Two more groups file in opposition over VY leaks

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BRATTLEBORO -- On Friday two more groups, the Department of Public Service and the Conservation Law Foundation each filed testimonials regarding the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant.

The two testimonies filed with the Vermont Public Service Board come a day after the Vermont Natural Resources Council filed its own testimony with the board claiming the nuclear plant violated the state's groundwater public trust law and should be shut down immediately.

While Conservation Law Foundation echoed the suggestions made by VNRC, the Department of Public Service, by contrast, stated VY had taken an appropriate course of action in response to the discovery of a tritium leak in January.

Since the leak was discovered, "Vermont Yankee assembled an effective team to locate and stop the source of the leak to the environment," according to testimony by Uldis Vanags, the state nuclear engineer with the DPS.

Vanags continued, "I witnessed Vermont Yankee following all its procedures to assure there was a thorough engineering review prior to the drilling of sample wells and any excavation work."

The Public Service Board opened an investigation of VY in March to evaluate the ongoing leaks of radioactive material to determine what action should be taken, including a potential shutdown of the plant.

Two experts, David Lochbaum, a nuclear engineer with the Union of Concerned Scientists, and Stratton French, a consulting hydrologist, filed testimony for CLF.

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According to Lochbaum, the leaks are unlawfully contaminating Vermont groundwater and the environment and it was recommended that the PSB prohibit the plant's operation until the leaks are fixed and measures including regular inspections are adopted by Entergy to prevent future leaks.

"Entergy's response to the leaks is too little too late," Sandra Levine, senior attorney for CLF said. "The continued contamination of groundwater and the Connecticut River must stop. Entergy is shortchanging Vermont and leaving an expensive hazardous waste site to clean up in the future."

Vanags stated if Entergy had completed the Groundwater Protection Initiative, a voluntary program that identifies actions for effective groundwater protection, the leak could have been found much earlier.

Three groundwater wells were installed by the Connecticut River in late 2007, and the GPI was to be finished in August 2008, but it was not completed, according to Entergy's Root Cause Evaluation Report submitted June 22.

"It is estimated that the tritium leak may have progressed for two years prior to it reaching one of the sampling wells at the river bank," Vanags wrote. "Had Entergy VY implemented the GPI on schedule, it is highly likely that the leak would have been identified in its early stages."

Forcing Entergy to complete the GPI could prevent potential future leaks and give the PSB authority to monitor progress, he wrote.

On Thursday, July 8, the PSB will hold a public hearing at 7 p.m., at Brattleboro Union High School to discuss whether VY should be shut down, whether good cause exists to modify or revoke the Certificate of Public Good issued to Entergy, and whether any penalties should be imposed on Entergy for any violations of Vermont statutes or PSB orders.

Josh Stilts can be reached at jstilts@reformer.com, or 802-254-2311 ext. 273.


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