NRC questions Vermont Yankee's post-shutdown emergency plans

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BRATTLEBORO -- The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is asking Entergy to clarify statements made in its request to change its emergency response plan at Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant in Vernon.

The request for additional information from the NRC to Entergy is a typical action of the federal agency and the industry it regulates, said Marty Cohn, spokesman for Yankee.

"This is part of the process," he said. "When they send out a request for additional information, the NRC is reviewing submitted documents and asking for clarification."

In its request for a change to its emergency response plan at Yankee, Entergy is asking the NRC to allow it to "shrink" its responsibility from the normal 10-mile emergency preparedness zone around the plant down to the footprint of the facility's 148 acres.

But the NRC is questioning a number of assumptions used to justify the request, especially those related to the storage of spent fuel and the extent of any possible radioactive exposure if a nuclear waste accident was to occur.

Three times in the request for additional information, the NRC notes that the amendment request "inaccurately states" the ramifications of a spent fuel accident at the site in Vernon.

"The analysis of the potential radiological impact of an accident in a permanently defueled condition indicates any releases beyond the site boundary are below the Environmental Protection Agency's Protective Action Guide exposure levels," wrote Entergy in its amendment request.

The NRC also noted that Entergy's contention that "there are no postulated accidents that could result in dose consequences that are large enough to require offsite emergency planning" is inaccurate.

"In the unlikely event that there is a catastrophic loss of spent fuel pool water inventory, there is a potential for an offsite release of radioactive material ..." noted the NRC.

In August 2013, Entergy announced it would be ceasing operations at Vermont Yankee at the end of 2014. It is expected it will take five to seven years to remove all the spent fuel from the spent fuel pool and place it into dry cask storage on the site.

Because the plant will no longer be producing electricity, argued Entergy, it is appropriate that Entergy reduce its emergency response planning.

The NRC also wants to know why only the Vernon Fire Department is listed to demonstrate coordination with the plant's fire brigade when the Brattleboro Fire Department is listed as an off-site support organization. In addition, the NRC asked if Brattleboro Memorial Hospital and Rescue Inc. will be involved in any medical drills to test response plans.

Entergy has until Nov. 28 to respond to the NRC's request for additional information.

Bob Audette can be reached at raudette@reformer.com, or at 802-254-2311, ext. 160. Follow Bob on Twitter @audette.reformer.


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