Friday, June 18, 2010

NRC: VY Information Accurate and Complete

In two separate actions late yesterday, the NRC exonerated Vermont Yankee of wrong-doing.

Demand for Information Satisfied

The first action was quite specific.

The NRC had issued a "demand for information" during the tritium leak. As reported by the Brattleboro Reformer:
The review by the NRC was conducted by a team of 19 NRC regional and headquarters staff members who participated in onsite inspections, personnel interviews and document reviews.

The conclusion of the review was that Information given by Vermont Yankee personnel to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in the nuclear power plant's license renewal application "that was material to the NRC and/or NRC-regulated activities" was complete and accurate, according to a document released by the NRC on Thursday.

Another conclusion was that: The team did not identify any discrepancies with Entergy's accounting of buried and underground piping on-site," stated the NRC in a letter to Entergy issued on Thursday.

The NRC press release is available at Vtdigger. The press release also contains an announcement of the NRC meeting in Brattleboro, on Tuesday June 22. The meeting will take place at the Brattleboro Union High School, starting with the open house at 4 p.m. and a more formal session at 6 p.m. I plan to attend.

Tritium Leaks Dealt with Appropriately

The second NRC action was more general.

In a separate and more general investigation of tritium leaks at nuclear plants, the NRC concluded that these leaks had been dealt with appropriately.

This was an internal NRC investigation of how well the NRC is performing its oversight tasks. I think the investigation conclusions are correct: the NRC is reviewing tritium leaks in a reasonable and timely fashion. I also expect the anti-nukes will say: "Well, for Pete's sake, of course the NRC says it is doing great. What did you expect the NRC to say about its own activities?" I don't agree with that statement, but it is not totally unreasonable.

Therefore, in terms of Vermont Yankee, this leaks are treated appropriately announcement is far less important than the announcement that the Demand for Information is satisfied.


Vermont Yankee told the NRC the truth, including about the underground piping.

Since VY gave its Vermont regulators the same diagrams that it gave the NRC, my conclusion is that VY did not intentionally mislead its Vermont regulators. I have explained this in painful detail in several posts, starting with my lengthy post on the piping diagrams.

However, in these announcements, NRC was careful to point out that the NRC only evaluated information that the NRC received, not information that Vermont regulators received. (Aside. Has anyone noticed that information to NRC and information to Vermont regulators was the same information, same diagrams, etc? Or is it just me noticing this? End Aside.) Therefore, the Vermont Attorney General is still investigating the possibility that VY deliberately lied under oath. Again, according to Bob Audette of the Brattleboro Reformer: The Vermont Attorney General's Office is currently investigating whether Yankee personnel knowingly gave false information during a sworn hearing. An assistant attorney general told the Reformer his office has no comment on the progress of the investigation.

In other words, fired by a kind of moral hazard of the various legislatively appointed committees (the more they investigate, the more they get paid), the Vermont AG and various legislative bodies will continue their investigations. They continue to investigate, long after the cows have come home, and long after it is clear that Vermont Yankee had no intention to mislead.

Let me address the AG office and the oversight committees: The cows are back in the barn. To mix metaphors, the gravy train of paid investigations should stop running.

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