(Host) Opponents of a plan to increase the power capacity of the Vermont Nuclear Power Plant say they have new safety concerns with the project. Vermont Yankee officials are dismissing the allegations and say they have full confidence in the physical structure of their facility.
VPRs Bob Kinzel reports.
(Kinzel) The new owner of Vermont Yankee, the Entergy Corporation, wants to increase the amount of power that’s generated at the plant by roughly 20%. Currently the facility generates 540 megawatts. The expansion project, known as an uprate, would allow Entergy to produce an additional 110 megawatts of power that could be sold to utilities in the region.
The Vermont Public Service Board has held some technical hearings on this project and more hearings will begin in the middle of next month.
Arnie Gundersen, who worked in the nuclear power industry for 20 years before becoming a teacher Burlington High School, is working with the New England Coalition to oppose the project. Gundersen presented reporters with a report on Tuesday afternoon that he says clearly shows that the plant will suffer severe physical problems if the expansion is approved.
Gundersen says there are concerns with the facility’s feed water piping system and its condenser system. He’s also worried that the expansion will produce more radiation at the plant:
(Gundersen) “I think the plant would barely get to 2012 based on the present condition. I’m dreadfully concerned that it could break at any moment if you crank up the power.”
(Kinzel) Vermont Yankee spokesperson Brian Cosgrove says these concerns have no merit and Cosgrove notes that the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission will conduct a thorough safety review of the plant if state officials give their approval to the plan. Cosgrove also thinks last week’s power outage in many parts of the northeast and the midwest further highlights the need for this project:
(Cosgrove) “The reliability of the grid is extremely important we saw how easily it can go out and we saw the importance of having strong sources of generation here in Vermont, like Vermont Yankee, which basically saved Vermont from going into that blackout. So I think that there are a lot of benefits available to Vermont consumers by this up rate.”
(Kinzel) The Douglas administration says it will not support the plan unless Vermont consumers directly benefit from the project. State officials say they’re concerned because there are no guarantees that any of the new power will be made available to Vermont utilities.
For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.