News

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DPS: Yankee statements on piping are ‘flawed and indefensible'

From the Brattleboro Reformer:

In a letter to the Vermont Public Service Board, the Department of Public Service has alleged that Entergy is still not being totally forthcoming about the extent of underground and buried piping at Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant in Vernon.

A filing submitted by Entergy on Jan. 24 has not been "sufficiently responsive" to clear up "inaccurate representations" made last year to the DPS, the PSB, Nuclear Safety Associates, which conducted a reliability assessment of the plant, and the Public Oversight Panel, which was tasked with reviewing NSA's report, wrote Sarah Hofmann, DPS' director of public advocacy in the letter, which was co-signed by John Cotter, DPS' special counsel.

The Entergy filing "is based on a flawed and indefensible reading of (Act 189) and appears to be part of an effort on the part of (Entergy) to minimize the significance of the original inaccurate disclosures ..." she wrote.

The reliability assessment was mandated by Act 189, which was approved by the Vermont State Legislature.

After learning about the "inaccurate representations" made last year, the DPS demanded that Entergy supply details about all underground pipes and systems at the plant.

The problem with Entergy's response to the demand, wrote Hofmann and Cotter, is that it relied on Entergy's definition of underground pipes -- only those that are "in direct contact with soil or concrete."

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Yankee focuses on leaky pipe elbow

From the Rutland Herald:

Workers at Vermont Yankee looking for a source of a radioactive tritium leak continued to use a robot to investigate a dime-sized hole in a drainpipe in the reactor's advanced off-gas system.

Larry Smith, spokesman for Entergy Nuclear, said Monday that the hole was located in an elbow in a 1-1/2-inch pipe, and he said the company was investigating what caused the hole and whether to replace the elbow or patch it.

Smith also noted that preliminary planning was under way for groundwater and soil remediation.

The water coming from the hole is not reaching the environment, since it is in an underground pipe tunnel and the water goes into a drain, where it is eventually treated, Smith said.

Meanwhile, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission gave Entergy Nuclear a 5-1/2-month extension to finish work on required improvements to its security systems, which were supposed to be completed by March 31.

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Summary of annual review: Peach Bottom, PPL & TMI

Three Mile Island

NRC staff completed its performance review on Feb. 12, 2010, covering the fourth quarter and all of 2009. In a letter dated March 3, 2010, the NRC said Unit 1 “operated in a manner that preserved public health and safety and fully met all cornerstone objectives.”

Peach Bottom

NRC staff completed its performance review on Feb. 16, 2010, for the most recent quarter and all of 2009. In a letter dated March 3, 2010, the NRC said Units 2 and 3 “operated in a manner that preserved public health and safety and fully met all cornerstone objectives.”

The letter reviewed the confirmatory order of Dec. 1, 2009, to plant owner Exelon regarding two workers, one a licensed reactor operator who failed to report a driving under the influence arrest and the other a maintenance supervisor who provided inaccurate and incomplete information when applying for the job.  Details are mentioned in previous reports.

The letter also mentioned the previously reported $65,000 civil penalty issued on Jan. 6, 2009, relating to inattentive security officers discovered in September 2007. The NRC noted that its 2009 mid-cycle performance assessment letter indicated that extensive inspections have “adequately addressed this issue.”

Berwick

The NRC staff completed its performance review on Feb. 16, 2010, for the fourth quarter and all of 2009. In a letter dated March 3, 2010, the NRC said that Susquehanna Units 1 and 2 “operated in a manner that preserved public health and safety and fully met all cornerstone objectives.”

The letter discussed the previously reported matter when a potential chilling effect letter was issued in January 2009 over safety work environment issues.  The letter noted that plant owner PPL has taken reasonable actions to improve the safety conscious work environment (SCWE) at the site. “Specifically,” the NRC letter said, “the staff determined that you recognized the issue impacted multiple areas across the site; took appropriate and timely actions to address it; and completed a range of corrective actions which have been implemented and are judged, at this time, to have been effective in addressing the underlying issues.” The NRC said that cross cutting issues do not exist at this time.

Nonetheless, the NRC said it would continue to monitor PPL’s activities over the issue. It added that it is continuing to review some events that occurred during 2008, and PPL would be notified of the outcome in separate correspondence.

From within EDF, A Charge that the EPR Is an “Explosive Technology”

From Nuclear France:

The safe energy alliance, Sortir du Nucléaire, made public March 6, a group of confidential documents from EDF, which, the alliance states, demonstrate that the EPR (European/Evolutionary Pressurized Water Reactor) will risk exploding.  The documents were sent to the organization “very recently” by an anonymous source within EDF.  Sortir du Nucléaire has given them to a group of unnamed experts for in-depth analysis, and has posted them on its Web site, http://www.sortirdunucleaire.org,  for downloading.

The first of the EDF documents is an unsigned and undated, but documented, summary, “Une technologie explosive: the EPR.”  This document, which Sortir du Nucléaire apparently relies on for a press release states that the danger lies in the arrangement of the control rods (which allow the power of a reactor to be increased or decreased) and the operation of the reactor in a mode known as RIP (instant return in power), a type of “load following,” allowing rapid changes in power to respond to changes in the demand for electricity on the grid. At very low power, control rods may be ejected and may rupture the covering surrounding the mechanism controlling the rods, the summary says.  The rupture of the covering could let cooling water escape the reactor vessel, which would in turn allow some of the fuel rods and cladding to overheat and release extremely radioactive steam inside the confinement structure.  This, in turn, would make possible a critical excursion resulting in an explosion.

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Three Mile Island Unit 1 Back On-Line after Maintenance

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Ralph DeSantis
Three Mile Island Communications
717-948-8930

LONDONDERRY TWP. Pa. (March 5, 2010) – Three Mile Island Unit 1 (TMI-1) began producing carbon-free electricity today at 7:30 p.m ET when operators connected the plant to the regional power grid. TMI-1 generates 852 megawatts of electricity, enough power for more than 800,000 homes.

The unit was taken offline on March 4 at 3:02 a.m. ET to perform maintenance on two reactor coolant pumps and on an Isolation Phase Bus Bar in the Turbine Building. The maintenance work involved repairing small oil leaks on both pumps and electrical work on the bus bar. The work has been completed.

“We took advantage of being offline to do all the work necessary to ensure the plant is set up for a safe and reliable operating cycle,” said Bill Noll, TMI site vice president.

Exelon Corporation is one of the nation’s largest electric utilities with approximately $19 billion in annual revenues. The company has one of the industry’s largest portfolios of electricity generation capacity, with a nationwide reach and strong positions in the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic. Exelon distributes electricity to approximately 5.4 million customers in northern Illinois and southeastern Pennsylvania and natural gas to approximately 485,000 customers in the Philadelphia area. Exelon is headquartered in Chicago and trades on the NYSE under the ticker EXC.

NRC Announces Opportunity To Request Hearing On Proposal To Produce Co-60 At Hope Creek Nuclear Power Plant

From the NRC:

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission staff is seeking public comment and offering the opportunity to request a hearing regarding a request from PSEG Nuclear for a pilot program to explore the production of Cobalt-60 at the Hope Creek Generating Station, located about 18 miles south of Wilmington, Del.

If approved, the requested license amendment would give PSEG permission to generate and transfer Cobalt-60 under the NRC’s regulations for “byproduct” material. The Cobalt-60, as a radioactive material licensed by the NRC and Agreement States, is used in applications such as cancer treatment and for irradiation sterilization of foods and medical devices.

PSEG seeks permission to alter the reactor’s core by inserting up to 12 modified fuel assemblies with rods containing Cobalt-59 pellets, which would absorb neutrons during reactor operation and become Cobalt-60. PSEG’s pilot program would gather data to verify that the modified fuel assemblies perform satisfactorily in service prior to use on a production basis. PSEG has informed the NRC that if the amendment is granted, the company plans to insert the modified assemblies during Hope Creek’s planned fall 2010 refueling outage.

The NRC staff review of the amendment request will include evaluating the potential effects of the modified fuel assemblies on plant operation and accident scenarios. The amendment will only be approved if the staff concludes the modified core will continue to meet the agency’s safety requirements.

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Thomas H. Pigford, Nuclear Engineer, Is Dead at 87

From the New York Times:

Thomas H. Pigford, an independent-minded nuclear engineer who was recruited by the federal government for his advice on major nuclear accidents and nuclear waste, died Saturday at his home in Oakland, Calif.. He was 87.

His death was confirmed by the nuclear engineering department at the University of California, Berkeley, of which he was the first chairman. Dr. Pigford had been treated for Parkinson’s disease for nine years, his wife, Elizabeth Pigford, said.

In 1979 he was a member of the commission that investigated the accident at the Three Mile Island reactor, near Harrisburg, Pa. The panel found that poorly trained operators had turned off key safety systems, allowing a simple malfunction to grow into a harrowing accident that reduced the nuclear core to rubble.

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Troubles At Yankee Affecting Industry Elsewhere

From Vermont Public Radio:

(Host) The troubles at Vermont Yankee are beginning to affect the nuclear power industry elsewhere in the country.

Today, New York regulators raised concerns about Entergy's record in Vermont.

As VPR's John Dillon reports, the questions came as New York considered Entergy's plan to spin off some of its reactors into a new company.

(Dillon) Entergy faces a criminal investigation for misleading regulators about leaking underground pipes at Vermont Yankee.

The Vermont investigation came up during a hearing in Albany. Entergy owns three nuclear plants in New York that it wants to spin off - along with Vermont Yankee - into a new corporation.

New York utility commissioner Robert Curry said the company's record in Vermont raises a warning flag.

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Mississippi Attorney General follows $1.3 billion money trail from Entergy to faltering Vermont Nuclear

February 26 2010
Contact: Jan Schaefer, Public Information Officer
601/359.2002

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
JACKSON, Miss.—In the wake of the Vermont Senate’s decision on Wednesday to shut down an Entergy Corp.-owned nuclear plant, Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood is questioning the company’s recent transfer of $1.3 billion from its parent company that oversees operations in Mississippi to its troubled nuclear program.
The Vermont Senate, in an unusual move, voted 26-4 to block the license extension for the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant, citing radioactive leaks, false statements in testimony by Entergy officials and other problems.
Entergy Corp., in its 4th Quarter 2009 Earnings Report, noted that the nuclear side of the company had received $1.3 billion from the utility that provides service to Mississippi taxpayers.
“My translation of the (transfer) means that the regulated utilities like Entergy Mississippi, which are subsidiaries of Entergy Corp., put $1.3 billion less in their pockets in 2009,” General Hood stated in a letter to Vermont Attorney General William H. Sorrell. “One of my claims in Mississippi is that Entergy Corp. has wrongfully transferred money from the regulated utilities to Entergy’s Nuclear businesses and that money should be returned to Mississippi ratepayers.”
General Hood wants answers to the following questions:
1. What is the source of the $1.3 billion cash payment from Entergy Corp. and its regulated utilities such as Entergy Mississippi to its nuclear program?
2. What is the intended purpose for the 2009 infusion of $1.3 billion in cash from Entergy Corp. to its nuclear operations?
3. Does Entergy Corp. plan to use any portion of the $1.3 billion to pay for the decommissioning of its malfunctioning nuclear plants, and, if so, which ones?
“The ratepayers of Mississippi—and the rest of those inside Entergy’s service area—have a right to know where their hard-earned money is going, and what it is being used for,” General Hood said. “When our ratepayers are paying their light bills each month, they should not have to worry that their dollars are headed to Vermont to pay for a leaking nuclear reactor.”
The Vermont Yankee plant has a troubled history that led to the Vermont Senate’s vote. They include recent leaks of radioactive tritium, the collapse of a cooling tower and innaccurate testimony by the plant’s owner, Lousiana-based Entergy Corp.. Plant officials had testified under oath that there were no underground pipes at Vermont Yankee that could leak tritium, although there were.
Vermont Attorney General Sorrell is conducting a criminal investigation into the Entergy misinformation and two of the state’s leading environmental groups have asked U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to launch his own criminal investigation, saying Entergy “carelessly disregarded obligations to maintain and provide accurate information on critical power plant systems.”
Attorney General Hood said: “If this type of misinformation and these false statements can happen in Vermont, it can happen in Mississippi—and we believe it already has.”
In Mississippi, the Attorney General’s Office was forced to file a lawsuit against Entergy on behalf of the state after the company refused repeated requests to turn over documents about its business practices and show ratepayers they were not being overcharged for power. Company officials first denied that customers were being overcharged, then admitted to the practice. The lawsuit charges the company with fraud, unjust enrichment, anti-trust violations and other illegal conduct. The case is currently awaiting a ruling in federal court.

Meeting with Exelon: March 18

Subject: Forthcoming Meeting With Exelon Nuclear To Discuss The NRC Request For Additional Information Regarding Peach Bottom Atomic Power Station, Units 2 And 3 License Amendment Request To Revise The Technical Specifications For The Spent Fuel Pool K-Infinity Value

Date and Time: Thursday, March 18, 2010, 1:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m.

Location:
U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission
One White Flint North, Room 16-B4
11555 Rockville Pike
Rockville, MD 20852

Download PDF (ML100610536)

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