Vermont Yankee shutdown 'drastically changed' river impact

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VERNON — State officials are proposing the renewal of Vermont Yankee's permit to draw water from - and discharge wastewater into - the Connecticut River.

But that's a less controversial matter than it used to be.

While there have been past battles over the plant's discharge of heated water, Vermont Yankee has stopped producing power since the state's last permit was issued. And that has "drastically changed" the nuclear plant's intake and use of river water, state officials say.

"Thus, this draft permit differs significantly from the current permit because it reflects the modified operations of the closed facility," state Department of Environmental Conservation officials wrote in a summation of the matter.

The department is accepting public comment on the proposed permit until the close of business on April 14.

Vermont Yankee does not discharge radioactive water into the river. Rather, the state's permit governs the withdrawal and discharge of river water used in plant operations.

This is called "non-contact" water because it has no contact with radiological processes, said Joe Lynch, Entergy Vermont Yankee government affairs manager.

The state's last permit was issued in October 2014, and it included more stringent seasonal temperature limits due to concerns about river impacts. That permit ran only until the end of 2015, rather than for the typical five years, Lynch said.

That was out of recognition that "Vermont Yankee was closing, that the discharge would be greatly reduced, and to allow Entergy the opportunity to submit post-closure information" to state environmental regulators, Lynch said.

Vermont Yankee has been operating under the 2014 permit while the state considered Entergy's application for renewal, Lynch said.

The new, proposed permit would take effect next month and run through March 31, 2022, said Jessica Bulova, a wastewater section supervisor for the Department of Environmental Conservation.

In a fact sheet prepared for the proposed permit, the department notes that the vast majority of Vermont Yankee's river intake had been associated with the "circulating water" system, which was used to remove heat from the plant's main condenser.

That system also had "resulted in a large heat load discharged into the river," state officials wrote.

After Vermont Yankee's shutdown in December 2014, the system "was no longer necessary, and there was a sharp reduction in the volume of water withdrawn from the river," the state says. The system had been designed to take in 518.4 million gallons per day.

The plant still needs the river for its "service water" system, which is used for cooling systems such as the spent fuel pool, generators and pumps. But even that need is a fraction of what it once was, state officials say.

The heated water - or "thermal load" - that the plant now discharges into the river is mainly associated with the spent fuel pool cooling system, the department says. And that will decrease over time as Vermont Yankee's spent fuel cools and is transferred into sealed casks.

The state's proposed permit isn't causing any concern for the Connecticut River Conservancy - formerly known as the Connecticut River Watershed Council. Ron Rhodes, a river steward for the conservancy, said the organization likely wouldn't send the state any comments on the issue.

There's also no mention in the permit of Vermont Yankee's much-publicized battles with "intrusion water" - groundwater that's been seeping into the plant's turbine building at greater-than-expected rates.

Entergy has been shipping that water, which is radiologically contaminated, out of state.

Last year, there was a brief conversation between Entergy and the state about possibly discharging intrusion water into the Connecticut. But those talks went nowhere.

Lynch said the state's proposed river-discharge permit "does not contain any provisions regarding the disposition of intrusion water at the site."

Added Bulova: "We have not received, nor would we permit, the disposal of 'intrusion groundwater' to the Connecticut River in this permit."

Mike Faher reports for the Reformer, VTDigger, and The Commons. He can By Mike Faher

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VERNON — State officials are proposing the renewal of Vermont Yankee's permit to draw water from - and discharge wastewater into - the Connecticut River.

But that's a less controversial matter than it used to be.

While there have been past battles over the plant's discharge of heated water, Vermont Yankee has stopped producing power since the state's last permit was issued. And that has "drastically changed" the nuclear plant's intake and use of river water, state officials say.

"Thus, this draft permit differs significantly from the current permit because it reflects the modified operations of the closed facility," state Department of Environmental Conservation officials wrote in a summation of the matter.

The department is accepting public comment on the proposed permit until the close of business on April 14.

Vermont Yankee does not discharge radioactive water into the river. Rather, the state's permit governs the withdrawal and discharge of river water used in plant operations.

This is called "non-contact" water because it has no contact with radiological processes, said Joe Lynch, Entergy Vermont Yankee government affairs manager.

The state's last permit was issued in October 2014, and it included more stringent seasonal temperature limits due to concerns about river impacts. That permit ran only until the end of 2015, rather than for the typical five years, Lynch said.

That was out of recognition that "Vermont Yankee was closing, that the discharge would be greatly reduced, and to allow Entergy the opportunity to submit post-closure information" to state environmental regulators, Lynch said.

Vermont Yankee has been operating under the 2014 permit while the state considered Entergy's application for renewal, Lynch said.

The new, proposed permit would take effect next month and run through March 31, 2022, said Jessica Bulova, a wastewater section supervisor for the Department of Environmental Conservation.

In a fact sheet prepared for the proposed permit, the department notes that the vast majority of Vermont Yankee's river intake had been associated with the "circulating water" system, which was used to remove heat from the plant's main condenser.

That system also had "resulted in a large heat load discharged into the river," state officials wrote.

After Vermont Yankee's shutdown in December 2014, the system "was no longer necessary, and there was a sharp reduction in the volume of water withdrawn from the river," the state says. The system had been designed to take in 518.4 million gallons per day.

The plant still needs the river for its "service water" system, which is used for cooling systems such as the spent fuel pool, generators and pumps. But even that need is a fraction of what it once was, state officials say.

The heated water - or "thermal load" - that the plant now discharges into the river is mainly associated with the spent fuel pool cooling system, the department says. And that will decrease over time as Vermont Yankee's spent fuel cools and is transferred into sealed casks.

The state's proposed permit isn't causing any concern for the Connecticut River Conservancy - formerly known as the Connecticut River Watershed Council. Ron Rhodes, a river steward for the conservancy, said the organization likely wouldn't send the state any comments on the issue.

There's also no mention in the permit of Vermont Yankee's much-publicized battles with "intrusion water" - groundwater that's been seeping into the plant's turbine building at greater-than-expected rates.

Entergy has been shipping that water, which is radiologically contaminated, out of state.

Last year, there was a brief conversation between Entergy and the state about possibly discharging intrusion water into the Connecticut. But those talks went nowhere.

Lynch said the state's proposed river-discharge permit "does not contain any provisions regarding the disposition of intrusion water at the site."

Added Bulova: "We have not received, nor would we permit, the disposal of 'intrusion groundwater' to the Connecticut River in this permit."

Mike Faher reports for the Reformer, VTDigger, and The Commons. He can be contacted at mfaher@vtdigger.org.


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