Vermont Yankee, state emergency plan kept but reduced


BRATTLEBORO — As decommissioning at the closed nuclear plant Vermont Yankee continues, emergency planning slims down.

"I'm pleased to inform everyone, we did work with Vermont Division of Emergency Management and Homeland Security to enter into a two-year budget agreement that provides $300,000 per year to that agency for emergency planning," Joe Lynch, government affairs manager for Entergy Vermont Yankee said at the Nuclear Decommissioning Citizens Advisory Panel meeting Thursday at Brattleboro Union High School.

Glenn Herrin, emergency planning zone planner and training coordinator for the DEMHS Radiological Emergency Response Program, said if something bad happens at the plant, responders stationed there will "start to deal with it first."

"They will set up an incident command site," he said. "And you also have responders from places like Brattleboro Fire Department, Vernon Fire Department, mutual aid."

If necessary, Vermont State Police, Windham County Sheriff's Office, and state police from Massachusetts and New Hampshire can be called upon. If it grows beyond a local incident, Herring said, the town of Vernon will set up an incident command center and the state emergency operations center will be kept in the loop.

An attack on the plant likely would lead to the governor announcing a state of emergency, Herrin said. Radiological disasters are not seen as much of a threat now.

"We're not expecting to have to practice that kind of stuff anymore," said Herrin.

Deb Katz, of Citizens Awareness Network, worried about the potential for fuel fires and loss of water from the spent fuel pool.

"That's the very absolutely worst case scenario," Herrin said, adding that the majority of the training was about preventing those incidents from "ever happening."

The emergency planning zone had included six towns around Vermont Yankee but now only covers up to the site boundaries. No more radios and other equipment will be provided to the towns unless needed.

"The state still works with the towns," Herrin told the panel. "We used to have a plan for a reception center for people coming in contaminated. Now, it takes so long for something to get released from Vermont Yankee that we don't have a standing reception center anymore."

DEMHS Planning Section Chief Scott Carpenter said the budget includes agreements with towns. Those allocations will include considerations for neighbors in Massachusetts and New Hampshire.

"We're still developing the scope of work for the towns and what sort of funding that is going to be available to them," Carpenter said. "It's going to be fairly similar to what we had before. It's probably not going to be the same level by any means. It's not going to be the level we had either."

Annual training sessions are no longer required by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. But money will be available for holding similar exercises.

Emergency planning will be handled by one person in Brattleboro rather than the three previously assigned by the state. Herrin said planning exercises will be held periodically.

Entergy continues to address groundwater intrusion at Vermont Yankee. Water has been shipped to Tennessee via EnergySolutions and officials are looking at ways to "significantly reduce in-leakage."

Metal barriers, standing along the plant's turbine building and reactor building, are being replaced. The two facilities are between what Entergy officials described as a seismic gap.

"We've had some good success to date. We still have much more in-leakage than desirable," Entergy Vermont Yankee Emergency Preparedness Manager Mike McKenney said. "All the temporary storage pools have been drained and removed... Now, it's keeping up with intrusion water. We're shipping one shipment each week."

Entergy spokesman Martin Cohn told the Reformer about $1.2 million was spent on sending the water out of state. The company was always planning to deal with the issue but anticipated a lower volume.

Call Chris Mays at 802-254-2311, ext. 273.


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