Today, Paul Hodes called on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to answer for its lack of heightened oversight of the troubled Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant. In a formal complaint to the head of the NRC, Gregory B. Jaczko, Hodes demanded public answers for the lax oversight that has allowed Vermont Yankee to continue operating despite a safety record featuring frequent, repeated radioactive leaks.
"It is simply unacceptable that repeated safety violations and leaks have not led to increased scrutiny by federal regulators," said Hodes. "Families in the emergency planning zone have lost faith in regulators that time and time again allowed Vermont Yankee inspections to miss radioactive leaks. A thorough investigation must be done to audit the safety of this failing plant, and it needs to remain closed until this check is completed."
Less than one month ago, Vermont Yankee underwent security and safety inspections as part of a scheduled reactor shutdown. At the time of the scheduled shut down, Hodes had called on the NRC to keep the plant closed until all leaks at the plant were located, repaired, and cleaned. Since denying the Hodes request, two newly discovered leaks have further put into doubt the ability of both plant owners and government regulators to verify the safety of the nearly 40 year old nuclear plant.
In the formal complaint to the NRC, Hodes has called on regulators to answer why these new leaks were not found or taken into consideration when the plant was allowed to reopen. The full text of the letter is below:
Dear Chairman Jaczko and Chairman Blount,
Since Vermont Yankee began repowering after a refueling outage on May 21, 2010, the plant has reported two new leaks of radioactive substances, one on May 28 in the excavated Advanced Off Gas area, and a second on June 9 in the containment building. These leaks come while cleanup is still being done on a much larger leak at the facility, which took months to locate and close. I am distressed over what appears to be a dangerous lack of oversight that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission is doing to protect the families living near Vermont Yankee, including across the Connecticut River in New Hampshire.
In light of the two recent reports of leaking radioactive water at Vermont Yankee, I request that any documentation of these two recent leaks be considered as part of my request for greater oversight in my letter on April 19, 2010, which is currently under consideration as a section 2.206 petition by the Petition Review Board.
In addition, I respectfully request answers to the following questions regarding the recent events at the nuclear power plant:
1. In the case of the two recent leaks, how recently were the leaking equipment and surrounding areas inspected by either the licensee or the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and will documentation of these inspections be made available to the public?
2. Were the documents relating to such safety inspections, if they exist, considered by the Petition Review Board before it rejected my request to keep Vermont Yankee shutdown until ongoing safety inspections related to the tritium leak first reported in January, 2010 had been completed?
3. As Vermont Yankee works to clean up after a leak that continued for multiple months, and we have since seen two new leaks in the last 20 days, how many of these "minor" radioactive leaks will be allowed before the Nuclear Regulatory Commission takes action to power down the plant and make a comprehensive assessment of the facility?
The answers to these questions are critical to the safety and peace of mind of the New Hampshire families who live and work within the Emergency Planning Zone of Vermont Yankee. Thank you for your prompt consideration of these requests.