From the Wall Street Journal:
Concerns over the 650-megawatt Vermont Yankee plant and its operator have heightened over the past year after groundwater tests showed increased levels of tritium, which regulators say can increase the risk of cancer. Entergy has been accused of misleading the public by stating in prior years that no radioactive material was transported through underground pipes, where leaks were eventually found.
Last November, Entergy said it was considering selling the plant located near the state's southern border amid state resistance--led by Shumlin, who at the time was president of the Vermont Senate--to extending the aging reactor's operations for 20 years. The operating license expires in 2012. The announcement came days before the company reported another leak caused by a crack in a pipe that was part of a system feeding water into the reactor, causing the power plant to go offline for a few days.
"I am deeply concerned with Vermont Yankee's lack of transparency about serious problems that continue to be discovered around the plant," Shumlin said in a statement. He expressed concern over a weeks-long delay in testing samples, which showed new tritium hits.
Vermont Yankee spokesman Larry Smith said the plant is "working quickly to determine the source of the newly detected tritium," but noted the cases pose no threat to public health or safety. No traces have been found in drinking water, and the cause is being investigated.
Radiating Posters: A collection of posters from the global anti-nuclear power movement is available for pre-order.
RELEASE: Gov. Peter Shumlin calls for Vermont Yankee Reliability Oversight Committee, citing tritium leaksSubmitted by webEditor on Mon, 02/07/2011 - 16:57
MONTPELIER – Gov. Peter Shumlin, citing the on-going discovery of tritium leaks at the plant, instructed the Vermont Department of Public Service to appoint a Vermont Yankee Reliability Oversight Committee.
“I've asked the Department of Public Service to organize a Reliability Oversight Committee to provide, in these coming critical months, additional expertise on oversight of Vermont Yankee issues within the state's jurisdiction,” Gov. Shumlin said. “I am deeply concerned with Vermont Yankee’s lack of transparency about serious problems that continue to be discovered around the plant.”
Shumlin continued, “I learned two weeks ago about another well with a tritium hit, and this one is not near the plume we already knew about, but 150 feet away. Then, last Friday, I was told that yet another well had a tritium hit. Vermont Yankee had the samples pulled that showed the new tritium hits, but didn't test those samples for a few weeks because a piece of equipment was broken.”
Gov. Shumlin noted that no investigation occurred during those weeks, while tritium levels rose. Plant officials participated in hearings at the Public Service Board about the leaks the Shumlin administration learned about in January of last year, while the samples showing new tritium hits were sitting untested, unknown to anyone at the state, the Governor said.
In addition, the Governor has asked Yankee officials to disclose an investigation plan to ensure they are taking adequate steps to deal with the escalating situation.
In a related announcement, the Governor has appointed Montpelier attorney Richard Saudek and Vermont Law School professor Peter Bradford to the Texas Low-Level Radioactive Waste Compact Commission.
Saudek, who is a partner in the law firm of Cheney, Brock & Saudek, P.C., has advised legislative committees on issues involving Vermont Yankee and its owner, Entergy Corp. Saudek has also served as Chair of the Vermont Department of Public Service, and as Vermont’s first Commissioner of the Vermont Department of Public Service.
Bradford is an adjunct professor at Vermont Law School, where he teaches ‘Nuclear Power and Public Policy.’ He also teaches utility regulation, restructuring, nuclear power and energy policy. Bradford served on the Public Oversight Panel for the Comprehensive Vertical Assessment of Vermont Yankee, and has served as an expert witness on investment in new nuclear power.
Low levels of the radioactive isotope tritium have been found in two monitoring wells on the Vermont Yankee compound over the last two weeks.
Though the source of the contaminated water has not yet been identified, officials say it could be coming from a new leak, possibly from pipes buried in soil near the radioactive waste treatment building, where radioactive fluids are treated and stored. As part of the new probe, an Entergy hydrogeologist will be sharing data with experts from New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission on Feb. 10.
The two monitoring wells that have tested positive for very low concentrations of tritium (between 1,000 and 9,000 picocuries per liter, well below the EPA standard of 20,000 pc/L) are located 200 feet and 100 feet, respectively, from tritium contamination that was discovered at the nuclear power plant a little more than a year ago.
Cancelled Meeting Notice: Forthcoming Meeting with Exelon Nuclear Regarding License Amendment Request to Store Low Level Radioactive Waste Generated Off-site at Peach Bottom Atomic Power Station (TAC Nos. ME 3092 and ME3093)
ADAMS Accession No.: ML110310173 (Downlaod PDF)
From Nuclear Townhall:
The first indication that the 112th Congress will give a high priority to nuclear energy has come from the new Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton, who knocked the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in a statement for taking five years to decide on license renewals.
"Today marks an unfortunate milestone for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission as the timeline for the reactor renewal process has now doubled without explanation,” said the chairman. He noted that the renewal applications for the Pilgrim and Vermont Yankee reactors “eclips[ed] 60 months with no end in sight. “Gone are the days of reasonable expectations for a stable and predictable regulatory process," continued Upton. "This uncertainty and lack of transparency in the process is needlessly putting plants and thousands of jobs at risk.”
According to the NRC’s own website, “License renewal is expected to take about 30 months, including the time to conduct an adjudicatory hearing, if necessary, or 22 months without a hearing.”
From the Rutland Herald:
Vermont needs to launch a new study on the decommissioning of the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant because the most recent one is flawed, outdated and has a conflict of interest at its core, nuclear consultants for the Legislature told a House committee Wednesday.
The most recent study on the complicated process of decommissioning the Vernon power plant was written by a company that is owned by Entergy, which also owns Vermont Yankee, the consultants, Arnie and Maggie Gunderson, told the House Committee on Natural Resources and Energy.
“When the company that owns the reactor is also telling you how much it’s going to cost to dismantle it, there’s at least the appearance of a conflict of interest,” said Arnie Gunderson. “I would suggest more than that: There is a conflict of interest.”
The Gundersons, who own the nuclear consulting company Fairewinds Associates, said widely diverging estimates of the cost of decommissioning are the major reason that an independent contractor should perform a new study.
Those decommissioning estimates were based on studies performed by the Entergy-owned TLG Services Inc. and ranged from a low of $500 million to a high of nearly $1 billion.
Despite the Gundersons’ calls for a new study, Rep. Tony Klein, an East Montpelier Democrat who heads the House Committee on Natural Resources and Energy, said he doesn’t think there will be one.
Klein said he and other legislators already believe there is a huge gap between the $465 million in the decommissioning fund and the actual cost of dismantling the plant.
“And a new study is not going to tell us anything different than that,” Klein said.
In addition, it would be hard to find the money to pay for the study, Klein said, though he didn’t know how much a new analysis would cost. The state can’t afford it, Klein said, and Entergy — which funded past decommissioning studies — no longer has an incentive to pay.
“The only leverage we were holding over Entergy was they were hoping against hope they would be able to talk us into letting them operate,” Klein said.
Event Number: 46569
Event Date: 01/25/2011
MANUAL REACTOR SCRAM DUE TO AN UNISOLABLE EXTRACTION STEAM SYSTEM LEAK
"At 0610 EST hours on January 25, 2011, Susquehanna Steam Electric Station Unit 1 reactor was manually scrammed due to an unisolable extraction steam system leak in the 1C Feed Water Heater Bay area.
"At 0517 EST reactor operators commenced lowering reactor power from 98.4% to 65%. Attempts to isolate the source of the leakage were unsuccessful. Based on continued indications of unisolated steam leakage, operations decided to shut down the plant. The reactor operator placed the mode switch in shutdown. All control rods inserted. Reactor water level lowered to -31 inches causing Level 3 (+ 13 inches) isolation and RCIC initiation. The operations crew subsequently maintained reactor water level at the normal operating band using FW [feedwater]. No steam relief valves opened. All safety systems operated as expected. RCIC automatically initiated on a -30 inch level signal and was manually secured.
"The reactor is currently stable in Mode 3. Investigation into the cause of the extraction steam system leakage is underway.
"The NRC Resident Inspector was notified. A voluntary notification to PEMA and press release will occur."
The steam leak was isolated after the turbine was tripped. The plant is stable at normal temperature and pressure. Decay heat is being removed via the condenser steam dumps to the main condenser. The electrical lineup is in a normal configuration. Estimated time to restart is not known.
From the Scranton Times Tribune:
The Susquehanna 1 nuclear power plant was manually shut down this morning due to a steam leak, according to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
The Susquehanna 2 power plant was not affected and continues to operate normally, the NRC said.
The shutdown came at 6:10 a.m., after operators decided steam from the boiling water reactor could not be contained "without impacting other systems," the NRC said. All plant safety systems operated as expected during the shutdown, the NRC said.
An NRC inspector was sent to the scene, and PPL Corp., which operates the power plant, is investigating the cause of the leak, the NRC said. No injuries or releases of radioactivity to the environment were reported.
From the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner:
Nuclear energy isn’t a good fit for Alaska right now but could be within a decade or two. If a new generation of small, user-friendly reactors hits the market, nuclear power could actually be a viable energy source for Fairbanks, according to a report coming soon by University of Alaska researchers. But it would take even higher energy prices and years of product testing and development before the chain reaction were initiated in Alaska.
“This has possible applications in Alaska, there’s no question about that,” said Gwen Holdmann, director of the UA Alaska Center for Energy and Power in Fairbanks. “But we have some time here.”
Nuclear energy doesn’t make sense now because current gigawatt-sized reactors are too big for Alaska’s power needs. But a renewed push for nuclear power by the federal government and industry could be clearing the way for new technology. Now smaller-scale, modular reactors are approaching the permitting process that could redefine the look and usefulness of nuclear power.