From the Rutland Herald:

One of Entergy's top-ranking officials who tried to salvage Vermont Yankee's reputation in the state after a series of environmental and public relations blunders has left the company.

Curt Hebert, executive vice president of external affairs for Entergy, stepped down recently from his position with Entergy Corp. in New Orleans. He was the public face of the company for nearly a decade.

The reasons for his departure – which came one day after the Vermont Public Service Board fined Entergy for making false statements under oath – were not known Tuesday. Entergy on Tuesday would only say that Hebert was no longer an employee.

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New England Coalition
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

On June 7, 2010, New England Coalition submitted a 10 CFR 2.206 petition, asking the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to lower Vermont Yankee’s licensing basis maximum fuel rod temperature, in order to provide a necessary margin of safety—to help prevent a partial or complete meltdown—in the event of a loss-of-coolant accident (LOCA).
 
In the event of a LOCA, at Vermont Yankee, the pressurized core would partly or almost completely lose water and the temperature of the Zircaloy clad fuel rods in the core would rapidly increase.  Vermont Yankee’s emergency core cooling system is designed to prevent a meltdown if there is a LOCA, by injecting water into the core to prevent the fuel rods from overheating.
 
At Vermont Yankee’s current licensed power level, in the event of a LOCA, the predicted maximum temperature the fuel rods would reach is 1960°F (the licensing basis maximum fuel rod temperature), before being quenched by water injected into the core.
 
New England Coalition has submitted its 2.206 petition, because there is a preponderance of certified experimental data that supports the need to lower Vermont Yankee’s licensing basis maximum fuel rod temperature of 1960°F by more than one hundred degrees Fahrenheit.
 
In the event of a LOCA, if the fuel rods (in a local area) were to approach current calculated maximum fuel rod temperatures, it is probable that their Zircaloy cladding would begin to rapidly oxidize, like a fire, causing a temperature excursion—termed “runaway oxidation”—that would lead to a partial or complete meltdown.  At its current licensed power level Vermont Yankee lacks a necessary margin of safety to help prevent runaway oxidation, in the event of a LOCA.
 
NRC is presently a considering an NEC 2,206 petition regarding leaking underground piping at Vermont Yankee and the adequacy of NRC oversight at the incident-ridden plant.  In addition New England Coalition is the sole intervenor in Vermont Yankee’s license renewal application, now in its 57th month of litigation.  (more)
A complete copy of the petition (90+ pages/ 1+ Mb) may be had on request.  The following is the Petition Cover Letter, which summarizes NEC’s concerns.
 


 

R. William Borchardt

Executive Director for Operations U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission Washington D.C. 20555-0001

Subject: 10 C.F.R. § 2.206 Request to Lower the Licensing Basis Peak Cladding Temperature of Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Station (Docket-50-271) in Order to Provide a Necessary Margin of Safety—to Help Prevent a Meltdown—in the Event of a Loss-of-Coolant Accident

Dear Mr. Borchardt:

The enclosed 10 C.F.R. § 2.206 petition is submitted on behalf of New England Coalition of Brattleboro, Vermont by Mark Edward Leyse.

10 C.F.R. § 2.206(a) states that "[a]ny person may file a request to institute a proceeding pursuant to § 2.202 to modify, suspend, or revoke a license, or for any other action as may be proper."

New England Coalition requests that the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission ("NRC") order the licensee of Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Station ("VYNPS") to lower the licensing, basis peak cladding temperature ("LBPCT") of VYNPS in order to provide a necessary margin of safety—to help prevent a partial or complete meltdown— in the event of a loss-of-coolant accident ("LOCA"). Experimental data indicates that VYNPS's LBPCT of 1960°F' does not provide a necessary margin of safety—to help prevent a partial or complete meltdown—in the event of a LOCA. Such data indicates that VYNPS's LBPCT must be decreased to a temperature lower than 1832°F in order to provide a necessary margin of safety.

To uphold its congressional mandate to protect the lives, property, and environment of the people of Vermont and locations within proximity of VYNPS, the NRC must not allow VYNPS's LBPCT to remain at an elevated temperature that would not provide a necessary margin of safety, in the event of LOCA. If implemented, the enforcement action proposed in this petition would help improve public and plant worker safety.

New England Coalition respectfully submits that—although revisions to the 10 C.F.R. § 50.46(b)(1) peak cladding temperature limit criterion have been proposed in a rulemaking petition—this petition is separately and appropriately brought under 10 C.F.R. § 2.206, because the concerns brought forward are plant specific, brought by a local, affected party, and have immediate bearing on safety margins at VYNPS, currently operating at its maximum permissible extended power uprate level. Furthermore, the concerns raised

Entergy, "VYNPS 10 C.F.R. § 50.46(a)(3)(ii) Annual Report for 2009," January 14, 2010, located at: www.nrc.gov, Electronic Reading Room, ADAMS Documents, Accession Number: ML100260386, p. 2.
in the enclosed 10 C.F.R. § 2.206 petition are of an immediate nature that require prompt NRC review and action, which are available to the petitioners only through the 10 C.F.R. § 2.206 process.

New England Coalition looks forward to providing any additional information or clarification as may be required by your office or by a petition review board.

Respectfully submitted,

Mark Edward Leyse

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Three Mile Island Station, Unit 1 - NRC Evaluation of Changes, Tests, and Experiments and Permanent Modifications Team Inspection Report 05000289/2010006

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COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA
Dept. of Environmental Protection

Commonwealth News Bureau
Room 308, Main Capitol Building
Harrisburg PA., 17120
 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

06/7/2010
 

HARRISBURG -- The Department of Environmental Protection today ordered EOG Resources Inc. to suspend its natural gas well drilling activities in Pennsylvania after a June 3 blowout at one of the company’s Clearfield County wells sent natural gas and at least 35,000 gallons of drilling wastewater into the sky and over the ground for 16 hours.

DEP Secretary John Hanger said that while the order bans all drilling and hydrofracturing, or fracking, operations for specified periods of time, the suspension will remain in effect until DEP has completed a comprehensive investigation into the leak and the company has implemented any needed changes.

“DEP staff, along with an independent expert, will conduct a detailed investigation of not just the incident that occurred last week in Clearfield County, but of EOG Resources’ drilling operations, as a whole, here in Pennsylvania,” said Hanger. “The Clearfield County incident presented a serious threat to life and property. We are working with the company to review its Pennsylvania drilling operations fully from beginning to end to ensure an incident of this nature does not happen again.”

The order prohibits EOG Resources from drilling activities up to seven days; from engaging in fracking operations up to 14 days; and from completing or initiating post-fracking operations for 30 days in any wells throughout the state. These actions and operations cannot resume until the department agrees that the investigation has been fully completed.

The results of the investigation will also help determine whether DEP should take additional enforcement action against the company, such as fines or penalties.

Hanger added that EOG Resources has been fully cooperative and in agreement with the department’s ongoing investigation and order.

The leak began at approximately 8 p.m. on Thursday, June 3, when the well’s operators lost control of it while preparing to extract gas after fracking the shale. As a result, natural gas and flowback frack fluid was released uncontrollably onto the ground and 75 feet into the air. The well was capped at around noon on June 4.
The EOG well pad is located in a rural area near the Penfield/Route 153 exit of Interstate 80 in northwestern Clearfield County, near Moshannon State Forest.

The department’s Emergency Response and Oil and Gas programs responded to the incident, along with the Pennsylvania State Police, the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency, and local fire and police departments.

PEMA elevated its activation level to coordinate resources among multiple state agencies and worked with PennDOT and the Federal Aviation Administration to institute a temporary airspace restriction above the well. The restriction was lifted at approximately 1:45 p.m. on June 4.

“Fortunately, the well did not ignite and explode, and there were no injuries to the well crew or emergency responders,” said Hanger. “Our preliminary assessment is that the environmental damage was modest as the frack fluid was contained and did not appear to reach any streams, but DEP is continuing its monitoring efforts because sometimes the impacts of a spill like this are delayed. We have noted that a spring in the area has shown a spike in conductivity and that discharge is being collected by EOG for proper disposal.”

The secretary noted that the company expects to have a more accurate estimate of the amount of fracking water that was leaked after it finishes draining the pits and waterboxes it deployed to collect the fluids. As of June 7, initial estimates totaled 35,000 gallons, although more was certainly released and the company believes this accounts for a majority of the leaked water.

DEP’s preliminary investigation has determined that a blowout preventer on the well failed, but the agency does not yet know if that failure was the main cause of the incident. The blowout preventer has been secured and will be one piece of the investigation.

EOG Resources, formerly known as Enron Oil & Gas Co., operates approximately 265 active wells in Pennsylvania, 117 of which are in the Marcellus Shale formation.

For more information, visit www.depweb.state.pa.us.

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Form Common Dreams:

Much like Captain Renault in Casablanca, the White House is suddenly shocked, shocked to find that oil rigs can explode, destroying ecosystems and livelihoods. The Obama administration has backed away from its offshore oil expansion policy in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe as the long-term environmental and economical consequences unfold in the Gulf States. Headlines are clamoring for the criminal investigations of BP, TransOcean, Halliburton and ultimately, the federal regulator, Mineral Management Services (MMS). Rather paradoxically, President Obama is using the oil spill to call for more nuclear power.

Yet, with the exception of a handful of insightful political cartoonists, the obvious parallel between the regulatory delinquency of MMS and that of its nuclear equivalent - the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) - and the potential for an equally catastrophic accident in the nuclear sector, has not been drawn. As with the MMS debacle, the NRC is gambling with inevitable disaster with the same spin of the wheel of misfortune and with potentially even higher stakes.

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From the energy collective:

You don’t have to look very hard to find celebrities or companies who are actively working against the peaceful uses of nuclear energy.  There was a time in my life that going to the Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream shop was a ritual.  The company opened one of their first retail stores in a renovated gas station about a block from my apartment in Saratoga Springs, NY where I lived when I worked at Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory.   As the company grew and the profits rolled in their founders began to become politically active in Vermont.  Unfortunately they jumped on the anti-nuclear bandwagon and began to support groups like Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility who advocate shutting down the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant.  I made the decision not to buy Ben & Jerry’s ice cream because every scoop I ate was helping to fund activist efforts to shut down Vermont’s only nuclear plant.  It’s too bad Ben & Jerry’s fails to understand that without Vermont Yankee the electricity used to manufacture their ice cream would necessarily come from fossil fuels, and would contribute to air pollution and climate change.  They are probably unaware that Vermont is one of the only states to continue burning oil to generate electricity.  Their anti-nuclear campaign is in effect supporting the continued use of oil and other fossil fuels.  Fortunately for me there are plenty of ice cream alternatives!

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From the New York Times:

Over six days in May, far from the familiar choreography of Washington hearings, federal investigators grilled workers involved in the Deepwater Horizon disaster in a chilly, sterile conference room at a hotel near the airport here.

The six-member panel of Coast Guard and Minerals Management Service officials pressed for answers about what occurred on the rig on April 20 before it exploded. They wanted to know who was in charge, and heard conflicting answers.

They pushed for more insight into an argument on the rig that day between a manager for BP, the well’s owner, and one for Transocean, the rig’s owner, and asked Curt R. Kuchta, the rig’s captain, how the crew knew who was in charge.

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From The Nation:

A tour of Dimock, Pennsylvania, with Victoria Switzer is a bumpy ride over torn-up roads, around parking lots filled with heavy machinery and storage tanks, and past well pads that not long ago were forests. The winter here was quiet, but with the thawing ground came the return of the rigs, the trucks, the constant noise and lights of a twenty-four-hour-a-day gas drilling operation. "It's a modern-day Deadwood out here," Switzer says, likening the activity to the gold rush. "No rules, no regs, just rigs."

The "occupation," as she calls it, hasn't just transformed Dimock into an industrial hub; it has also damaged the local water supply and put residents' health at risk. After a stray drill bit banged four wells in 2008, Switzer says, weird things started happening to people's water: some flushed black, some orange, some turned bubbly. One well exploded, the result of methane migration, and residents say elevated metal and toluene levels have ruined twelve others. Then, in September 2009, about 8,000 gallons of hazardous drilling fluids spilled into nearby fields and creeks. The contamination and related health problems have prompted fifteen families to file suit against Cabot Oil and Gas, the primary leaseholder in the area, alleging fraud and contract violation and seeking to stop the damage from spreading.

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From the Sandusky Register:

FirstEnergy officials said Thursday that nozzle cracks discovered months ago in the reactor at Davis-Besse nuclear power plant were caused primarily by hot temperatures and weaknesses in manufactured material.

Officials from the energy giant said they've fixed the problem -- discovered during a routine shutdown this past spring -- and are ready to start producing power again.

The company's leaders met Thursday with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission at a public meeting.

NRC officials said they'll make an independent decision about whether the 1970s-era nuclear plant is ready to power up.

During the hour-long presentation, which drew 100 area residents, First Energy officials said they determined "primary water stress corrosion cracking" was the likely cause of cracking in nozzle welds in the reactor.

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COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA
Dept. of Environmental Protection

Commonwealth News Bureau
Room 308, Main Capitol Building
Harrisburg PA., 17120
 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

06/4/2010
 
EOG Resources Well Released Fracking Fluid, Natural Gas for 16 Hours

HARRISBURG -- Department of Environmental Protection Secretary John Hanger said today that his agency intends to investigate aggressively the circumstances surrounding a blowout at a Marcellus Shale natural gas well in Lawrence Township, Clearfield County, and take the appropriate enforcement action.

At approximately 8 p.m. on Thursday, June 3, the operators of the well, which is owned by EOG Resources, Inc., lost control of it while preparing to extract gas after hydrofracturing the shale. As a result, the well released natural gas and flowback frack fluid onto the ground and 75 feet into the air. The well was eventually capped around noon on June 4.

“The event at the well site could have been a catastrophic incident that endangered life and property,” said Hanger. “This was not a minor accident, but a serious incident that will be fully investigated by this agency with the appropriate and necessary actions taken quickly.

“When we arrived on scene, natural gas and frack fluid was flowing off the well pad and heading toward tributaries to Little Laurel Run and gas was shooting into the sky, creating a significant fire hazard. That’s why emergency responders acted quickly to cut off electric service to the area.

“Right now, we’re focused on limiting any further environmental damage, but once that work is complete, we plan to aggressively look at this situation and see where things went wrong and what enforcement action is necessary. If mistakes were made, we will be certain to take steps to prevent similar errors from happening again.”

DEP learned of the leak at approximately 1:30 a.m. on Friday after it was informed by the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency. DEP immediately dispatched its Emergency Response and Oil and Gas program staff to the site.

PEMA, which elevated its activation level to coordinate resources among multiple state agencies, also worked with PennDOT to initiate an airspace restriction above the well, which the Federal Aviation Administration authorized on a temporary basis earlier today. The restriction prohibits flights at and below 1,000 feet of ground level within a three nautical mile radius of the well site. The restriction is in effect until further notice.

The EOG well pad is located in a rural area near the Penfield/Route 153 exit of Interstate 80 in northwestern Clearfield County. Three other wells on the same pad that have been drilled and fractured remain plugged and are not in danger.

EOG Resources, formerly known as Enron Oil & Gas Co., operates approximately 265 active wells in Pennsylvania, 117 of which are in the Marcellus Shale formation.

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