Vermont Yankee Back Online 19 days After Fire

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(Host) The state’s only nuclear power plant is back on line after a fire last month forced a 19-day shutdown. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has been investigating the cause of the blaze, which started near a large transformer.

NRC spokeswoman Diane Screnci says it appears that the fire started when an expansion joint broke and shorted out inside a duct that carries electricity to the transformer.

(Screnci) “The metal came off an internal component and that caused a fault banging around and rattling around inside the duct and it caused electrical shorts. And one of the results of the banging around was that an oil pipe came loose and that started the fire.”

(Host) According to Screnci, the fire apparently began with a piece of original equipment, and not with recent modifications needed for a 20 percent power boost.

The distinction is important because if the blaze was due to equipment that was installed for the power uprate, Entergy-Vermont Yankee would have to pay utilities for the cost of replacement power during the 19-day outage.

But Ray Shadis of the New England Coalition, a nuclear watchdog group, says the NRC has relied on Vermont Yankee for information about the fire. Shadis wants the Vermont Public Service Board to investigate the cause.

(Shadis) “The way we read the agreement, it is the burden of Entergy to prove that any unplanned outage is not a result of the uprate related activities. And this is a perfect opportunity to try that out before the plant actually goes on to uprated power.”

(Host) A Yankee official said this morning the plant is producing about 45 percent power, and will be up to full power by the end of the week. The reactor supplies about one-third of the state’s electricity demand.

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