State: Yankee site shows little contamination

Demolition begins on the east cooling towers at the Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Plant, in Vernon, Vt., on Thursday, July 11, 2019. The plant was shut down on Dec. 29, 2014.

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BRATTLEBORO — A non-radiological site investigation report on the Vermont Yankee nuclear power station has uncovered no new contamination, the commissioner of the Department of Environmental Conservation said Wednesday.

Emily Boedecker told members of the Vermont Nuclear Decommissioning Citizens Advisory Panel that while there is some shallow soil contamination at the Vernon site with polyaromatic hydrocarbons and chlorinated solvents, and some shallow groundwater contamination from other volatile organic compounds near fuel tanks and the plant's main transformer, there is no water supply contamination and no bedrock well contamination.

"We are pleased," Boedecker told the panel members. "There's nothing at this point that is shocking or at a level of concern."

She said that while there are low levels of contamination at the industrial site, there is "no real significant" contamination.

Vermont Yankee, which was sold in January to NorthStar Holdings, a New York City industrial demolition firm, is currently under active demolition and decontamination, a process that is expected to last six years, according to Scott State, the chief executive officer of NorthStar.

Boedecker said that perfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAs, have been found near the site of the main transformer, which had a large fire at one point in the plant's history.

Boedecker said the site investigation revealed that vanadium is "uniformly distributed in all soil samples above the Vermont soil standards," but there is no evidence that those concentrations are the result of Vermont Yankee plant operations.

She said that Hayley & Aldrich, a consulting firm hired by NorthStar, suggested that the vanadium is naturally occurring.

Boedecker said that quarterly groundwater monitoring would continue, with a third round of testing slated for November.

She said that Hayley & Aldrich has conducted groundwater pump testing in front of the turbine building as part of the plan to intercept the groundwater that is leaking into the basement of the turbine building. Once the groundwater comes in contact with the turbine building, it becomes lightly radioactive, which means it has to be collected and trucked to a treatment facility.

She told the panel that some site investigation would be best performed once structures are demolished and removed.

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Boedecker said the state had conducted a site visit at Yankee, which is actively undergoing decommissioning, and that several permits were pending for NorthStar's project, including a stormwater permit, a stream alteration permit, and a permit from the Army Corps of Engineers for dredging of fill or waterways.

She also said that 15,000 cubic yards of soil with a low level of contamination, but not radioactive, have been stockpiled at the Vermont Yankee site and will be used to balance rail cars taking low-level radioactive materials to the West Texas nuclear waste site run by Waste Control Specialists.LLC, and will eventually be disposed of in Texas.

She said that asbestos abatement continues at the turbine building and the advanced off-gas building, and that the asbestos work has been completed at the two cooling towers, "with no anomalies."

Sen Mark MacDonald, D-Orange, a member of the panel, questioned Boedecker on why the state is relying on Haley and Aldrich, since they work for NorthStar, and he questioned the independence of the results. He pushed hard for an independent group to also do the sampling.

Boedecker said the state's own consultant on the Vermont Yankee site assessment, ATC, is working with Haley & Aldrich, and that there are "split samples" to assure independent results.

Vice Chairwoman Lissa Weinmann questioned who actually took the samples, and Boedecker said she didn't know. "I don't have that detail," she said.

Boedecker said the state is following established protocol working with NorthStar's consultant, which includes oversight by the state.

"I do believe we have that," she said, noting that the state's consultant, ATV, provides "independent oversight."

Contact Susan Smallheer at or at 802 254-2311, ext. 154.