Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Investigation into Tritium Contamination at Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Station

From the Vermont Department of Health:

Since Jan. 7, the Vermont Department of Health has stepped up its environmental surveillance of Vermont Yankee by testing water samples taken from drinking water wells and ground water monitoring wells on site at the plant, and in the surrounding area. Water is now being sampled at least weekly for independent testing by our public health laboratory. Other samples, such as soil, milk, river sediment, and vegetation (when available), are being taken for testing as needed.

The Department of Health is using gamma spectroscopy analysis to determine if other radioisotopes, in addition to tritium, are present in samples collected from and around Vermont Yankee site.

These independent test results to date for tritium and gamma spectroscopy are available here:

Health Department Laboratory Test Results (xls)

Tritium reaches Connecticut River

From the Republican:

Radioactive tritium that is leaking from the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant in Vernon is now believed to have reached the Connecticut River, and calls are growing for the plant to be closed down while the leak is located and repaired.

The owner of the 38-year-old plant, Louisiana-based Entergy Corp., is seeking to extend the plant's license 20 years beyond the scheduled 2012 expiration. However, in November, radioactive contamination was first detected in monitoring wells on the property, suspected of being from leaks in underground piping at the plant, which is by located alongside the Connecticut River.

Since then, the levels of contamination found in some wells has risen dramatically. The federal safety standard for tritium in drinking water is 20,000 picocuries per liter, but water from one monitoring well measured nearly 2.6 million picocuries per liter.

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NRC nominees won't stand in way of Yucca Mountain shutdown

From the

Three officials nominated to fill seats on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission indicated this week that they would not stand in the way of a shutdown of the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste program.

But one suggested that because it now looks as if radioactive spent fuel will remain at power plants for the foreseeable future, their steel-and-concrete storage canisters should be checked for safety.

"When we first started storing spent fuel at reactor sites, nobody was thinking it was going to be there for 100 years," said William Magwood, a former Department of Energy official. "I think we have to go back and take a look at what we have in place now and assure ourselves it is able to stay in place another 50 years if necessary."

N.H. Governor calls for Vermont Yankee investigation

From NECN:
Citing concerns over the safety and management of the nuclear plant just on the other side of the Vermont border, New Hampshire governor John Lynch today called on teh Nuclear Regulatory Commission to "thoroughly investigate" the plant before giving it a license extension. The letter cited the recent discovery of tritium in groundwater near the plant and the recent confirmation of underground pipelines near Vermont Yankee as "revelations (that) lead me to question the credibility of Entergy and its ability to safely manage the plant. They also lead me to conclude that the NRC must undertake an additional and thorough investigation into the Vermont Yankee plant."
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Governor Patrick's Letter to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission Concerning VT Yankee

From Massachusetts Governor Patrick:
Because of the proximity of the Vermont Yankee plant to Massachusetts, the concern that tritium may leak into the groundwater, and the possibility that there may also be leaks of radioactive substances at Pilgrim, I ask that you undertake the following immediately:
  • require extensive testing from leaks of tritium and other radioactive substances at both Vermont Yankee and Pilgrim, including testing of potentially impacted drinking water supplies and of the Connecticut River in proximity to Vermont Yankee;
  • stay any further consideration of the approval of the spin-off of the Vermont Yankee and Pilgrim plants from Entergy to Enexus until the leak issues are resolved; and
  • stay any further consideration of the relicensing of both plants until the leak issues are resolved.
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NEC asks NRC to close VY

From the Brattleboro Reformer:

For a number of reasons, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission should force Entergy to put into cold shutdown its Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant in Vernon, stated the New England Coalition on Nuclear Pollution in a filing to the NRC submitted Tuesday.

Those reasons include the increasing concentrations of tritium in groundwater below the plant, Entergy's failure to know and understand Yankee's design, layout and construction, the inadequacy of Yankee's underground piping aging management plan and the NRC's failure to identify the situation until it became "grossly self revealing."

Therefore, wrote Ray Shadis, NEC's technical consultant, the NRC should force Yankee to go into cold shutdown and depressurize all systems in order to slow or stop the leak.

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Vt. health chief: Tritium may in Connecticut River

From the Associated Press:
The state's top health official says it's reasonable to assume a radioactive substance leaking from the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant is getting into the Connecticut River.

Health officials previously have said measurable levels of tritium have not shown up in the river. But Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Wendy Davis told The Associated Press on Tuesday that the volume and direction of flow of tritium-tainted groundwater leads to the conclusion that it's reaching the river.

A Vermont Yankee spokesman says the plant agrees.

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Peach Bottom: NRC integrated inspection report 05000277/2009005 and 05000278/2009005

From the NRC:
On December 31, 2009, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) completed an integrated inspection at your Peach Bottom Atomic Power Station (PBAPS), Units 2 and 3. The enclosed integrated inspection report documents the inspection results, which were discussed on January 15, 2010, with Mr. William Maguire and other members of your staff.
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Unexpected reaction

From the Economist:

The nuclear industry got an unexpected boost from Barack Obama in his State of the Union address last month. The president pledged to build a “new generation of safe, clean nuclear power plants”. On February 1st he followed that up in his proposed budget for 2011 by tripling to $54 billion the value of loans for new nuclear plants the government is offering to guarantee. Elsewhere, too, prospects for the business look good: the United Arab Emirates (UAE) completed a tender for four nuclear plants in December, Vietnam is planning a similar deal this year and many other countries, from Italy to Indonesia, are hoping to build new reactors soon.

Yet the $40 billion contract in the UAE, won by a consortium led by Korean Electric Power Corporation (KEPCO), South Korea’s largely state-owned electricity monopoly, has caused consternation among the six big firms that have dominated the industry for decades: GE and Westinghouse of America, Areva of France, and Toshiba, Hitachi and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries of Japan. Russian and Chinese firms hope to follow the Koreans’ lead. Suddenly the incumbents are confronted by emerging-market “national champions” with the full backing of their governments—an invaluable asset in a high-liability business like nuclear power.

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KI Tablets Available

The winter snow storm that occurred on February 7-8, 2010, prompted numerous inquires to the EFMR office about the availability of KI (Potassium Iodide) in the event of a nuclear evacuation. EFMR has recently secured additional stocks of KI tablets. If you’re interested in receiving KI tablets, please contact EFMR directly at #717-541-1101 or e-mail a request to lechambon@comcast.net

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Entergy finds huge radiation jump

From the Times Argus:
The Department of Health said late Friday that Entergy Nuclear workers found the highest concentrations yet of the radioactive isotope tritium at Vermont Yankee, this time in a drainage pit close to a highly contaminated groundwater monitoring well. William Irwin, radiological health chief for the Department of Health, said the pit tested positive for 2.7 million picocuries per liter of tritium. While the radioactive water was not in groundwater and was inside the reactor complex, Irwin said the high tritium levels were almost identical to the levels of tritium found in reactor cooling water, indicating a leak. Irwin said it was possible the underground piping that drains into the pit or moves the water to a system for treatment could be leaking.
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SEF Energy Education Session

Cost an obstacle to building reactors

From the Arizona Republic:

Nuclear reactors' hefty price tag is the biggest obstacle to building more, the nation's top nuclear regulator said Monday.

Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman Gregory Jaczko said that permitting new reactors could take four years or more, and that storing the waste is not a pressing concern, but that paying for the new reactors remains a significant concern for most utilities.

The best estimate for a new reactor's price tag is about $10 billion, he said.

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Backtracking and in trouble: A detailed timeline on who said what on Vt. Yankee

From the Times Argus:
But representatives of Entergy, the company that has owned the plant since 2002, repeatedly told the Oversight Panel, which featured appointees by both lawmakers and the governor, that Vermont Yankee did not have such a system. Entergy officials, on several occasions under oath, told the Public Service Board the same thing. With revelations this month that Vermont Yankee is leaking tritium – a radioactive isotope – into nearby groundwater, it became clear that those statements were wrong. Entergy calls it a "miscommunication" and anti-nuclear activists call it a bald lie. Using transcripts of testimony before the Public Service Board, filings before the Public Service Department, e-mails released by the Oversight Panel and local news reports, we have attempted to assemble of rough time-line of who said what and when – and which of those statements have been revealed to be untrue.
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U.S. Department FY 2011 Budget Request

PPL Barred From Socializing The Costs Of Its New Time Of Use Program

Sustainable Energy Fund ALLENTOWN, Pennsylvania (February 1, 2010) Eric Epstein of Harrisburg, a statewide consumer advocate and Sustainable Energy Fund (SEF) successfully challenged PPL’s proposed Time of Use Tariff. Mr. Epstein and Sustainable Energy Fund intervened independently on behalf of electric customers last fall alleging among other things that PPL’s proposed Time of Use program unjustly enriched electric generation suppliers like PPL Energy Plus, shifted costs to non participating customers, unfairly excluded low income customers from the program, promoted unfair competitive practices and lacked real economic benefit for PPL ratepayers. Although the Public Utility Commission voted 5-0 on Thursday to allow PPL’s voluntary Time of Use Program, it also approved a motion by Chairman Cawley that among other things prohibits PPL from recovering more than $4,000,000 in proposed expenses for administration and advertising from customers who purchase their electricity from a competitive electricity supplier. “This action taken by the Commission directly addressed our concerns with the cost effectiveness of this program, the unfair competitive practices and exclusion of certain customer groups like low income and renewable energy”, stated John Costlow, Director of Technical Services for Sustainable Energy Fund. Epstein stated “The PUC correctly halted PPL’s discriminatory plan that unfairly excluded customers, penalized hostage ratepayers and cross subsidized PPL Energy Plus.” He welcomed the decision as a victory for rate payers and hailed the PUC’s decision as a landmark and potential precedent, stating “The PUC made it clear that it will not allow ratepayers to finance and brand ill conceived marketing schemes.” The motion stated in part that “PPL has provided inadequate information on the magnitude of the Company’s ‘educational’ expenditures proposed under the Consumer Education Plan, failed to incorporate the costs related to the proposed EE&C advertisement plan, and failed to provide relevant information on other TOU program costs, consistent with our default service policy statement.” The motion also stated that “While this Commission does not apply the TRC test at the plan level, the Commission has rejected and will continue to reject, component program or measure level parts of EE&C plans that are clearly uneconomic so as to encourage utilities to refocus resources on more cost effective measures.” Mr. Costlow stated “It is unusual for the SEF to oppose a plan that is supposed to decrease peak energy consumption as we have spent the last decade promoting energy conservation, energy efficiency and renewable energy but this is another bad plan by PPL, funded by the ratepayer. PPL needs to be accountable; they need to do the right thing for rate payers.” Sustainable Energy Fund (SEF) is a private nonprofit 501(C)(3) organization focused on reducing financial, educational and regulatory barriers to a sustainable energy future. SEFs educational programs such as the award winning Solar Scholars® create an understanding and passion for sustainable energy in leaders of today and tomorrow. To overcome traditional financial barriers the organization provides specialized loans and leases for energy efficiency and renewable energy projects.

Leaks imperil nuclear industry

From the Boston Globe:
The nuclear industry, once an environmental pariah, is recasting itself as green as it attempts to extend the life of many power plants and build new ones. But a leak of radioactive water at Vermont Yankee, along with similar incidents at more than 20 other US nuclear plants in recent years, has kindled doubts about the reliability, durability, and maintenance of the nation’s aging nuclear installations. Vermont health officials say the leak, while deeply worrisome, is not a threat to drinking water supplies or the Connecticut River, which flows beside the 38-year-old plant, nor is it endangering public health. But the controversy is threatening to derail the nuclear plant’s bid, now at a critical juncture, for state approvals to extend its operating life by 20 years when its license expires in two years. Nuclear Regulatory Commission inspectors, Vermont Yankee’s owners, and state officials are tracing the source of the radioactivity and searching for other leaks in the labyrinth of below-surface pipes on the plants’ property about 10 miles from the Massachusetts border.
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Peach Bottom: Withdrawal of an Amendment Request

From the NRC (ML100260293):
By letter dated August 7, 2008,1 as supplemented by letter dated May 7, 2009,2 Exelon Generation Company, LLC (Exelon) applied for an amendment to the Peach Bottom Atomic Power Station, Units 2 and 3, Facility Operating License Nos. DPR-44 and DPR-56. The proposed amendment consisted of several changes including the incorporation of Technical Specification Task Force (TSTF) Traveler 363, Revision 0, "Revise Topical Report References in ITS [Improved Technical Specifications] 5.6.5, COLR [Core Operating Limits Report]." TSTF Traveler 363, Revision 0, would amend the Technical Specifications (TSs) to relocate Topical Report revisions and date citations from the TSs to the COLR. The license amendment request submitted by Exelon was consistent with TSTF Traveler 363, Revision 0, which had been accepted by the NRC staff for use in licensing applications.
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Remarks Of NRC Chairman Jaczko At Program Briefing From NRC Office Of Nuclear Reactor Regulation

From Nuclear Street:

Even as the agency considers new licensing applications, the NRC must stay focused on its core mission of ensuring the safety and security of existing reactors. No one – not the Commission, the staff or the licensees – can afford to be lulled into a sense of complacency about these issues. It was precisely this concern that motivated the Commission to create the Office of New Reactors, so that NRR could maintain a single-minded focus on the safety of the current operating fleet.

We have a lot of work ahead of us. NRR faces some long-standing challenges and some really difficult issues. Those include buried piping, submerged cables, containment sump performance, and, of course, fire protection. These issues won’t be resolved overnight. They undoubtedly will require the sustained focus of both the Commission and the staff. But we must continue to work towards closure of these issues.

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Nuclear energy lobby working hard to win support

From Investigative Reporting Workshop:
The Obama administration may soon guarantee as much as $18.5 billion in loans to build new nuclear reactors to generate electricity, and Congress is considering whether to add billions more to support an expansion of nuclear power.

These actions come after an extensive decade-long campaign in which companies and unions related to the industry have spent more than $600 million on lobbying and nearly $63 million on campaign contributions, according to an analysis by the Investigative Reporting Workshop at American University.

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