BRATTLEBORO >> Starting April 19, Vermont Yankee will implement its Permanently Defueled Emergency Plan which will remain in affect until all fuel is on the pad.
"The ultimate purpose of the 'E' plan is to protect the health and safety of the public," said Mike McKenney, emergency preparedness manager. "As part of that at VY, we have an Emergency Response Organization."
The Emergency Response Organization is compromised of trained Vermont Yankee employees who execute the emergency plan and implementing procedures during an event. According to McKenney, there are currently four teams within the ERO, compromised of about 33 to 34 people on each team; after April 19, there will be six teams with about 30 people in total. When the Permanently Defueled Emergency Plan goes into effect, the control room will be the designated ERO space.
Another change for Vermont Yankee is that its News Media/Joint Information Center, which is located at 185 Old Ferry Road, will go on the market. The Governor Hunt House in Vernon has been designated as the spot where media news conferences may be conducted. The news releases and inquiry phone line will still function as well.
"Because the buildings are commercial real estate, they have some value, it's likely we will put them on the market," said McKenney. "We're still going through that process right now. If we have any interest from local business, we'd certainly like to work with them so we can repurpose these buildings."
Another adjustment is that the Emergency Planning Zone will be reduced from a 10-mile radius to the site boundary. Sirens and "tone-alert radios" that are spread throughout the EPZ will no longer be required after April 19. Towns in Vermont, Massachusetts and New Hampshire will either return their sirens to plant owner Entergy, or choose to keep them for local emergency alerts.
Twenty-three of the total 37 emergency sirens will be removed starting shortly after April 19, according to McKenney. The towns that have chosen to keep their sirens will be able to operate them as they wish. In Vermont, Vernon is the only town that will keep the siren; in Massachusetts, the towns of Gill and Leydon are keeping theirs; and in New Hampshire, the towns of Chesterfield and Hinsdale will keep theirs, while Winchester will remove two sirens and keep the other two.
Other changes will involve the removing of two emergency classifications, "Site Area Emergency" and a "General Emergency." The two action levels that will remain are "unusual event," which is the least severe and "alert," which is the most severe.
"At the alert level, we activate the Emergency Response Organization, and that means that everybody that is part of that at VY reports to the control room starting April 19," said Mckenney.
This will support for any needs and also allows for notifications of the off sites through their current Inform automated notification system. For unusual events, the three states and the NRC will be notified. If there is any escalation, additional notifications are sent out. The shift manager in the control room is responsible for making notifications, which will need to be made within 60 minutes instead of 15 starting April 19.
Joe Lynch, the Governmental Affairs Manager at Vermont Yankee, took the floor and discussed the Water Management Program.
Entergy Nuclear Vermont Yankee announced on Dec. 16, 2015, that it plans to transfer spent nuclear fuel from "wet" to "dry" storage starting in 2017. All nuclear waste that is in the spent fuel pool will be transferred to dry cask storage, placed on two storage pads; the whole process is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2020. Entergy wants to construct a second storage pad adjacent to the one that's already in place. According to Lynch each pad has a capacity of 40 cannisters and he believes they will need 45 additional cannisters to the 13 loaded casks that sit at the plant site now. This is why Lynch and his team believe an additional pad is needed. The Vermont Public Service Board is currently reviewing the construction application.
In addition Lynch noted that groundwater or intrusion water had entered into the plant's turbine building ; that water had been stored in storage vessels, including swimming pools. Several blue pools were marked with yellow radioactive warnings due to the full load of contaminated water, located inside the basement of the reactor building at Vermont Yankee. In Lynch's presentation it was noted that "there is no health or safely impact to the public or our employees."
"Up until a short time ago, we were storing water in various forms of storage vessels, some of which were commercial swimming pools," said Lynch. "Those are now all drained and that water is either stored in large industrial bladders or steel tanks located outside the turbine building, so we're better positioned to be moving that water offsite."
It was noted by Lynch that they "key" to reducing this problem is to discharge that water as clean storm water before it gets contaminated. The investment initially would be to find wells and pump the water, which he says is a "low-cost" option to keep water out of the building.
Lynch added they are trying to mitigate the amount of water coming in from the buildings and seal up the seams or cracks. They are also working with a hydrogeologist and are looking to install several wells outside of the turbine building to pump the clean water from the wells, which Lynch said would slow down the amount of water from entering the building.
A Water Storage Action Plan has been developed, which includes shipping water by trucks from the site to a licensed disposal site in Tennessee. According to Lynch, they sent about 5,000 gallons to the site two weeks ago. Two additional shipments were made the week of March 7 and they plan to ship between 10,000 to 20,000 gallons or two to four shipments per week. Upon completion of the disposal of groundwater, the focus will shift to process water, which is the water that once flowed in the systems of the plant.
Lynch said that since the plant shut down, the amount of water that has entered the building has fluctuated, but they have seen hundreds of gallons per day, but have seen high rates of over 2,500 gallons per day when there are high rates of intrusion.
"Typically we are seeing it under 1,000 gallons, but we're in a season right now where we would expect an increase of groundwater, so we really need to take care of the problem of mitigating it long term,"said Lynch.
For further updates, visit www.vydecommissioning.com or there will be an Nuclear Decommissioning Citizens Advisory Panel meeting on March 24 at Brattleboro Union High School from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Maddi Shaw can be reached at 802-254-2311 ext 275