Officials ask NRC to conduct Vermont Yankee review

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(Host) Governor Jim Douglas is calling on the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission to comply with an order from the state Public Service Board. The board called for an independent engineering study of the Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Plant’s proposal to increase its power output by 20 percent. The NRC says it hasn’t decided how it will respond to this request.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) When the Vermont Public Service Board issued its ruling on a proposal by the Entergy Corporation to boost power at its Vernon reactor by 20 percent, the PSB gave its approval to the uprate but with the condition that the NRC conduct an independent engineering study to determine if the power increase would have any effect on the reliability of the facility to produce power.

There’s been a lot of confusion in recent days if the NRC plans to conduct such an assessment and what will happen if it chooses not to. Governor Jim Douglas says he’s making it clear to the NRC that he believes it’s a good idea to conduct a review that looks at the reliability issues surrounding the uprate:

(Douglas) “I think it’s reasonable to ensure that the operation is safe. As I mentioned, that’s the most important consideration. It seemed to me that with the various suggestions offered to the board for a more exhaustive study that the board struck a good balance and required something that’s not overly expensive or intrusive, but that would test some of the systems of the plant to provide an extra level of assurance.”

(Kinzel) If the NRC refuses to conduct such an engineering study, Douglas says it will appropriate for the Public Service Board to review its options:

(Douglas) “I think the board understands that the state needs the power and it will look at the situation at that time and see what it’s options are. I don’t think it’s a matter of proclaiming absolutely that the uprate will or won’t happen if the NRC declines the condition that has been requested so far.”

(Kinzel) The three members of Vermont’s congressional delegation got directly involved in this issue on Wednesday afternoon. Senators Patrick Leahy and Jim Jeffords and Congressman Bernie Sanders sent a letter to the NRC urging the commission to respond promptly to the PSB’s request for an engineering study. The delegation reminds the NRC that it has the authority to order a reliability assessment of the uprate and the letter urges the NRC to conduct this kind of study in a timely manner.

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

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