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Whistleblower Claims Past Vermont Yankee Leaks Went Unreported


Published February 18, 2010 at 1:07 p.m.

The current tritium leak at Vermont Yankee is not the first such leak, according to an anonymous individual claiming to be a Vermont Yankee employee.

That revelation is included in a two-page letter sent today to the Vermont Public Service Board by the Department of Public Service. The source is an email from Public Oversight Panel member Arnie Gundersen. Gundersen informed the DPS that he was called Sunday afternoon by a person claiming to be a VY employee.

The news occurs as the Senate prepares to vote on whether to allow the PSB to take up VY's request to relicense the plant beyond its scheduled closing date of 2012.

Read the full letter: (Download LTR-SH anonymous employee allegation)

"Employee said that in addition to the current tritium leak, there have been other leaks in the AOG (Advanced Off Gas System) in previous years," Gundersen wrote in his email to the DPS.

"Specifically, employee said that approximately two years ago, there was an unisolatable radioactive steam leak into the underground AOG drain pit," Gundersen noted. Access to the AOG drain pit was made through an outside hatch.

"Employee said that leak could not be isolated and a shutdown would have been required to repair the leak," noted Gundersen. "Employee said that 'Furmanite' leak sealant was applied to plug the hole until complete repair during the next outage."

It's not clear from Gundersen's email if that repair was made during a refueling outage. VY is scheduled to conduct a refueling outage in April.

"While the Department at this time has no reason to accept or challenge the accuracy of the allegations, it takes these allegations very seriously and is implementing a review of past Vermont Yankee corrective actions in a specific attempt to determine whether the allegations are accurate or not, and if such a leak did in fact occur, whether it was part of an underground piping system," writes PSB attorney John Cotter.

Additionally the department will be reviewing the plant's reporting obligations to see if such an event was reportable to the state and, if so, whether appropriate notifications were made.

As noted in "Fair Game" several weeks ago, Entergy has informed the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in previous years of the existence of tritium in an onsite drainage system.

As word spread of the whistleblower claim, anti-Vermont Yankee groups chimed in.

"If the allegation recently made by an anonymous Vermont Yankee employee proves true, then Entergy may have failed to report or even covered up previous releases of radioactive material into Vermont's environment," said Jim Riccio of Greenpeace. "Greenpeace calls on the Department of Public Service and Attorney General William Sorrell to investigate this allegation in an expedited manner and to put Entergy officials under oath and compel their testimony in this matter."

Vermont Yankee officials did not immediately respond for comment.