Vermont Yankee says cooling towers safety shouldn’t be reviewed for relicensing

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(Host) Vermont Yankee will step up monitoring of its cooling towers after one of the structures partially collapsed in August.

But Yankee has also told federal regulators that the tower safety should not be reviewed as part of its license extension application.

VPR’s John Dillon reports.

(Dillon) The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is reviewing Yankee’s application to extend its license for another 20 years.

So after a cooling tower structure collapsed in August, the NRC asked some detailed questions about what caused the failure.

The commission staff wanted to make sure that the problems that caused the collapse don’t affect the one towers that would be used for back-up cooling in an emergency. A adjacent tower cell is also considered part of the safety equipment because it’s built to withstand earthquakes

Yankee spokesman Rob Williams says additional federal review isn’t necessary.

(Williams) “So in response to a NRC question, we said that there’s no reason to include the cooling tower cell event in the scope of the NRC re-licensing.”

(Dillon) Yankee says the tower structure fell down in part because its wooden supports were weakened by moisture and corrosion.

Williams said the company will do some additional monitoring of the safety-related towers.

(Williams) “We have a good understanding of what caused it, and now we’re putting in place a revised inspection and monitoring program that would affect the whole tower.”

(Dillon) But a spokesman for a nuclear watchdog group says the review should be expanded to look at the human side of the issue.

Ray Shadis is with the New England Coalition.

(Shadis) “Was this a failure of their maintenance crew? Was this a failure of their in-service inspection crew? Was this a failure of their quality assurance department, of their management, of their engineering?”

(Dillon) Shadis says the NRC should review all the towers as part of the license extension case. He says that another structural failure could damage the two that are used for safety.

(Shadis) “If the piping is torn apart and the water falls onto the deck of the adjoining towers, the safety-related towers, will they also come down? That is the kind of analysis that needs to be done.”

(Dillon) Williams, of Vermont Yankee, says that’s not possible since the structures are built to withstand earthquakes.

The NRC, meanwhile, is studying Yankee’s response and will decide whether it needs more information.

For VPR News, I’m John Dillon.


AP Photo/Toby Talbot

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