Water leak reported at Vermont Yankee

  • A leak is being repaired at Vermont Yankee power plant. FILE PHOTO

Rutland Herald
Published: 9/28/2016 9:07:50 PM

BRATTLEBORO, Vt. — Entergy Nuclear says it has found a potential source of water infiltration into Vermont Yankee’s turbine building, a problem that has cost the company more than a million dollars.

Entergy Nuclear spokesman Joseph Lynch told members of the Vermont Nuclear Decommissioning Citizens Advisory Panel that metal barriers on either side of the so­called seismic gap between the turbine building and the reactor building were being replaced in an effort to keep groundwater from seeping into the building.

Lynch said the gap between the two buildings was created as a safety feature when Vermont Yankee was built in the event of an earthquake. But plant officials now think that a deteriorated metal barrier and its insulation is letting water into the turbine building.

He said the seismic gap was only a couple of inches wide. He said replacing that metal barrier, which is insulated with some kind of foam material, began this week, a project that is expected to take five weeks. He said the company believed that would drastically reduce water infiltration.

Currently, between 700 and 900 gallons of water a day are seeping into the turbine building. Once it reaches the building, it becomes contaminated with radioactivity.

At one point this winter, Entergy was storing the contaminated water in small portable swimming pools, but it has discontinued that practice.

In January, Entergy said 2,500 to 3,000 gallons a day were leaking into the turbine building.

On average, the company is paying $4 a gallon to dispose of the contaminated water, which is being shipped to U.S. Ecology Idaho Inc. in Grand View, Idaho. In June, the company said it had spent $1.2 million on the water problem.

Lynch told Brattleboro resident Bob Leach that the radioactivity levels in the water were so low, that the tankers full of tainted water did not even need to be placarded according to federal regulations as radioactive.

Entergy is shipping one tanker holding 5,000 gallons of contaminated water a week to the disposal site in Idaho, and it has a storage tank that holds 20,000 gallons of water to collect the tainted water.

Lynch said actions by the company to seal cracks in the building’s foundation had cut back on the amount of water coming into the building since it was first discovered in winter 2015, shortly after Vermont Yankee shut down.

The company said it believed the water had been seeping into the building all along, but once the building went ‘‘cold and dark’’ after the reactor’s shutdown, the building was no longer warm, leading to natural evaporation.

Mike McKenney of Entergy Nuclear gave the panel an update on the water intrusion problems, and said if the project started earlier in the week it likely would sharply reduce the amount of water coming into the building.

McKenney told Rep. David Deen, D­Westminster, a panel member, that he did not believe that this summer’s prolonged drought had an effect on the drop in groundwater seeping into the building.

He said the company was investigating drilling interceptor wells under the building to keep the clean water from seeping into the building, thus picking up radioactivity in the process.

Earlier this year, Entergy said it was thinking of seeking a state permit to discharge the radioactive water into its storm drain system, which in turn discharges directly into the Connecticut River. Entergy has since dropped those plans.

Entergy has said it plans to seek reimbursement from the Vermont Yankee decommissioning trust fund to cover its costs addressing the water problem.




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