No COVID-19 cases found at Vermont Yankee

On Dec. 29, 2014, Vermont Yankee went offline and all the fuel was removed from the nuclear reactor on Jan. 12, 2015.

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VERNON — There hasn't been a single positive test for the coronavirus among the 120 construction and demolition workers at the Vermont Yankee decommissioning site.

At a meeting of the Vermont Nuclear Decommissioning Citizen Advisory Panel Monday evening, members of the public asked about the impact of the pandemic on the ongoing demolition of the nuclear power plant, which started last year and is about 15 percent completed.

Corey Daniels, decommissioning manager, told the panel that new workers from out of state coming to the Vernon site were being asked to self monitor, not be quarantined, but he said the company is using all preventive and diagnostic measures to insure that the construction crew is free of the virus.

"They are required to self-monitor," he said.

The workers are following social distancing rules and the company is following Gov. Phil Scott's executive orders, he said.

"Knock on wood, we have yet to have a case. No one has tested positive at the site. We're treating it as a team sport," he said of precautions.

NorthStar has continued working during the widespread business shut down, according to NorthStar spokesman Anthony Iarrapino, because the Scott administration deemed the decommissioning too important to stop.

"The Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development deemed NorthStar's remediation and waste management and its security operations a critical business," he said in an email Tuesday.

According to various published reports, many nuclear power plants, both generating and undergoing decommissioning, have had positive tests among workers.

In a report in The Day, published in Connecticut on Tuesday, 10 out of 400 workers at a Millstone reactor, which is undergoing refueling, tested positive, and workers complained that getting protective gear was a challenge, and they also complained about a lack of cleaning.

Diane Screnci, a spokeswoman for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, said while there have been some problems, it hasn't affected safety.

"The NRC remains focused on the safety of all nuclear power plants operations. Any COVID-19 cases at the nuclear plants haven't impacted safety," she said.

Daniels said there is what he called "an extensive list" of precautions the company is taking. Those who can work remotely, are, he said, and the company is providing lunch and dinner to the workers so they won't have to leave the site, and add to the potential for contamination.

He also said the company brought in extra cleaning people.

Earlier this week, Scott lifted measures on construction crews, allowing crews of 10 people or more to work together, so long as they use masks, gloves and other standard protection measures.

Daniels said NorthStar and other companies on site have made accommodations to prevent the virus, such as changing shifts, making work crews smaller and enforcing other protection measures.

He said all workers have their temperature taken when they report to the Vernon site, and are expected to monitor.

Two area residents, Ann Darling of Easthampton, Mass., and Deb Katz of the Citizens Awareness Network of Shelburne Falls, Mass., asked the NorthStar officials during the Skype video meeting what is being done to protect the workers, and whether they are being quarantined if they come to Vermont from out of state.

Monitored, yes, Daniels said, quarantined no.

Daniels said the work at the nuclear site is inherently different than other construction sites, with workers in protective gear constantly.

Daniels had told the panel earlier in the meeting that the large warehouse, on the southwestern corner next to the turbine building, had earlier in the day been demolished, and that the advanced off-gas building, which is close by, would be next.

He said shipments of demolition debris from the site to the West Texas low-level waste facility are increasing and would increase further this spring and summer.

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