NRC to enhance oversight at Vermont Yankee

8 April 2010

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has said that it will conduct additional inspections at the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant, in order to address the groundwater contamination at the site and review operator Entergy’s response to a demand for information (DFI) it issued in March.

In January, Entergy notified the NRC that it had received positive sample results for tritium from a groundwater well at Vermont Yankee. Since then, the NRC has been closely monitoring Entergy’s actions to identify, mitigate, characterize and remediate the source of the contamination.

On 1 March, the NRC issued a DFI requiring Entergy to confirm that information provided to the NRC is accurate and that the impact of recent personnel changes is assessed with regards to regulatory programme performance and safety culture. This action stemmed from an Entergy decision to take action against certain employees at Vermont Yankee after misleading information was provided to the State of Vermont and then not corrected. Entergy responded to that DFI on 31 March and agreed to conduct additional communications and outreach activities with stakeholders.

Under the NRC's reactor oversight process, a plant's performance determines the level of inspection conducted at the site. To provide additional oversight, the agency can decide to deviate from the process and conduct further inspections, etc., when warranted by the given situation.

NRC Region I Administrator Samuel J. Collins said, "In the case of Vermont Yankee, the staff considers it prudent to apply additional inspection focus to specific areas, even though licensee performance in these areas has not crossed any specific thresholds mandating additional regulatory oversight.”

Regarding the groundwater contamination, Collins said, “Although there is not currently a public health and safety issue, additional NRC inspections and assessments as well as increased external stakeholder communications and outreach would help address stakeholder concerns. And, while the agency is not aware of any information that Entergy has provided to the NRC that was incomplete or inaccurate, recent events…warrant additional sampling and independent verification.”

The NRC has separately announced that its staff will meet with representatives of Entergy Nuclear Operations, Inc., on 13 April to discuss the results of independent safety culture surveys conducted by the company at all of its nuclear power plants last year. The specific focus of this meeting will be the survey results for Entergy’s plants in the Northeastern United States: Indian Point and James A. FitzPatrick, in New York State; Pilgrim, in Massachusetts; and Vermont Yankee, in Vermont.




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