Yankee Included In Federal Review Of Nuclear Plants

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(Host) Federal officials will review the safety of all U.S. nuclear power plants in the wake of the ongoing nuclear catastrophe in Japan. But that review is not likely to halt a new federal license for Vermont Yankee.

VPR’s John Dillon has more:

(Dillon) Gregory Jaczko is the chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. He testified Wednesday before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

(Jaczko) "The agency intends to go forward with a systematic and methodical look at all of the plants to see if – primarily based on the incident in Japan – to see if there are any modifications or changes we need to make to our regulators."

(Dillon) The Vermont Yankee plant in Vernon has the same design as the crippled Japanese reactors. The day before the earthquake struck Japan, the NRC approved Yankee’s request for a new 20 year license.

Senator Bernie Sanders pressed Jaczko on how his agency could issue a new license for Yankee given the events in Japan. He said that as early as 1972 NRC officials had said the containment system used at Yankee and at the Japanese plants could burst and release radiation in a catastrophic accident.

(Sanders) "What we do want is a thoughtful response to the tragedy in Japan and to make sure absolutely certain that nothing like ever happens in the Untied States of America. People think that a terrible event is unthinkable until the day after it occurs."

(Dillon) But the nuclear accidents in Japan have apparently not changed the NRC’s mind about Vermont Yankee. Jaczko said Yankee would be part of the NRC review, but he did not say his agency would halt the license extension.

(Jaczko) "The license extension that we issued is an opportunity for that plant to operate additionally beyond the years of its initial license. But if we do find information that tells us changes need to be made we’ll make those changes."

 (Dillon) Under state law, Yankee still needs approval from the Vermont Legislature before it can operate past March 2012. Legislative leaders say the events unfolding in Japan make that approval much less likely.

For VPR News, I’m John Dillon.

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