2010 Timeline

  • Resources

    • Tritium leaks in brief: Reported found at VY (Jan. 8) Search for leak continues at Yankee (Jan. 13) Tritium found in 100 gallons of free-standing water in a room in the radioactive waste building – 2 million ppl (Jan. 20) More tritium found at Vermont Yankee (Jan. 21) Cobalt 60 and stronium 90 found (Jan. 24). (source: Brattleboro Reformer)
    • NRC tritium limit is 30,000 ppl (parts per liter).
    • Investigation launched by state regarding whether Entergy officials lied to state regulators last year over the existence of radioactivity in buried pipes, which appear to be the source of increasing levels and types of radioactivity leaking at the Vernon reactor.  (January ’10).
    • NRC confirms that cobalt-60 and zinc-65 found in dangerous levels in an underground trench where tritium registered up to 2 million picocuries earlier in the week. Cobalt-60 registered at 13,000 picocuries, where the federal reportable levels are 100 picocuries per liter. For zinc-65, the level was 2,460, while the reportable level is 300 picocuries per liter. For tritium, the level is 20,000 picocuries for drinking water, and 30,000 picocuries in general. The most recent test in the trench for tritium put it at 1.6 million picocuries.  (January 24 ’10).
    • VT’s congressional delegation reiterates its call for a special investigation of Vermont Yankee by the NRC, saying that “alarming” information continues to come out of the plant. (January ’10).
    • NRC to review VY license application (January 21 ’10).
    • In wake of massive radioactive leaks from Vermont Yankee, VT Gov. Jim Douglas says he has lost trust in Entergy’s current Vermont Yankee management team and withdraws his support for action on reactor’s relicensing until issues at the nuclear plant are cleared up and new management is in place. (January 22, ’10).
    • PSB requires Entergy to review every page of written testimony as well as oral testimony relicensing Docket 7440, citing that  Entergy officials lied under oath to the PSB as well as Public Service Dept, the Public Oversight panel and its contractor, Nuclear Safety Assoc.,  to the legislature and to the public. The PSB is also concerned about the affect tritium leaks may have on relicensing.   (January 26, ’10).
    • Entergy Nuclear vice-president Jay Thayer, the Entergy official in charge of Vermont Yankee, is relieved of his duties following revelations of misleading statements to Vermont officials in which he denied the existence of underground pipes later found to be the source of radioactive leaks.  11 Yankee employees in all were sanctioned by Entergy. (February ’10).
    • Ice truck waved through front gate of Vernon nuclear plant without being stopped or searched.  Driver, who said four years earlier his truck had been searched, said he was “astounded” by the lax security and wondered what would have happened if there had been “explosives” or “20 gun-toting terrorists were in the back of [his] truck” (February ’10)
    • Levels of radioactive tritium mushroom in new monitoring well at reactor, indicating leak coming from water that runs through the reactor itself, according to VT Department of Health. “These are very high concentrations,” says William Irwin, DOH radiological health chief. “We’re not dealing with a minor system. It’s an important source that needs to be quickly found.”  Says area of contamination is roughly from reactor building to Connecticut River (February ’10).
    • On the eve of the Senate vote on relicensing, Entergy Vice-President Curt Hebert Jr. offers a “gift” of 25 megawatts of electricity at 4 cents a kilowatt-hour for three years. Critics call it a bribe, and noted that it was only 1/12th of current production at a slightly lower cost. Entergy has been unable to procure any power purchase agreements with utilities in Vermont. (February 23, 2010)
    • Vermont Senate votes 26-4 against recommending that the Public Service Board act on Vermont Yankee’s request for a 20-year extension of its license to operate a nuclear plant in Vernon. Despite a snowstorm, hundreds of citizens filled the State House for the four hour debate. Entergy’s credibility was key to its defeat. Sen. Randy Brock, one of the four who voted to extend the license, said   “If it’s board of directors and its management had been thoroughly infiltrated by anti-nuclear activists I do not believe they could have done a better job in destroying their own case. The dissembling, the prevarication, the lack of candor have been striking.” February 24, 2010
    • NRC finds Entergy out of compliance with minimal industry standards for groundwater protection at Vermont Yankee plant, citing failures regarding “leak detection methods,” “enhancements to prevent spills or leaks from reaching groundwater,”  “preventive maintenance of equipment to minimize the potential of radioactive material,” and failure to establish “a site-specific groundwater monitoring plan” (April ’10).
    • Updated state report, conducted by Nuclear Safety Associates of Johnson City, TN, on whether recent radioactive leaks at Vermont Yankee affect the plant’s long-term reliability raises questions about potential of additional leaks if more money not spent on prevention.
”The occurrence of the leaks underscores the need to more proactively determine plant vulnerability to similar leaks,” report concluded (May ’10).
    • Vermont Yankee officials reveal that while cleaning up after leak of radioactive tritium, they found strontium-90 in soil near where the leak occurred. Source of the strontium-90 contamination is not known. “We believe we’ve removed it all,” says Yankee spokesperson Larry Smith (May ’10).
    • VT Dept. of Health reveals that a Connecticut River fish caught four miles upstream from Vermont Yankee on February 9, 2010, tested positive for low levels of strontium-90 but its not related to radioactive leak at Vermont Yankee (May ’10).
    • NRC says inspection of Vermont Yankee’s steam dryer, considered a critical indicator of aging and stress at the nuclear reactor, shows new crack, bringing total cracks to 65. Entergy says it reevaluated 39 previous cracks designated as “relevant” but now considered “non-relevant.”  Neither Entergy or the NRC could explain difference between “relevant” and “non-relevant,” saying technical staff were unavailable to explain (July ’10).
    • The PSB  finds there “a clear causal connection between the misrepresentations made by Entergy VY and additional expenses that WRC, VPIRG, and NEC would incur” and orders Entergy to reimburse the parties for those costs. [June 4]
    • Vermont Yankee declares an “unusual event” due to electrical problem that blew seven fuses in seven different power supplies to the control room alarms.  An “unusual event” carries a “low-level emergency” classification that Yankee spokesman Larry Smith says is the lowest of four emergency classifications established by the NRC.  Cause of problem is still unknown 48 hours later (August ’10).
    • New England Coalition petitions NRC’s Atomic Safety and Licensing Board to consider contention that Vermont Yankee does not “have in place an adequate aging management program to address the effects of moist or wet environments on buried, below grade, underground, or hard-to-access safety-related electrical cables. Says cables rated only for dry service, thus safety equipment, when wet, “can short out and not function” (August ’10).
    • Report from Vermont State Auditor recommends more vigilant oversight by state officials of Vermont Yankee’s fund for shutdown and clean-up costs. Says fund is $200-$500 million short of estimated decommissioning and clean-up costs.  Entergy has not added to fund since it purchased Yankee in 2002 (September ’10).
    • Nuclear Regulatory Commission asks Entergy Nuclear to re-evaluate whether its plan for managing the aging of underground or buried piping carrying radioactivity is adequate (September ’10).
    • Entergy announces tritium has been found in a 360-foot well on the Yankee compound which, until last February, was used by Vermont Yankee employees for drinking water.  Says concentration of tritium “extremely” low.  Discovery raises questions about Vermont’s authority to oversee the plant’s safety and reliability. (October ’10).
    • Vermont Yankee reports radioactive leak from weld in pipes that drain high pressure coolant from reactor’s emergency core cooling system. Plant spokesman Larry Smith says the leak would not prevent system from operating in an emergency (October ’10).
    • Technicians at Vermont Yankee begin work to fix radioactive leak in 2-foot-wide pipe described as part of reactor’s circulation system.  Leak forced reactor to shut down twice within one hour. Technicians had to wait 13 hours for the plant to cool down before they could get into area where leak spotted. Cause of leak not immediately known. (November ’10).
    • “Licensee event report” to NRC notes leakage in Vermont Yankee relief valves that provide protection for reactor coolant system.  Radioactive Waste Management Associates, of Bellows Falls, says leakage, discovered eight months earlier and since repaired, “seriously reduced the safety margins” at the reactor and should have been reported to Vermont officials at the time (December ’10).