Thursday, June 18, 2015

There is an emergency plan: Guest post by Howard Shaffer

Vermont Yankee
When it was making power
A recent editorial in the Keene Sentinel claimed that Vermont Yankee is still a danger to its neighbors.  The editorial, NRC backs Entergy bid to turn off emergency data system at Vermont Yankee, begins with the following sentence:

Once again the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission appears ready to dismiss the health and safety of citizens in favor of keeping change in the pocket of Entergy Nuclear Corp.

Several Vermont Yankee supporters wrote letters answering this editorial.  This blog is proud to feature some of their letters.

There will ALWAYS be Emergency Plans for Vermont Yankee.
by Howard Shaffer

Once again the Sentinel has succumbed to the siren call of the maidens of the anti-nuclear movement.  The editorial writer emotionally attacked the plans to modify the Vermont Yankee plant’s Emergency Plan to match the expected conditions in April 2016.

If Vermont Yankee had never been built, all jurisdictions would still have Emergency Plans, including evacuation when necessary.  Plans are required by Federal Law, for all kinds of emergencies--truck and rail accidents, storms, and industrial accidents at all the different kinds of plants present, etc. They began to be formed in 1979.

In the spring next year, the used fuel at Vermont Yankee will present a much reduced hazard to the public.  The amount of radioactive atom-splitting pieces that could possibly escape will be greatly reduced. All the pieces are still there, but many have given up their radiation and have nothing left to give.  The pieces left will continue to give off radiation, which creates heat, but in an ever-decreasing amount.

Maintaining an Emergency Plan for the plant that was properly needed when the plant was in operation is just a waste of money.  That money would come from the Decommissioning Trust Fund, slowing down the process.  Any money left over at the end will go back to the ratepayers, not to Entergy as the editorial wrongly charges.  Remember the heated discussion about any left-over decommissioning money when the plant was sold to Entergy?

The Emergency Response Data System is a computer link for a small number of plant instruments, to the NRC and State Emergency Response Centers. These few pieces of data indicate if the reactor is headed for a meltdown or not, so the NRC can advise the Governors of the three states to order precautionary evacuations, if the plant’s Offsite Emergency Response Center has not already done it.  There are only one or two data points that would indirectly indicate that the used fuel in the pool was releasing radioactive atom-splitting products, after the fact of an accident.  There are no data points in this link that would predict a release from the fuel pool.  In the spring next year it would take more than a day to get to that point in any conceivable accident, which is more than enough time for plenty of action to be taken to stop any chain of events.

Plenty of time and to inform the NRC, states and the public of events by the many other communication links that will continue to exist.  Keeping this system is also a waste of money. Relying on the normal Emergency Plans of all the surrounding states and towns is more than sufficient for any possible very slowly developing situation.

The plant will continue to have its Emergency Plans for all types of industrial and nuclear-related accidents inside the fence.

The editorial has the emotional tone that no plans at all will exist, which is not the fact, and silly.

Howard Shaffer  PE,  Enfield, NH  Startup Engineer at Vermont Yankee, 2001 Congressional Fellow.

Howard Shaffer is a frequent guest blogger at this blog.

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