Douglas administration says Yankee must undergo safety review

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(Host) Public Service Department Commissioner David O’Brien says an independent reliability study must be conducted at the Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Plant if the state is going to support a proposal to expand the power capacity of the facility. O’Brien says the study is needed to help restore public confidence in the operations of the plant after the disclosure this week that two pieces of a highly radioactive fuel rod are missing.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) When the Vermont Public Service Board gave its approval last month to a plan to allow the Vermont Yankee plant to increase it’s power output by 20 percent, the PSB said it would only support the upgrade if an independent engineering reliability study of the plant was conducted. The PSB wanted to be assured that the power increase will not adversely affect the plant’s ability to deliver power to Vermont consumers.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission says it’s reviewing the PSB request and that a decision on this issue will be made sooner as opposed to later. That approach is not sitting well with the Douglas Administration.

Public Service Department Commissioner David O’Brien says he’s told the NRC that the governor wants a response to the independent study request by next Tuesday. O’Brien says he’s making it very clear to the NRC that the state is linking the future of the upgrade to the results of independent study.

(O’Brien) “We’re very united on this between the congressional representatives, the governor’s office, the Public Service Board, of course, and the Legislature. So the NRC ultimately will make this decision as the jurisdictional regulatory authority, but we think, I certainly think that they have an opportunity here to be flexible and to offer the kind of confidence to the public that people want.”

(Kinzel) O’Brien says the public’s confidence in the operations of the plant has been shaken by the disclosure that two highly radioactive fuel segments are missing. The commissioner doesn’t think that state and federal officials are going to find the missing fuel pieces in the spent fuel pool at Vermont Yankee.

(O’Brien) “The possibility of them being in another storage assembly with the rest of the material that’s in the pool. I have an understanding that’s not likely, therefore the prospect of finding them within the pool does not seem to be the likely outcome.”

(Kinzel) O’Brien says a more likely outcome is that the fuel segments were mistakenly included in a low-level radioactive waste shipment that was sent to a storage facility in either South Carolina or the state of Washington.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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