Vt. Yankee seeks OK to dispose of radioactive water

  • The now-decommissioned Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant. Recorder file photo

Rutland Herald
Published: 6/27/2016 8:12:44 PM

VERNON, Vt. — Entergy Nuclear has asked Vermont for permission to dispose of thousands of gallons of lightly radioactive water into Vermont Yankee’s storm drain system, which ends up in the nearby Connecticut River.

George Desch, the Agency of Natural Resources representative on the Vermont Nuclear Decommissioning Citizens Advisory Panel, told the group late last week that Entergy had asked the state to explore the possibility.

Desch said the state will have to do extensive testing to determine whether the water contains heavy metals and other contaminants.

Vermont Yankee has been discharging tritium­tainted groundwater indirectly into the Connecticut River for several years; the contamination was discovered in 2010.

Since Vermont Yankee shut down in December 2014, company officials have been coping with groundwater leaking into the plant’s turbine building.

Thousands of gallons of water have been collected and shipped to special facilities in South Carolina, Tennessee and Idaho.

Entergy spokesman Marty Cohn said the company has spent $800,000 just on transporting and disposing of the water.

Currently, about 900 gallons a day seeps into the turbine building. He said the water was below all state and federal levels for radioactivity, but declined to say by how much.

So far, Entergy has shipped 183,000 gallons out of state for treatment and disposal. The plan, which was revealed by Desch and not Entergy, ran into immediate concern from panel members.

Rep. David Deen, D-Westminster, a river steward with the Connecticut River Watershed Council, questioned Desch on the state process for reviewing Entergy’s request. Deen asked if the water problem would be included in Entergy’s comprehensive water management plan.

“There are still groundwater issues,” he said.

Christopher Campany, executive director of the Windham Regional Commission, said the water request raised a bigger question: What are the final site cleanup standards for the Yankee site?

Or as Entergy employee Dave Andrews put it, “How clean is clean?”

Joe Lynch of Entergy said the water was groundwater that was seeping into the turbine building’s foundation. While recent work to tighten up the concrete foundation had reduced the water infiltration, it hadn’t eliminated it. He estimated the work had reduced the flow by a third. He said the company was going to “bring in expertise” to tackle the problem. He said the building is kept dry by sump pumps.

“Our goal is to eliminate it,” he said. “It continues to be a challenge.”

Lynch said the water only became contaminated by contact with the turbine building. But William Irwin, a panel member and the state Health Department’s radiologist, reminded Lynch there was still a flow of tritium­contaminated water flowing through the Yankee site.

Irwin said the state should evaluate the water before it goes into the building, to determine the source of contamination. He said he was particularly concerned about the chromium content in the water.

Stephen Skibniowsky of Vernon, a panel member and former Entergy employee, reminded Irwin that stormwater has always been tested in north and south locations, and included in Yankee’s annual report to the state.

“That’s why we’re asking for the analytics,” Desch said. “It’s a work in progress.”


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