Photos obtained from a whistleblower and published in a Vermont newspaper have renewed calls for stricter oversight of Entergy and its management of the fund dedicated to decommissioning the closed Vermont Yankee nuclear reactor.
The online investigative newspaper Vermont Digger published photos last week showing radioactive water stored in consumer grade pools.
Following publication showing the pools filled with radioactive water in the basement of the turbine building at Vermont Yankee, Vermont House Speaker Democrat Shap Smith issued a statement condemning Entergy’s actions and questioning whether the company was using decommissioning funds responsibly.
Smith says storing 90,000 gallons of radioactive water in open swimming pools designed for family use is outrageous. “If they’re storing radioactive material in kiddie pools and this is what we know, what is it that we don’t know that they’re doing? And how can we be sure that the actions that they are taking are protecting Vermonters? That’s the concern that I have. These images are really disturbing and they’re part of a pattern that we’ve seen over time where it seems that Entergy is looking out more for its shareholders than for the citizens of the state of Vermont.”
Smith adds that Entergy’s actions call into question how it is using decommissioning funds. “What I see here is safety done on the cheap and what I’m concerned about is that decommissioning is going to be done on the cheap as well. If you look at the pictures that we’ve seen there are legitimate questions about whether Entergy is doing the kinds of things that are going to make that plant as safe as possible. It’s hard for me to believe that the best practices are to put contaminated water in kiddie pools. And it’s not clear to me whether the Legislature has any authority to do anything about it but I think it’s incumbent upon leaders of the state of Vermont to highlight what seems to be a practice that isn’t consistent with the best standards.”
Entergy says the concerns are overblown and any pool storage is temporary. Entergy/Vermont Yankee spokesman Marty Cohn says there is a comprehensive management plan in effect to deal with increased groundwater intrusion into the turbine building that has occurred since the plant’s shutdown at the end of 2014. “The NRC and state nuclear engineer are aware of the issue and the water management plan. There is no health or safety impact to the public or employees from this issue. A temporary measure until it can be shipped offsite for proper treatment and disposal was to store intrusion water in swimming pools in tandem with industrial water bladders and temporary storage tanks used to contain the water. The integrity of the pools was found to be adequate and the water found to be acceptable for those types of pool.”
Cohn notes that should the pools overflow or the bladders leak, drains near the pools lead to sump pumps that would send the intrusion water to a waste collection system. Cohn says efficient use of decommissioning funds allows the company to meet full decommissioning as soon as possible. “Your choices for getting rid of intrusion water include putting it into the Connecticut River, which we are not doing, putting it down some storm drain, which we are not doing, or transporting the water. So a very cost effective way for us was to temporarily store this water while we negotiated a better price with transportation companies to remove the water.”
Cohn reports that Entergy will begin transporting the radioactive water via truck to a processing plant in Tennessee as early as next week.