NRC's approval of VY inches forward

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BRATTLEBORO -- Entergy came one step closer to receiving its approved license renewal for Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant on Thursday when the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board rejected an appeal from the New England Coalition on Nuclear Pollution.

The contention dealt with NEC's assertion that Entergy did not have an adequate aging management program in place to deal with the effects of moist or wet environments on buried, below-grade, underground or hard-to reach safety-related electrical cables.

The submittal cited an NRC inspection finding from last May that dealt with this issue.

The ASLB based its denial on three factors: The motion was not timely because the issue of submergence of electrical cables at nuclear power plants has been known for years and could have been questioned in a contention before this past August; the motion does not address a "significant" safety or environmental issue; and because NEC was unable to demonstrate that a materially different result would be or would have been "likely" had the newly proffered evidence been considered initially.

"The Atomic Safety and Licensing Board's Order reads more like the script from the TV game show ‘Wipe Out' than it does a legal decision with litigants," said Ray Shadis, NEC's technical consultant. "What the ASLB judges just don't seem to get is that allowing any reactor systems power, control, or instrumentation electrical cables, except submarine-rated cables, to soak in water for an extended period of time is a very bad idea from a nuclear safety standpoint."

Reopening a proceeding requires an applicant to overcome 19 legal hurdles, said Shadis, which is almost impossible given the time frame allowed to the NEC.

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"The primary duty of NRC and the ASLB Panel is assurance of public health and safety and that should trump all other concerns," he said. "Even the most obtuse among them should have taken a clue about the validity of NEC's contention when two weeks after NEC filed a contention on wet cables, Entergy filed an amendment to the license renewal application adding a whole new category of electrical cables to their proposed aging management program."

NEC now has 15 days to ask for a commission review, which it will do so, said Shadis.

The commission can take as long as it needs to rule on NEC's appeal, said Neil Sheehan, spokesman for the NRC.

The plant's license renewal application already contains an aging management program for medium-voltage electrical cables and was amended, in September, to include low-voltage electrical cables, said Sheehan.

Larry Smith, director of communications for Yankee, said the ASLB's decision was appropriate and allows Entergy to move forward with its license renewal proceeding before the NRC.

"Vermont Yankee has a plan in place that specifically addresses the issue electrical cables as part of our aging management program going forward," said Smith.


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