Engineering review required in Yankee uprate decision

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(Host) State utility regulators have approved Vermont Yankee’s request to boost its power output by 20 percent. But they also asked federal authorities to conduct a detailed, independent engineering assessment of the reactor.

VPR’s John Dillon reports.

(Dillon) After months of review, the Public Service Board concluded that the plan to squeeze 20 percent more power out of the 540 megawatt reactor is good for the state.

But the PSB approval comes with a key condition that was sought by opponents of the plan. The PSB asked the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission to step in and conduct an independent engineering analysis of the 31-year-old reactor. In its letter to the NRC, the board said it was seeking a review comparable to the independent analysis done at the Maine Yankee nuclear several years ago. That study led to the shutdown of the Maine plant.

Ray Shadis is with the New England Coalition on Nuclear Pollution, the group that called for the independent review.

(Shadis) “From our point of view, that is the minimal practical conservative thing to do. Before this plant is permitted to be put to great stress, we want to determine what condition it’s in and the condition of its operations to see if it’s likely to withstand the uprate. And I think the board is taking some risk in putting this condition out there. And I’ve got to congratulate them for it.”

(Dillon) In the Vermont case, the board asked that the NRC review be done by experts who don’t normally oversee the operations of the Vernon reactor. The Public Service Board acknowledged that the request for the engineering review was “unusual.” But the board said that a power increase of this magnitude raises “significant reliability issues.”

The Public Service Board also required Entergy Vermont Yankee to protect ratepayers if the power increase causes it to run out of storage for its radioactive waste.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m John Dillon.

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