Nuke expert: ‘Entergy is worst of worst'

Posted
Tuesday February 23, 2010

BRATTLEBORO -- A nuclear power expert who briefed state legislators on the operation of Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant last week recommended they vote no Wednesday on continued operation of the plant.

Paul Blanch, who has 45 years in the industry, including working or consulting at Millstone, Connecticut Yankee, Maine Yankee and Indian Point nuclear power plants and the Electric Power Research Institute and the Nuclear Energy Institute, said there are two major reasons for closing down the plant -- Entergy and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

"Entergy is certainly the worst of the worst," Blanch told the Reformer one day after his testimony at the Statehouse.

The company is nothing but a "carpetbagger coming up here (with the) only goal to extract as much money as possible," he said. "They're milking every dime out of it that they possibly can."

And don't expect that the NRC will take enforcement action against Entergy in response to a leak of tritiated water at the plant, said Blanch.

"The root cause of this problem is the NRC," he said. "They're in bed with the industry. The NRC is supposed to be the parent, but it's not enforcing the regulations. And the utilities are abusing their parents and society."

He also had harsh words for David O'Brien, the commissioner of Vermont's Department of Public Service, which is recommending the Legislature hold off on its vote until the source of the leak is found, it has been fixed and the results of an investigation are submitted.

"I didn't believe a word O'Brien said before the finance committee," said Blanch.

Asking the Legislature to delay its vote is the governor's and the DPS' way of showing their continued support of Yankee and Entergy, he said.

After meeting with legislators last week, Blanch said they have all the information they need to make their decision tomorrow. Vermonters should count themselves lucky, he said, because their legislators are very well informed, professional and ask the right questions.

Blanch also questioned Jay Thayer's testimony before the Public Service Board, during which he claimed to his knowledge there were no buried pipes at Yankee that were carrying radioactive materials.

Eight months after his testimony, the state learned there were in fact buried pipes at the plant and one of them was possibly leaking tritiated water into the environment.

"Jay is a good engineer and manager," he said. "He's very knowledgeable. It's incredible to me that he would not know of the existence of buried pipes at Yankee."

Entergy's aging management program is to "run it to failure and fix it when it breaks," said Blanch. "I wouldn't accept that program for my car."

The aging management document Entergy bases its program on was actually written by the Nuclear Energy Institute, the lobbying arm of the nuclear industry.

"The NRC doesn't have the staff to do it," he said.

The standards in the NEI document comply with standards set by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, which are also written by industry groups, said Blanch.

Finding tritium in the groundwater under the plant is not a good sign, said Blanch.

"Tritium is a symptom of degraded pipes," he said.

It could also signal degradation of concrete trenches and tunnels and the bottom of storage tanks, said Blanch.

"It's the first indications that anything and everything can be leaking at the plant," he said.

And there's a reason why aging plants around the country are leaking tritiated water, he said.

"They are not capable of 40 years of operation," he said. "Certainly not capable of 60 years. They have a limited lifetime. It's not practical to continue operating these things at a risk to the public."

Blanch went to high school in Pittsford but now lives in West Hartford, Conn.

Bob Audette can be reached at raudette@reformer.com, or at 802-254-2311, ext. 273.


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