Wednesday February 2, 2011

BRATTLEBORO -- Gov. Peter Shumlin instructed the Department of Public Service on Tuesday to appoint a Vermont Yankee Reliability Oversight Committee.

Citing the on-going discovery of tritiated groundwater at the plant, Shumlin stated in a press release that he was deeply concerned with Yankee’s "lack of transparency about serious problems that continue to be discovered around the plant."

Shumlin also stated he was concerned that Yankee technicians were unable to immediately test groundwater samples taken from wells that turned out to have positive readings for tritium because a piece of equipment was broken. Shumlin noted that no investigation occurred while the equipment was broken. The Governor has asked Yankee officials to disclose the investigation plan they have developed to ensure they are taking adequate steps to deal with the escalating situation.

In January 2010, Yankee management revealed groundwater samples taken from monitoring wells were contaminated with tritium. The source of the leak, a pipe tunnel connected to the advanced off gas building, was discovered in February and sealed in March. Yankee began to withdraw water from the ground, shortly after the leak was stopped, from a plume of contamination that spread from the leak area toward the Connecticut River. Since then, 316,700 gallons, have been withdrawn from the ground.

But earlier this month, samples from two monitoring wells about 250 and 150 feet north of the plume were found to contain tritium.


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Both the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the Vermont Department of Health have stated that there could be a new leak somewhere in the plant’s systems. There is also a possibility tritiated water from the advanced off gas building leak is migrating to the wells through manmade channels such as pipe tunnels or due to natural features beneath the ground, according to DOH.

According to Vermont Yankee, testing is underway to identify if specific pipes are the source of new leakage. Four drain lines from the reactor and turbine building and a number of lines from the AOG building are specifically being evaluated.

Yankee’s manager of communications, Larry Smith, said technicians are working quickly to determine the source of the newly detected tritium. "We will share our findings with federal and state stakeholders as soon as practical," he stated in an e-mail to the media. "It bears noting that no tritium has been detected in any drinking water source, there is no threat to public health or safety, and the test results to date have been well below regulatory reporting thresholds and well below EPA safe drinking water standards."

In a related announcement, Shumlin appointed Montpelier attorney Richard Saudek and Vermont Law School professor Peter Bradford to the Texas Low-Level Radioactive Waste Compact Commission. Saudek, who is a partner in the law firm of Cheney, Brock & Saudek, P.C., has advised legislative committees on issues involving Vermont Yankee and its owner, Entergy Corp. Saudek has also served as Chair of the Vermont Department of Public Service, and as Vermont’s first Commissioner of the Vermont Department of Public Service. Bradford is an adjunct professor at Vermont Law School, where he teaches "Nuclear Power and Public Policy." He also teaches utility regulation, restructuring, nuclear power and energy policy.

Bradford served on the Public Oversight Panel for the Comprehensive Vertical Assessment of Vermont Yankee, and has served as an expert witness on investment in new nuclear power.