Entergy again finds tritium at Vermont Yankee

Fri Jan 21, 2011 3:37pm EST

 * Tritium led state to oppose license renewal in 2010
 * Reactor to shut by 2012 unless license renewed
 NEW YORK, Jan 21 (Reuters) - Radioactive tritium has been
found in a water sample from a monitoring well at Entergy
Corp's (ETR.N) Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant, the company
said on Friday, a year after the isotope was identifed in a
leak at the facility.
 "This week Vermont Yankee received positive indications for
tritium in a previously unaffected monitoring well located
about 150 feet to the north of the area affected by the leak
that was identified in January 2010," plant spokesman Larry
Smith said in an email.
 The tritium leak identified last year hurt Entergy's effort
to convince Vermont politicians that the 620-megawatt Vermont
Yankee plant should continue to operate after its license
expires in 2012.
 Entergy is now trying to convince a new state legislature
and the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) that the
plant's license should be extended for another 20 years.
 Tritium is a mildly radioactive isotope of hydrogen that
occurs naturally in very small amounts in ground water. It is
also a byproduct of nuclear power production.
 Smith said the company did not understand the latest
elevated reading and would investigate to identify its cause.
 The reading came from a well installed in November 2010 to
monitor for tritium. It is not a drinking well and does not
pose a risk to public health and safety, Entergy said.
 Over the past year, the company has found tritium in water
samples that was caused by the migration of tritiated water
released by the January leak in the advanced off gas system
pipe tunnel which was sealed and repaired earlier this year.
 The amount of tritium found this week was 9,200 picocuries
per liter, which is significantly below the NRC's required
level to report tritium findings of 30,000 picocuries per liter
and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's standard for
permissible levels of tritium in drinking water of 20,000
picocuries per liter, Entergy said.
 A picocurie is one trillionth of a curie. To place these
figures in context, Entergy said there were at least 6 curies
(or 6 trillion picocuries) of tritium in an average
self-illuminated red "EXIT" sign.
STATE:      Vermont
COUNTY:     Windham
TOWN:       Vernon 
OPERATOR:   Entergy Nuclear
OWNER(S):   Entergy Corp
UNIT(S):    General Electric Boiling Water Reactor
FUEL:       Nuclear
DISPATCH:   Baseload
COST:       $183 million
1972 -      Reactor enters commercial service
2002 -      Entergy buys reactor for $180 million from Vermont
         Yankee Nuclear Power and enters a 10-year power
         purchase agreement to sell power back to the
         former owners for about 4.5 cents per kilowatt
Jan 2006 -  Entergy files with NRC to renew the original
         40-year operating license for an additional 20
Sep 2006 -  Atomic Safety and Licensing Board (ASLB) admits
         five contentions on application from New England
         Coalition (NEC) and Vermont Department of Public
Nov 2008 -  ASLB rules in Entergy's favor on four contentions
         but says Entergy's metal fatigue analyses for two
         reactor vessel nozzles do not comply with all
Mar 2009 -  Entergy submits revised metal fatigue analysis for
Apr 2009 -  NEC challenges Entergy's metal fatigue analysis
         and proposes new contention
Jul 2009 -  ASLB accepts Entergy's metal fatigue analysis,
         rejects NEC contention as not timely
Jul 2009 -  NEC appeals ASLB decision on metal fatigue to the
Jan 2010 -  Entergy identifies tritium leak
Feb 2010 -  Vermont Senate votes 26-4 against authorizing the
         Vermont Public Service Board to issue a
         certificate of public good that would allow for
         the license renewal. Vermont is the only state in
         the nation with the authority to block a license
         renewal. Entergy officials have said the state
         gained that authority when Entergy bought the
Mar 2010 -  Entergy stops tritium leak
Jul 2010 -  Commission rules ASLB should have ruled in
         Entergy's favor on original metal fatigue
         calculations and remands to ASLB to give NEC
         opportunity to submit a revised contention
         challenging the aging management program for metal
Aug 2010 -  NEC submits contention having to do with aging
         management program for electric cables
Oct 2010 -  ASLB denies NEC contention on aging management
         program for electric cables as not timely
Nov 2010 -  Entergy mulls sale of Vermont Yankee
2011 -      Entergy will get another chance to convince state
         legislators to approve of a new license once the
         new session starts
Q2 2011 -   Entergy to make decisions about next refueling
         expected in autumn 2011 - Entergy will not confirm
         but analysts have said the company must decide
         whether to buy fuel for the refueling
2011-12 -   NRC Commission still needs to decide on an
         appeal from the NRC staff on a ruling in Entergy's
         favor by the ASLB that Entergy must inspect the
         reactor nozzles. The staff did not think it was
         appropriate for the ASLB to order the company to
         conduct the inspection immediately rather than at
         some time before renewing the license. After
         deciding that appeal, which electricity traders do
         not consider important since Entergy has already
         conducted the ASLB requested inspections, and any
         other appeals, the Commission can approve of the
         renewal. The Commission however is not bound by
         any timeline in making a decision
Mar 2012 -  Reactor operating license expires and unit to
         retire unless license renewed. The reactor however
         can continue to operate so long as the renewal
         process is ongoing.
 (Reporting by Scott DiSavino; editing by Jim Marshall)

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