooling tower collapse there, and forty mysterious underground pipes “discovered” as  the source of radioactive tritiated water leaks — just to name a few of the ‘highlights.’ So the current radioactive water intrusion is only the latest in a long history of mishaps.

Happily Vtdigger.com reports VY officials think they have gotten a handle on the rising tides: “Vermont Yankee administrators say they’re getting a stubborn groundwater intrusion problem under control and are no longer pursuing a proposal to discharge radioactive water into the Connecticut River.”

Early this spring Entergy bought homeowner-grade kiddie pools (the NRC actually approved their use for this purpose) to hold the overflow. The pools were then abandoned in favor of more durable rubber storage bladders; gallons of contaminated water were shipped out by tanker truck, an expensive task. And now reports suggest the company will no longer pursue state permission to dump its tainted water into the Connecticut River.

The aggressive flow of water, at its height in February, was as much as 3,000 gallons a day. Yet  officials maintain: “Simply sealing “a number of cracks” in the turbine building has helped.”

And the Entergy VY spokesflack brags: “We had a plan, we implemented the plan, and the plan worked.”FreeVYpoolz

Aw come on, “We had a plan!”  Bah! I think they are winging it –right from the time they rushed out to buy their first kiddie pool to capture overflows of radio-active water.

And now, what VY fails to mention and the reporter at Vtdigger.com definitely should have noted is that Vermont and most of the Northeast are in the midst of record-breaking drought!   Vermont has seen record low rainfall, with the drought  even more severe in Southern New Hampshire and Western Massachusetts.

Ground water levels are low throughout the region — therefore groundwater intrusion at VY’s turbine building would be record low. No water = no leaks!

But Entergy is decommissioning and headed out VY’s back door, pausing just long enough to patch a few cracks in the ‘basement,’ bless Mother Nature for the lack of rain, and cross their corporate fingers. I wonder if part of their plan includes setting up the kiddie pools again next spring?