Emergency Planning Update

Recent News:

01.25.2016 Shumlin Zeros Out Yankee Emergency Funding (VtDigger)

12.11.2015 NRC Approves downsizing of EPZ (VtDigger)

05.20.15 State can’t have EPZ hearing (Brattleboro Reformer)

05.19.15  VY EPZ Closer to being eliminated (Rutland Herald)

Background: Emergency planning in the evacuation zone

There is currently a 10 mile “emergency planning zone” – the EPZ – around Vermont Yankee. The 18 towns in Vermont, New Hampshire and Massachusetts within the EPZ receive funding and training in case there was an accident at Vermont Yankee. There is a radiological response plan in place. The state of VT has 7 full time staff on its radiological response team. (RERP). There is also an emergency alert system that alerts towns within 15 minutes of an accident. These programs are funded by Entergy VT Yankee.

Entergy wants to eliminate the EPZ and stop paying the states in April 2016. The financial burden would then fall onto the states — for staff, training, materials, and action. The local fire departments — most volunteer — certainly do not have the resources to deal with a fire in the spent fuel pool. six stories above the reactor.


Entergy applied to the NRC to eliminate the EPZ in April 2016 — even with tons of radioactive fuel in the fuel pools, and while the dangerous work of moving the fuel from the pool into dry cask storage takes place. It claims that due to the decay of radiation in the fuel pool by that time, any radioactive release from an accident would be confined to the boundary of Yankee’s site.

The NRC has given permission to eliminate the EPZ of every reactor that has been shut down. The State of Vermont is appealing the NRC’s decision.

There are two big issues in play (plus more, but here’s our focus):

1. Beginning April 2016, Entergy wants to limit emergency planning to the footprint of the reactor site. But highly radioactive fuel will continue to be moved through 2020 from the over-packed spent fuel pool high above the reactor, into dry cask storage. We need to be protected while that fuel is moving around.

2. A related issue is how quickly state and town emergency planners are alerted that something has gone wrong at Yankee. After Three Mile Island, the NRC required ERDS – Emergency Response Data System — real-time, live data links between the nuclear reactor, the NRC, and the state. With the reactor closed down, Entergy says the danger is reduced and there is no need for immediate communication. It has been 15 minutes. Now it will be 60 minutes. Entergy says with the reactor shut down, that’s enough time.

State Pushes, NRC Denies

VT Dept. of Public Service has again gone to the NRC, saying shrinking the EPZ to the footprint of the reactor site would “significantly hinder the State’s ability to coordinate and execute an effective response to an emergency situation at the station.” It is asking the NRC to hold “evidentiary hearings” on the matter. [Reformer 02.20.15]

The NRC moved one step closer to eliminating the emergency planning zone in early August, when it found “no significant impacts of reducing Entergy’s emergency response commitments to communities surrounding Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant in Vernon.”

  • The NRC accepted Entergy’s argument that radiation releases beyond the border of the site would be below 1 rem — and so there is no concern that the children and teachers at elementary school across the street could be radiated… and if there is a leak, don’t worry, it will be “addressed in a timely manner.”
  • The State argued  eliminating the EPZ would have‘direct and significant implications for public health and safety,’ and the NRC responded like stern parent, “no, because we said so. “
  • VT’s Agency of Natural Resources has been astounded that no NEPA review is requires. The NRC said that’s not our job.

The VtDigger/Reformer 08.06.15 article closes with this less-than reassuring paragraph:

“Entergy identified four possible radiological accidents at Yankee in its permanently shutdown and defueled condition: a fuel handling accident; a radioactive waste handling accident; a loss of spent fuel pool normal cooling; and an adiabatic heat up of the hottest fuel assembly.”

As to real-time monitoring, the Dept. of Public Service’s first salvo was denied Feb. 2 when “Atomic Safety and Licensing Board has rejected a move by the state to force Entergy Nuclear to keep a real-time communication link alive that monitors various systems at the now-closed Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant.”   [Rutland Herald 01.29.15] But the State has appealed the ASLB decision to turn off the emergency response data system. “The idea that that would be shut off now is unconscionable,” Department of Public Service Commissioner Chris Recchia said. ” [VTDigger 02.26.15] UPDATE: The ASLB denied the state’s petition in May. [Reformer 05.20.15]

Emergency Staffing

The NRC approved a reduction in staffing to handle emergencies at Vermont Yankee, from 13 staff to 5,  now that all the fuel has been moved out of the reactor. [Brattleboro Reformer 02.06.15]

David Lochbaum of the Union of Concerned Scientists explains how emergency planning works from within the nuclear facility, including staffing. Emergency Planning for Nuclear Power Plants 01.27 15

Public Service Board

Citizens Awareness Network has a suggestion. Entergy intends to end the emergency planning zone in April 2016 – while tons of radioactive fuel is still in the spent fuel pool, and while those tons are moved into dry cask storage. CAN points out that Entergy needs to receive a Certificate of Public Good from the Public Service Board for the new dry cask storage pad. That Certificate should include a condition requiring the emergency planning zone remain in effect until all the waste is secured in storage.

From CAN’s newsletter:

Entergy announced its plan to end the Emergency Planning Zone (EPZ) when Vermont Yankee closes in 2014. The corporation’s justification for asking NRC to end EPZ planning: with the fuel removed from the reactor, there is no credible accident that could effect the tri-state community.

This is far from true. The danger at Vermont Yankee does not end with closure. It will end or be considerably reduced with the removal of the high level waste from the fuel pool into dry cask storage.

Vermont Yankee is a sister reactor to the Fukushima Mark 1 reactors with its fuel pool suspended 7 stories in the air. The National Academy of Science has acknowledged the Mark 1 reactor fuel pools are the most vulnerable to acts of malice or accident. A fuel pool fire could release millions of radioactive curies into the environment. There are estimates that the plume from a fuel pool fire could travel 90 miles in 24 hours.

 The EPZ is needed to protect our communities.

 Contact the Vermont Public Service Department as well as the Public Service Board to express your concern. Ask them to make it a condition for Entergy to receive a Certificate of Public Good from the Board for the second dry cask storage pad.

 The Vermont Department of Public Service Contact Info:

112 State Street Third Floor • Montpelier, VT • 05620-2601 

General Phone Number: 802-828-2811

Fax: 802-828-2342

Vermont Public Service Board Contact Info:

Vermont Public Service Board
112 State Street
Montpelier, VT 05620-2701

Phone: (802) 828-2358
Fax: (802) 828-3351
TDD (VT Relay): (800) 253-0191



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