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article imageNRC finds more problems at Vt. Nuke, calls for shutdown begin

By Martin Laine     Jul 4, 2010 in Environment
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has found that the Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power plant has been using the wrong kind of electrical cables in part of its operation, potentially short-circuiting and disabling the plant’s safety system.
Also this past week, the Vermont Natural Resources Council and the Conservation Law Foundation have filed testimony with the Vermont Public Service Board saying the plant has violated the state’s groundwater protection laws and should be shut down immediately. The PSB opened an investigation of the plant’s operation in March, in response to a major leak of radioactive tritium and other problems at the southeastern Vermont plant.
According to Vermont Public Radio, there are cables at the plant that are often under water, but that the cables in use are not designed for that. The fear is that they could degrade and short-circuit. As a result, 20 manholes at the plant have been drained to keep the cables above water until the situation is remedied.
“This finding is more than minor,” according to the NRC report. “If left uncorrected the performance deficiency has the potential to lead to a more significant safety concern.”
Paul Blanch, an electrical engineer with 45 years experience in the nuclear industry and now a consultant, told VPR “failure of electrical wires or cables could result in the failure of many safety systems.”
Testimony by the two organizations and their call for a shutdown came before news of this most recent problem became known. Their testimony is based on the leakage of radioactive water and the company’s response.
The plant is owned by New Orleans-based Entergy Corp. Entergy is seeking a renewal of the 37-year-old plant’s license. Since the leaks were discovered in January, along with several other problems at the plant since then, support for license renewal has eroded. Last spring, the Vermont Legislature voted against approving the renewal, though the matter could come up again in the next session.
“Entergy’s response to the leaks is too little, too late,” said Sandra Levine a CLF senor attorney, “The continued contamination of groundwater and the Connecticut River must stop. Entergy is shortchanging Vermont and leaving an expensive hazardous waste site to clean up in the future.”
The PSB has scheduled a public hearing on July 8 in Brattleboro to discuss whether the plant should be shut down, or what, if any, other measures should be taken.
More about Yankee, Nrc, Conservation law foundation
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