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June 09, 2010

Vermont Yankee Has Seven Days to Fix Leaky Valve or Shut Down

* Update below: Leaky valve has been replaced *

The drip, drip, drip of bad news keeps coming for Entergy Vermont Yankee. Plant officials notified federal and state regulators yesterday that it found, and fixed, a leaky relief valve inside the reactor's containment vessel.

The new leak comes on the heels of leak in one of Vermont Yankee's buried pipes discovered two weeks ago.

The leak was stopped by afternoon, which means the plant didn't have to go into an automatic shutdown within 24 hours. But, the plant is now in a "limited condition of operation" for seven days while it fully replaces the valve. That means the plant's operators have one week to replace the valve or the plant will have to shut down per U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission regulations.

"The relief valve was isolated yesterday so the plant is now in a seven day LCO, or limited conditions of operation, to fix the problem. The new valve is currently being replaced by plant technicians," said Larry Smith an ENVY spokesman.

The leak was found in a valve inside the reactor's containment vessel. About 1.25 gallons of reactor coolant was leaking per minute, according to ENVY's report to the NRC.

The leak was found at around 10:15 a.m., and stopped just before 4 p.m., according to the report.

Two weeks ago, a leak in an underground pipe was found, and fixed, within days. Though it only dripped about one quart of tritium-laced water, it raised concern that ENVY is not doing enough to adequately inspect its aging pipes.

The NRC is sending special inspector to Vermont Yankee to determine why ENVY missed the leaky pipe after it had allegedly inspected similar, nearby pipes that were the source of two tritium leaks earlier this year that have leaked hundreds of thousands of gallons of radioactive water into the ground and Connecticut River.

To date, ENVY has pumped out more than 100,000 gallons of groundwater. It expects to pump out a total of 300,000 gallons, filter the water, and re-use it in its reactor.

The tritium leaks likely started more than two years before they were detected by plant officials, and were likely the source of as many as five sink holes on the site, according to state officials and an independent consultant.

Several lawmakers have called on Vermont Yankee to shut down entirely and replace all of its buried and underground pipes — either with above-ground piping or piping that is more easily accessible and monitored in cement trenches.

* Updated at 1:15 p.m. *

ENVY spokesman Larry Smith tells Seven Days that plant technicians have replaced the leaky valve identified as the source of yesterday's leak has been replaced.

"The valve has been replaced, so we have exited the [limited condition of operations] and everything is back to normal," said Smith. "This leak was in secondary containment which is the reactor building. Any leaks in any system are captured by floor drains and returned to the reactor."

Smith said the leak caused no threat to public health or safety and was not released to the environment.

For every leak Entergy finds and fixes, a new one appears as they increase pressure on the piping systems. Pretty amazing imi(gnorant) o. While I am grateful to the workers at VY that there has not been a significant release of radioactivity, the National Academy of Science has stated that there is a risk of cancer with any radiation... no matter how small the amount... meanwhile VY has stopped calling themselves a "zero emissions reactor" . I am disheartened by the lack of regulatory capability between the state and NRC.

Maybe there's a competition between Vt. Yankee and BP for:

1. Who can be the most incompetent and get away with it

2. Whose paid lobbyists and PR firms can better misinform the policy makers and public

3. Who can endanger the environment more

4. Who can play better Russian Roulette through deferred maintenance and cheap ducktape style repairs

5. Whose mismanged company can report better profits for stockholders and bigger bonuses for incompetent top level management

Oh! More leaks at the Entergy nuclear plant! But anyone who inquires about replacing the leaking equipment is accused of "irrational hysteria".

Replace old, leaking pipes at a nuclear plant? Nah. I'm sure it'll be fine. Just look the other way. 20 more years!

*Any leaks in any system are captured by floor drains and returned to the reactor.*

Right! Except for the tritium leak. Oh and the strontium-90. No big deal. Really. Nothing to talk about. All leaks are captured! Except the ones that aren't.

@ One_Vermonter: Talk to yourself much? Oh, I guess that's what irrationally hysterical people do.

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