Aging plant springs radioactive leak


NRC details latest nuclear plant leak

Rutland Herald

April 3, 2009


BRATTLEBORO – The latest radioactive leak at the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant is in a threaded plug on the bottom of a demineralizer tank that is part of the reactor's water cleanup system, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission said Thursday.

The tank contains filter material and is used to clean and purify reactor coolant water that circulates through the reactor, said Neil Sheehan, spokesman for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The filter also removes radioactivity.

"The leak is small and unrelated to the leak involving the valve," Sheehan said, referring to the December leak, which was only contained last week.

That leak, plus another leak discovered in early January, are the result of extreme aging at the plant, said Raymond Shadis, senior technical adviser for the New England Coalition, an anti-nuclear watchdog group. Vermont Yankee started operating in 1972, and Entergy Nuclear wants to keep it running until 2032.

Sheehan said Entergy had taken the tank out of service to drain it and repair the leak.

He said once the tank is drained, the threaded plug will be removed, cleaned and reinstalled, and then the threaded connection would be welded and the tank returned to service.

He said the work to repair the leaking tank would take one to two days.

Sheehan said the NRC resident inspectors at Vermont Yankee were monitoring the repair efforts, and were reviewing the causes and evaluations of both leaks.

"Small leaks in nonsafety-related systems are not unusual and have a variety of causes," he said. He said the leaks were monitored and repaired according to their safety significance.