Community Members Lose Trust In NRC

04/20/10 7:34AM By Susan Keese
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(Host) A delegation of experts from the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission was in Brattleboro yesterday/Monday.

They held an informational open house, and an evening forum on the recent leaks of radioactive material into groundwater at Vermont Yankee.

VPR's Susan Keese has more.

(Keese) The NRC has been monitoring Entergy Vermont Yankee's response to the discovery of radioactive tritium in groundwater near the Vernon nuclear plant.

Its investigation isn't finished. Entergy has yet to determine the leak's root cause. But NRC Regional Chief John White says Entergy did a good job once it discovered the leak.

(White) "They put together a very high level team. They were working 24-7 since January 7 to establish where the source was. In all respects that we've looked at they have been in conformance with NRC rules and  regulations"

(Keese) Prior to Monday's open house, the NRC outlined some preliminary findings in a letter to plant management.

The letter said Entergy had followed some, but not all of the measures the industry had *voluntarily agreed to adopt for preventing and detecting leaks.

White said the program included the installation of  monitoring wells. Entergy dug three.

(White) " One of which was instrumental in identifying a ground water condition in the vicinity of one of their groundwater monitoring wells, and that's what started this investigation."

(Keese) The NRC letter said Entergy had not improved its preventative maintenance schedule, or enhanced its leak detection capability, or completed other voluntary measures supposed to be in place by 2008.

NRC officials said the bottom line was that the incident didn't affect the public health or safety.

They said that even though some tritiated water likely reached the Connecticut River, it would be too diluted to even detect.

In the evening session citizens and elected officials sounded a recurring theme -- that they didn't trust the NRC.

Kathleen Krevetski is a nurse from Rutland.

(Krevetski) "I have a trust issue also with telling us tritium is not dangerous. Just because you have equipment that cannot measure the tritium in the Connecticut River, you would have us believe it's okay to drink the water. Why is it that the NRC believes that what you cannot see or cannot measure will not hurt you?"

(Keese) NRC officials say they've formed a ground water contamination task force to consider whether the agency could do more to prevent leaks.

For VPR News, I'm Susan Keese.

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