Shumlin calls for expert to improve Vermont Yankee oversight

06/19/09 7:34AM By John Dillon
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(Host) A second water leak at Vermont Yankee has renewed calls for additional oversight of the plant.

Senate President Peter Shumlin wants the Legislature to hire its own expert to make sure plant operators improve maintenance and inspection procedures.

VPR's John Dillon reports:

(Dillon) Last week, water from the Connecticut River was discovered leaking into Yankee's condenser. That's the component that uses a massive piping system to cool steam from the turbine.

Then this week, another water line sprang a leak. This section of pipe is near the intake that brings river water to the plant.

Neither system is leaking radiation into the environment. But Senate President Peter Shumlin - who represents Windham County - says the problems show the need for a new layer of oversight.

(Shumlin) This week's service water leak is really a big deal. It shows a programmatic breakdown in the inspection program at VY and we should all be concerned about that.

(Dillon) Shumlin wants nuclear engineer Arnie Gundersen, to work three days a month on Vermont Yankee issues. Gundersen was a member of a public oversight panel that reviewed an audit of the plant's reliability. Shumlin says Gundersen predicted earlier problems at the plant - including the collapse of the cooling towers.

Shumlin said the Legislature needs Gundersen's expertise as it prepares to vote on whether the plant should operate for another 20 years.

(Shumlin) It's my judgment that the Douglas Administration and the governor has lost their objectivity when it comes to Entergy Louisiana. Clearly, as evidenced by the vetoes, they will stand up for Entergy Louisiana stockholders at the expense of Vermont ratepayers and Vermont voters. So the Legislature needs to play an objective and very aggressive role in ensuring that all the I's are dotted and the T's are crossed.

(Dillon) The state Department of Public Service is already working with Yankee on a number of reliability issues. And spokesman Steve Wark says if the Legislature needs additional oversight, the department will help.

(Wark) The department has been and will continue to be actively involved in the monitoring and oversight of Vermont Yankee. If the Legislature deems that this is necessary, we're going to work with the Legislature to get them what they need.

(Dillon) Gundersen says the latest leak at Yankee points to a continuing weakness in the plant's inspection program.

(Gundersen) And that's been the problem. Vermont Yankee's towers were inspection-related, the tower failure. And the fire in the transformer was inspection-related. And this is another inspection-related problem. And it seems to me that all the words in the world are not going to make the pipe any stronger. You actually have to get in there and do it. And that doesn't seem to be happening.

(Dillon) Yankee officials are not in favor of the Gundersen's new role. They have said the appointment is unwarranted.

For VPR News, I'm John Dillon in Montpelier.


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