NorthStar gets good decommissioning review

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VERNON — Federal inspectors of the decommissioning job now underway at the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant revealed no safety problems, according to a new report released by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

The quarterly report, which was released Wednesday, covered the months of May, June, July and August, and it included not just NorthStar Decommissioning Company LLC's "decommissioning performance and status," but a review of organization and management, as well as occupational radiation exposure and

radiological environmental monitoring.

The report concluded that there were no findings of safety significance.

The inspections, which took place over four weeks of four days each, included not just observations by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission resident inspector Steve Hammann, but also interviews with Vermont Yankee personnel, plant walkdowns and a review of procedures and records.

According to Neil Sheehan, spokesman for the NRC, Hammann has spent more time at Vermont Yankee in recent months.

"He has been there more frequently because the plant is now in active decommissioning versus the SAFSTOR (long-term storage) approach under Entergy," said Sheehan.

NorthStar, a New York City industrial demolition company, bought Vermont Yankee for $1,000 from Entergy Nuclear at the beginning of January. NorthStar also received the plant's decommissioning trust fund, which at that point was in excess of $550 million.

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Entergy stopped generating electricity at Vermont Yankee late in December 2014. The company blamed the low cost of natural gas as the main reason behind the shut down, which ultimately put more than 600 people out of work.

Entergy Nuclear, which had owned Vermont Yankee since 2002, had planned on putting the plant into cold storage for decades, up to 60 years, a process the NRC calls SAFSTOR. But state and federal regulators approved NorthStar's plan to start decommissioning immediately and finish the project in about eight years.

Sheehan said Hammann has been observing the segmentation of the reactor vessel head and the steam dryer, and the demolition of the two cooling towers.

"Our inspector was there to confirm this work was being performed safely and consistent with NRC requirements. NorthStar is also planning for the segmentation of the reactor vessel itself, and Steve will be on hand when that takes place," Sheehan said.

According to the inspection report, Hammann attends some "pre-job briefings and job specific briefs to assess plant staff' ability to identify critical steps of the evolution, potential failure scenarios and human performance tools to prevent errors."

"The inspector verified that management oversight was adequate for a site in active decommissioning. The inspector determined safety issues were reported to management daily and a monthly report out of all safety issues were reviewed by management," the report stated.

"The inspector determined the VY workforce conducted the cooling towers dismantlement and removal in a safe manner and in accordance with the regulations and plant procedures," the report stated.

Contact Susan Smallheer at ssmallheer@reformer.com or at 802 254-2311, ext. 154.


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