VY may extract tainted water from under plant


BRATTLEBORO -- Engineers are working on a plan to extract up to 300,000 gallons of tritium contaminated groundwater from under the site of Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant in Vernon.

Once extracted, the water would be filtered and re-used in the power plant, according to the Vermont Department of Public Health in its daily update posted on its Web site.

The filtering process does not remove tritium from the water, said Ray Shadis, technical director of the New England Coalition on Nuclear Pollution, which opposes the relicensing of the plant.

It only removes organic particles from the ground sucked up with the contaminated water, he said.

An option to filtering the water for re-use, said Shadis, is for Yankee to get permission to extract it, mix it with water from the Connecticut River and dump it back into the waterway.

Shadis called it the "solution to pollution is dilution" remedy.

If the tritiated water is filtered for re-use in the plant, said Arnie Gundersen, a critic of Entergy's operation of the plant and a member of the Public Oversight Panel tasked with reviewing a reliability assessment of the plant, the tritium would eventually be released out of the plant's stack as part of Yankee's regulated gaseous emissions.

Gundersen also said the amount needing extraction could be more in the range of 1 million gallons, not just 300,000 gallons.

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He questioned where the contaminated water would be stored between extraction and filtering.

Some of it could be stored in the plant's 500,000-gallon condensate storage tank, but those tanks normally contain 300,000 to 400,000 gallons, he said.

A condensate storage tank is used to store excess condensate and water as an emergency water source in case of a loss-of-coolant accident in a boiling water reactor. The tank is considered to be a safety-related component.

Because the tank is kept close to its capacity, most of the extracted water would need to be stored in large above-ground bladders or tanker trucks, he said.

Entergy, which owns and operates Yankee, has applied to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to extend the operating license of the power plant for another 20 years, from 2012 to 2032.

Recently, the Vermont Senate voted 26 to 4 in opposition to its continued operation.

Hearings being held by the Vermont Public Service Board to determine if the plant should receive a certificate of public good for continued operation are currently on hold pending an investigation into inaccurate statements made by Yankee representatives about the nature of underground piping at the plant.

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


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