2011 Timeline

  • Resources

    • High-ranking Entergy engineer tells VT Public Service Board that leaks of radioactive water from two pipes discovered in early 2010 didn’t prompt plant personnel to inspect other pipes at the Vernon reactor to see whether they might show similar problems.  Said leaking pipes merely a “contributing cause” of tritium release, not a “root cause” (January ’11).
    • New discovery of radioactive tritium in test well at Vermont Yankee, 125 feet from underground plume of tritium found last year, raises concern that leak may be coming from a new source at the plant.  Steven Wark, VT’s Dept. of Public Service deputy commissioner, says leak is “obviously in a new place, and that’s troubling” (January ’11).
    • Fairewinds Associates, nuclear consultants for VT Legislature, tell House committee a new, independent study on costs of Yankee decommissioning is needed because most recent one is flawed, outdated, and entails a conflict of interest: the company that conducted study is owned by Entergy, which owns Yankee (January ’11).
    • Another well on Vermont Yankee grounds found to be contaminated with radioactive tritium, in same area as previous week’s discovery of a tritium-contaminated well, once again raising fears of new leak from reactor. Entergy officials say they were unable to test for tritium for almost two weeks early this year because equipment was broken (January ’11).
    • VT Environmental Court rules that groundwater is the property of the state of Vermont, a public trust resource. Agency of Natural Resources reopens Vermont Yankee’s discharge permit process. (January ’11)
    • In a conference call, NRC Commissioner Jaczko announces approval of Vermont Yankee’s license extension. Jaczko states: “There are a variety of permits and actions that are required for this facility to operate. The NRC’s action today is just one piece of that.” (March 10, 2011)
    • Earthquake and tsunami in Japan cause loss of power to Fukushima nuclear reactors.  (March 11, 2011)
    • Entergy announces that it has decided not to sell Vermont Yankee. (March ‘11)
    • Entergy files a complaint in federal district court in Vermont to block the state from forcing the plant to cease operation in March 2012 when the original operating license was to expire. (April 18, 2011)
    • Entergy requests a preliminary injunction from Murtha to allow the plant to continue operating beyond the expiration of its current license. It is denied.  (June ‘11)
    • Entergy announces it will refuel the reactor in October at a cost of about $65 million for fuel and $35 million for the refueling work. (July ‘11)
    • Strontium-90 (Sr-90) is detected by Dept. of Health in new samples of fish. (July ‘11)
    • A 5.9 magnitude earthquake rocks the northeast. Vermont Yankee operations proceed normally. (August ’11)
    • Hurricane Irene creates intensive flooding and devastation throughout Vermont. VT Yankee switches to a closed cycle for cooling water, rather than withdrawing water from the Connecticut River, until flooding subsides and debris is cleared from the river. (August 28, 2011)
    • A broken chiller valve threatens to shut down VT Yankee. Technicians repair the equipment, which keeps safety-related equipment cool.(September 7, 2011)
    • Entergy v. Vermont trial is held in Federal Court in Brattleboro before Judge J. Garvan Murtha. (September 12-15, 2011)
    • One of the two main cooling pumps stopped working, forcing Vermont Yankee to reduce power to 36% on September 25. Full power was not restored until after refueling. (September ’11)
    • A fire is set at one of the offices at the Yankee headquarters offices in Brattleboro.  While determined to be arson, no one was identified or charged. (September ’11)
    • GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy warned owners of all boiling water reactors , including Vermont Yankee,  that  plants could fail to shut automatically during an earthquake, potentially risking the safety of the power plant. (October ‘11)
    • Refueling (October ‘11)
    • Vermont Yankee ends its investigation “into the cause of tritium contamination of groundwater near monitoring well GZ-24S ….and verified the cause of the contamination as the Advanced Off-Gas (AOG) Building sump drain line,” according to the VT Dept. of Health, which  continues testing for tritium. (October ‘11)
    • A Vermont Yankee technician accidentally flipped the circuit breakers on the shut down cooling system, which is used to keep the reactor vessel cool during refueling and maintenance outages. (October ’11)
    • Vermont Yankee’s emergency sirens zone are accidentally tripped, creating confusion and anxiety in schools, hospitals, and homes throughout the ten mile emergency planning zone. (November ’10)
    • VT Dept. Of Health reports that “11 out of a total of 31 groundwater monitoring wells are testing positive for tritium. Six monitoring wells had tritium results that were lower as compared to last month, while five had higher results as compared to last month.” (November ‘11)
    • Silt dredged from near the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant intake structure and disposed of around Sept. 15 did not contain radioactive materials “likely to be from Vermont Yankee nuclear operations,” according to the Vermont Department of Health (December ‘11)
    • A Vermont Yankee technician disconnected a fuel line on one of the plant’s emergency diesel generators, disabling it at the same time the other generator was down for maintenance. ‘(December  ‘11)
    • VT Dept. of Health updates its fish results for 2011. “Fish had measurable amounts of potassium-40, a naturally-occurring radionuclide, and strontium-90, and cesium-137, both human-made radionuclides. Cesium-137 levels were consistent with above-ground weapons testing and global nuclear incidents.” (December ‘11)
    • VT Dept. of Health reports that tritium was detected again in the Connecticut River.  The sample, taken six feet from the bank on November 3, had a tritium concentration of 1,120 picocuries per liter (pCi/L). (December ‘11)
    • NRC learns that in October ENVY changed from a computerized program to monitor fatigue of components, which is in their relicensing agreement with NRC, to a manual monitoring method, without informing the NRC. (December ’11)