Owner admits leak found at VY in 2005

Tuesday February 23, 2010

BRATTLEBORO -- In 2005, Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant had a steam leak in the same system that is under investigation as the possible source of a leak of tritiated water into the environment.

"The licensee has acknowledged that there was a leakage they repaired in 2005," said Don Jackson, the NRC's branch chief for Region 1. "They reported that today. We are not aware that it was reported in 2005. "

Whether this is the same leak described by an alleged employee of the power plant in an anonymous phone call to a member of Yankee's Public Oversight Panel is under investigation, he said.

"We haven't confirmed this," said Jackson. "But it sounds like the story the individual is talking about."

The NRC is investigating why it took Entergy five years to report the leak, but for it to have been reportable, it has to meet certain offsite dose limits. It is also investigating how Entergy responded to the problem.

"We are determining whether the repair was in accordance with procedures," said Jackson.

The Department of Public Service is currently investigating the allegation presented to the Public Service Board, stated Sarah Hofmann, DPS' director for public advocacy, in an e-mail to the Reformer.

"This investigation includes reviewing an incident from 2005," she wrote. "The department is looking through past Vermont Yankee corrective actions looking at whether any leaks did occur and, if so, if it was part of an underground piping system carrying radionuclides."

The 2005 steam leak was located in a pipe tunnel of the advanced off-gas system, said Jackson, which is suspected of being the source of a leak that was revealed on Jan. 6.

"That doesn't mean (the 2005 leak) was transmitting to the ground," he said.

The leak was prior to statements made by Entergy representatives to the Vermont Public Service Board, in which it said they were not aware of any underground or buried pipes that carried radioactive materials.

A spokesman for Citizen Awareness Network, which opposes the continued operation of Yankee, said enough is enough.

"We need to hear nothing more," said Bob Stannard. "They're admitting they had a leak in 2005 but they denied they had these pipes. It's unbelievable. What this confirms in the mind of each and every Vermonter is that this company is unable to level with us."

Stannard said Wednesday's vote in the Senate should be 30 to 0 in opposition to the plant's continued operation.

"Thank them for their time in Vermont and send them back to Louisiana," he said.

Ray Shadis, technical consultant for the New England Coalition on Nuclear Pollution, said in 2005, Entergy was filing license extension documents with the NRC claiming that the off-gas system was not included in its aging management plan because it does not interact with the plant's safety systems.

"I believe that this is wrong for the off-gas system," said Shadis. "In the event of an accident, if the main steam isolation valves leak, and the ones at VY do, then whatever gets into the off-gas system must be captured there. If the integrity of that system is compromised, then so is the human environment."

Bob Audette can be reached at raudette@reformer.com, or at 802-254-2311, ext. 273.


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