Another leak discovered at Vermont Yankee plant

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(Host) Power production at Vermont Yankee was ordered cut in half after another leak was found in the nuclear power plant.

Slightly radioactive water was involved, but officials say neither leak was a safety concern.

VPR’s Ross Sneyd reports.

(Sneyd) Leaks were reported in two different parts of the plant over the past couple of days.

The first was actually found two weeks ago. It involved a gasket in cleanout system. The plant says about two-and-a-half gallons of “slightly radioactive” water leaked, but was contained.

The second leak was found this week in a pipe that feeds water into the turbine. About 60 drops a minute were leaking. This time the water was described as “mildly radioactive.”

The cause of that leak won’t be determined until the plant’s power output is reduced enough to inspect the pipe.

But Yankee spokesman Rob Williams says the first leak isn’t unusual.

(Williams) “Certainly anyone who’s worked with water systems knows that valve gaskets sometimes leak. And it’s a relatively simple process.”

(Sneyd) The Nuclear Regulatory Commission also says the leaks didn’t threaten public safety.

Spokesman Neal Sheehan says power plants commonly have water systems that malfunction.

(Sheehan) “It would not be uncommon for most plants to be experiencing some sort of leakage at different points during any given year. The key is to be ensure the leakage is being captured and they’re adhering to their thresholds for repairing these leaks and when they do reach those thresholds they’re aggressively going in and making the proper repairs.”

(Sneyd) Vermont Yankee’s operating license expires in 2012. It has applied to extend the license for another 20 years.

The issues at the plant come at the start of a legislative session when Yankee officials need lawmakers’ permission for that extension.

Bob Stannard lobbies at the Statehouse for Yankee critics.

(Stannard) “I do find it ironic that we’ve been in the building two days, the opening week of the session, and now we have two leaks. And at some point in time Vermonters are going to have ask themselves how many leaks are enough leaks. I know what they say is this isn’t a safety issue and this is just fine. But radiation is radiation. There’s no safe level and at some point in time there’s going to be the leak that broke the camel’s back.”

(Sneyd) Both the plant and the NRC says the water was contained inside the plant and was never released to the environment. Yankee says the water is filtered to remove the radiation and the filters are disposed with other radioactive waste.

For VPR News, I’m Ross Sneyd.

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