Group Wants Feds To Address Yankee Safety

08/24/10 7:34AM By John Dillon
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(Host) An anti-nuclear group says federal regulators need to address a potential safety problem at Vermont Yankee.

The New England Coalition says Yankee's electric cables could get wet and disable safety equipment.

As VPR's John Dillon reports, the coalition has asked the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to reopen hearings on Yankee's request for a new, 20-year license.

(Dillon) Back in May, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission conducted a routine inspection at Vermont Yankee and noted that a number of electric cables at the plant were submerged in water. The inspectors said it's a potential safety problem because the cables aren't designed to work when wet.

Now the New England Coalition has asked the federal agency to include the cables in its review of Yankee's request for a new 20-year license. Ray Shadis is technical advisor to the New England Coalition.

(Shadis) "The problem is that these cables are rated only for dry service. They are not for outdoor use. So what can result is that safety equipment, when you need it, can short out and not function. We think this is a very serious safety issue. We think that the company before it goes into an extended period of operation - for another 20 years - really needs to address it."

(Dillon) Yankee's license extension has been under NRC review since 2006. Shadis said the NRC should be able to conduct the review without adding more time to the process. He wants the NRC to require Yankee to replace the affected cables.  

(Shadis) "Plants cannot operate if they cannot certify that all of their safety related equipment will operate as designed when it's called upon. And there's no way the company can do that if they are allowing these electrical cables, vital electric cables, to become wet or submerged."

(Dillon) But Vermont Yankee says it's already addressed the issue. Yankee spokesman Larry Smith said technicians located 81 manholes with underground cables, and pumped water from 17.

(Smith) "And Entergy is establishing a program, and at Vermont Yankee specifically, for those 17 manholes to pump them on a regular basis or to install pumps or sumps so that they are free of water. So we have been aggressive on the issue, as has Entergy as a nuclear fleet, and think we have a good handle on an important issue, which is keeping electrical cables out of water."

(Dillon) The NRC has not made a decision on whether to include the cables as part of the license renewal process.

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

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