Vermont Yankee Finishes Tritium Investigation

03/26/10 7:34AM By Susan Keese
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AP Photo/Jason R. Henske

(Host)  Entergy Vermont Yankee says it has stopped the leak of radioactive tritium into groundwater near the Vernon nuclear plant.

Spokesmen for the plant told state and local officials on Thursday that they've finished their investigation and are starting  to remove contaminated soil and water from the site.

VPR's Susan Keese has more.

(Keese) Yankee communications director Larry Smith led a crowd of reporters and local officials to a 17-foot trench just south of the reactor building.

That's where the contamination has been pinpointed, with help from a series of monitoring wells dug by workers trying to isolate the problem.

(Smith) "This is where the tritium wells and where the excavation is, where we found the two leaks and where we're going to remediate the soil."

(Keese) Smith says about 150 feet, or about two pickup truck loads, of contaminated soils will be removed and shipped to a low-level waste facility.

The radiated water is being pumped into vinyl bladders. From there it will be piped back into the plant and recirculated through the reactor system.

The leak was first disclosed by Entergy in January and it immediately created a political firestorm.

The company had previously told state regulators and legislators that there were no underground pipes at Vermont Yankee that carried radioactive material.

Last month, the state Senate voted overwhelmingly against allowing Yankee's bid for a 20-year license extension to go forward.

Spokesman Larry Smith says Entergy has begun to recover some of the trust it lost.

(Smith) "So it's not an issue that we're proud of. But we can say with certainty today that this is over, and we can move forward."

(Keese) The Nuclear Regulatory Commission says it's already determined that Entergy has met the criteria for relicensure.

But the process isn't finished, yet. NRC spokesman Neil Sheehan says appeals have been filed and will have to be heard by the commission that oversees the NRC.

(Sheehan) "And another element of that is we have asked them for more information about what they submitted to us with regard to issues like buried underground piping."

(Keese) Sheehan says the federal agency is also re-examining some of its own policies.

(Sheehan)"We're looking at ways we might be able to change our oversight of buried piping and underground piping. We don't find this tolerable, the fact that they had leaking pipes, and we're going to continue to look for ways to strengthen our oversight of that."

(Keese) Entergy says it still wants to extend Yankee's operating license until 2032. The Legislature could vote on the proposal again next year.

For VPR News, I'm Susan Keese

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