Yankee uses camera to search for missing fuel rods

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(Host) Officials at the Yankee plant are hoping a robotic camera will locate the missing fuel fragments. They’re focusing first on the likelihood that they’re somewhere in the spent fuel pool.

A video camera has not located the rods, but Entergy Nuclear spokesman Brian Cosgrove says a robotic camera is now on site. It should be ready in a couple of days for a closer inspection of the 40-foot-deep steel container.

(Cosgrove) “These cameras are designed to move around in that area beneath the racks that hold the spent fuel. So that we can, over time, get a complete survey of the floor.”

(Host) Plant officials are also pursuing a paper trail, looking through decades of documents Entergy inherited when it bought the plant. Cosgrove says they also plan to interview former workers.

The missing fragments are from a faulty fuel rod removed from the reactor in 1979. Cosgrove says it’s possible that samples of the faulty rod were sent to the manufacturer, General Electric, to determine why the rod failed.

(Cosgrove) “We’re looking at the records and if our records show that it was shipped out in one way or another, that will become evident. But right now we’re focusing on the pool. Obviously we’re not ruling anything out.”

(Host) Cosgrove says the only way the pieces might not show up in plant records would be if they were accidentally shipped to a low-level waste facility. That was the unofficial assessment in a similar incident several years ago at a Connecticut nuclear plant. In that incident, two entire fuel rods turned up missing and were never accounted for.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which oversees plant safety, has sent the key inspector from that incident to the Vernon plant. NRC Spokesman Neill Sheehan says he’ll make sure the investigation is thorough.

(Sheehan) “He has a great base of knowledge to work with, he knows the issues inside and out – especially since so many of the avenues that have to be chased here were chased after when the Millstone rods could not be found.”

(Host) Tomorrow, at its 33rd anniversary meeting, the New England Coalition will discuss the missing rods and the Yankee uprate. The coalition’s mission is to guard against nuclear pollution.

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