Search yields no sign of missing fuel rod components

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(Host) Technicians using a robotic camera have failed, so far, to find missing fuel rod components at the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant. A Yankee spokesman says officials will continue the search, and will review old records in an effort to locate the material.

VPR’s John Dillon reports:

(Dillon) Vermont Yankee has just ended a 30-day refueling outage and is again supplying electricity to the New England grid. The outage was complicated by the revelation that Yankee lost track of two pieces of a highly radioactive fuel rod.

Technicians using a small robotic camera have searched day and night through the spent fuel pool, but haven’t found the missing material. Rob Williams is a plant spokesman.

(Williams) “The initial camera work was completed on Friday and there were no fuel rods segments observed. Engineers have since reviewed the video data and validated that initial conclusion.”

(Dillon) Williams said the camera has scoured the bottom of the 40-foot deep pool, the place where the pieces probably would have been found. But the search continues under and alongside the fuel rod assemblies.

(Williams) “We’ve looked in the most likely location, if it was on the pool floor, we’ve looked in the most likely location. Now we’re looking further underneath the racks just to make sure we’ve scoped out the area entirely.”

(Dillon) Yankee is also going through old records to learn if the radioactive material was mistakenly removed from the plant.

During the re-fueling outage, workers also installed new equipment needed for a controversial plan to boost power by 20 percent. Yankee was allowed to begin work on the $60 million upgrade, while federal regulators review the plan.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m John Dillon in Montpelier.

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