Federal officials promise safety review at Yankee

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(Host) In Vernon Wednesday night, nuclear regulatory officials promised an extensive safety review before allowing Vermont Yankee to raise its power output.

The Vernon plant wants to generate 20% more electricity. The increase would involve more fuel and major modifications. Recent meetings in Windham County have been dominated by deep concerns about the risks of added pressure on the 30-year- old reactor. Many local citizens, including some state legislators, have asked for an independent safety study.

The federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission monitors plant safety. Agency officials were invited to Vernon by the Vermont State Nuclear Advisory Panel, which advises the state on nuclear power. More than 200 people attended the meeting. Unlike earlier such gatherings, many spoke in favor of the power upgrade.

But Orange county Senator Mark MacDonald, a member of the VSNAP panel, claimed the NRC is already overburdened and underfunded.

(MacDonald) “Since 9-11 we’ve had terrorist issues dealing with nuclear power plants. We have security concerns about the plants themselves. We have security concerns about stored, high level nuclear waste on the plants sites. How can you assure the people of this state and us that you can do all those things and supervise putting a bigger engine in this old car?”

(Host) But NRC spokesman Tad Marsh says the review is always taken seriously.

(Marsh) “I was hoping to convey to you and to the rest of the panel the scope and depth of the review that’s conducted on these power upgrades. This is an extremely significant review that’s done. Four thousand hours, 17 review branches, a year’s worth of time, is a significant review.”

(Host) Hearings on the upgrade with the state regulatory board begin next week. Yankee’s owners have not yet filed an application with the NRC.

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