NRC gives VT Yankee the hot gas, then turns off their radar guns.
By Sally Shaw, October 26, 2005
The VT Yankee Nuclear Reactor Uprate may have deleterious effects on public health, but the public may never know about them. On Oct. 21, NRC spokesman Neil Sheehan said the agency had completed its draft review of Vermont Yankee’s plan to increase its power output, but would not make it public yet. Instead, the so-called safety evaluation would first be sent to Vermont Yankee owner Entergy Nuclear to allow the company to request which parts of the report it wants kept from public view. NRC grants Entergy this courtesy due to so-called proprietary information in the engineering analyses that went into the report. A redacted report MAY be available before the November 15 public hearing in Brattleboro (at the Quality Inn on November 15 & 16) before the Advisory Committee on Reactor Safety (a quasi-NRC board), but then again there is no deadline for Entergy to return the report to the NRC with its requested redactions. So intervenors and concerned citizens may once again be left to testify in the dark.
Lord protect us.
But that’s not all.
In an astoundingly inept metaphor, NRC spokesman Neil Sheehan said last week that Entergy may fuel up its antique VT Yankee Reactor with extra-hot fuel this week (10/22/05), even before they receive permission from the PSB or NRC on the uprate, because hot gas (and a souped up engine) doesn’t equate to speeding.
“Just because you put high octane gas in your car doesn’t mean you can break the speed limit. The speed limit is still 65.”
But is it, Neil?
A little web research reveals that on March 23, 2005, while we were all going about our sleepy little ordinary lives, the NRC quietly posted in the Federal Register the fact that they had granted Entergy’s request to PERMANENTLY EXEMPT VT YANKEE FROM RADIATION (STEAM) LEAKAGE TEST REQUIREMENTS. The Federal Register goes on to explain that federal regulations specify the leakage test requirements, schedules and acceptance criteria for tests of the “leak-tight integrity of the primary reactor containment and systems and components which penetrate the containment.”
Entergy, it seems, asked for AND RECEIVED from their NRC benefactors a PERMANENT EXEMPTION from the requirements contained in Appendix J Option B, Section IIIA which requires that the total leakage rate through all tested leakage paths not exceed the allowable leakage rate with margin, as specified in the Technical Specifications.
Not content with this, they also requested exemption from Option B, Sections III.B “Type B and C tests” which requires that the sum of the leakage rates of all Type B and C local leak rate tests be less than the performance criterion with margin. But that’s not all,
Entergy’s exemption request was submitted in conjunction with a TS (technical specifications?) amendment application to INCREASE THE ALLOWABLE LEAK RATE FOR THE MAIN STEAM ISOLATION VALVES. The Federal Register says that the proposed amendment will be issued concurrently with the aforementioned exemptions. So,
NRC’s Sheehan blithely gives the go ahead to soup up the reactor, knowing that back in March the cops removed the speed limit AND turned off their radar guns. Of course, they don’t tell us that when justifying their arrogant claim that just because you increase the octane of your gas, you aren’t intending to speed. Sheehan knows Entergy won’t be caught speeding, because NO ONE IS LOOKING!!! How do these people sleep at night? I know I don’t.
Incidentally, also reported in this unusual Federal Register, which gives no opportunity for public comment on this rule change as most Federal Register notices do, is the fact that Entergy has analyzed the main steam leakage pathway and reported an increase in leakage from 62 cubic feet per hour to 124 cubic feet per hour. (PER HOUR!) at the calculated peak internal containment pressure (and does this or does it not account for containment OVERpressure, another contested Uprate artifact)! So, folks, the increase in leakage of radioactive steam does not follow the increase in power of 20%, it increases it by 100%! The NRC, of course, finds all this acceptable. They don’t happen to live in the ZONE. They claim that Entergy’s calculated radiological consequences of the combined leakages are within their criteria. Perhaps this is because Entergy uses fuzzy math in their calculations, which is sanctioned by the NRC. They use 1 Roentgen = .71 REM instead of the usual 1 Roentgen = 1 REM. This fuzzy math was caught by the VT Dept. of Health Radiological Dept. last year when Entergy’s calculated fenceline doses disagreed with VT Dept. of Health’s monitors. (Entergy exceeded their VT State mandated fenceline radiation limits for the last quarter of 2004 by 5 millirems, even before fueling up with or storing more, HOTTER, MORE PLUTONIUM- INTENSE fuel. Ray Shadis of the New England Coalition commented, “it is now known that ENVY discounts the calculated impact of their direct radiation on human beings by 29 %. ”
Or perhaps NRC finds these radiological consequences acceptable because they only consider whole body gamma radiation in setting their criteria. They do not consider the effects of ingested or inhaled fission products, alpha & beta emitters; isotopes like Strontium 90, Iodine 131, Cesium 137, or Cobalt 60, which cause leukemia, thyroid disease, childhood cancers, bone and nearby tissue cancers, infant mortality, fetal death, etc. etc. If they did include safe levels for these radioisotopes, leaked with the steam, in their criteria, if they followed the advice of the National Science Foundation who reported no safe level of radiation exposure; if they were as honest about the health effects of living near a nuclear reactor as the EPA is on their website, they would not allow this stuff to be emitted at all.
In this Federal Register announcement, the NRC PERMANENTLY EXEMPTS ENTERGY FROM STEAM LEAKAGE TESTS.
But that’s not all.
One of the primary concerns expressed by intervenors in the Uprate permitting process is the effect of the Uprate on the already cracked steam dryers. It was admitted by an Entergy Engineer at a VSNAP meeting two years ago when asked what the implications of steam dryer cracking and breaking could be, that if a piece of steam dryer cracked, shook loose and entered the steam line, it could cause a valve to stick open and release radioactive steam directly to the environment. So rather than build a NEW steam dryer to withstand the intensely increased vibration of the super hot fuel releasing 20% more energy, and 100% more steam leakage, Entergy and the NRC just patched up 3 of the 20 known cracks in the old steam dryer, changed the rules regarding steam leaks, and proposed pseudo conditions to appease a frightened public: an experimental ramp-up period in which, as long as the whole reactor doesn’t crumble, everything will be perceived to be Okey Dokey, since no one’s paying attention to the steam leaks anyway. Voila! The wonders of modern technological denial. But that’s not all, either.
In April of 1998 the then owner of Vermont Yankee, The VT Yankee Nuclear Power Corp. requested an amendment to the Technical Specifications, relaxing requirements to SHUT DOWN THE REACTOR if the high range stack noble gas monitor failed and could not be restored within 30 days. Instead, the owners gallantly offered to submit a special report to the NRC within 7 days if NRC would remove the requirement to shut down the reactor. The stack radiation monitor system is designed to sample, monitor, indicate and record the radioactivity level of the radioactive gases being released from the plant stack during operation and to alert operators if radiation levels approach or exceed pre-established (now probably gutted) limits. NRC Docket No. 5-271, Accession number ML01166002 states “This change essentially replaces a 30 day shutdown action statement with a 14-day reporting requirement.” They expect an alternative monitoring system to be imposed within 72 hrs (3 days). The high range stack noble gas monitor consists of a single instrument with no redundant counterpart. If they aren’t required to install a back-up, alternative monitoring system ahead of time, and aren’t required to until 3 days after an accident, the most intense releases of dangerous gases due to malfunction in the reactor will already have been released, as at Three Mile Island, allowing officials to then tell the media that radiation releases are within acceptable levels.
I don’t know about you, dear reader, but I’m feeling a little nervous that NRC and Entergy are proposing to experiment with ramping up a leaky bucket with leakage monitoring exemptions, a secret safety evaluation, a cracked steam dryer, and no back up for their stack radiation monitors in my back yard. Especially when trusted scientists like David Lochbaum of the Union of Concerned Scientists say “experiments belong in laboratories, not in communities.”
Please write to the Public Service Board, The Advisory Committee on Reactor Safety (ACRS), your local legislators and your Congressmen and point out that the cops have turned off their radar. This is clearly all about protecting the Entergy Corporation, and not about protecting us. It is an outrage, and only we can stop it. These people all work for us.
One Enraged Mom
Vermont Public Service Board
112 State Street
Montpelier, VT 05620-2701
Phone: 802 828-2358
OR email: firstname.lastname@example.org
(301) 415-8065 or email RXC@nrc.gov.
People who wish to speak at the November 15 ACRS hearing in Brattleboro may contact ACRS staff member Ralph Caruso in advance at (301) 415-8065.or email him at RXC@nrc.gov.