Three Years, One Month, and Counting…
July 6, 2009—————–Contact: Robert Stewart â€“ 802-276-3095
â€œ I expect we will get a decision on our latest contention within the next few daysâ€ said Raymond Shadis, representing (pro se) New England Coalition â€If the Board rules against us, then itâ€™s on to the NRC Commissioners.â€
Motions in Opposition, Motions to Strike, Motions for Summary Disposition, Motions to Disqualify Witnesses,; there are few legal maneuvers that Pillsbury, Shaw, Pittman, Entergy Nuclear Vermont Yankeeâ€™s Washington-based 900 attorney law-firm, has not tried to get past New England Coalition in a Nuclear Regulatory Commission Atomic Safety and Licensing Board struggle now going into its fourth year.
But watchdog New England Coalition has sunk its teeth into technical issues vital to nuclear plant license renewal and it wonâ€™t let go.
In March of 2006, Entergy Nuclear filed a License Renewal Application for Vermont Yankee with the NRC.
On May 26, 2006, the States of Vermont and Massachusett s, the Town of Marlboro, and Brattleboro-based New England Coalition filed Petitions for Leave to Intervene.
Today, only New England Coalition stands in the way of NRC License Renewal approval for VY. Marlboro is dismissed. Massachusett s spent nuclear fuel storage concerns have been shunted off to federal court. Vermontâ€™s sole accepted contention, regarding the durability of overheated concrete structures surrounding the reactor, has been settled.
New England Coalitionâ€™s three NRC accepted safety-related contentions, regarding pipe thinning, potential for steam dryer failure, and metal fatigue of reactor components., have now been whittled down to one. Well, part of one remains. NEC maintains that Entergy has laced fatigue analyses of reactor components, called â€œnozzles,â€ with falsely optimistic assumptions and what Shadis calls â€œjunk engineering.â€
Although NECâ€™s original contentions were adopted by the State of Vermont, the State has offered no testimony with respect to the fatigue analyses.
Itâ€™s all about safety. Under U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission Regulations, nuclear plant operators applying to add 20 years of continued operations to expiring 40 year licenses must show that safety-related systems, structures, and components (SSC) will not fail during the extended period of operation. Generally, the licensee has the option of (a) providing analyses that show SSC will not fail, or (b) providing an aging management plan (AMP) that would intercept potential failure ( a regimen of periodic inspections, for example).
Entergyâ€™s License Renewal Application originally proposed an aging management plan for reactor components, which was challenged by NEC; then questioned by NRC. Entergy then proposed to do a fatigue analysis that would show components would not wear out during 20 years of extended operation; however, Entergy proposed a shortcut analysis method that was challenged by NEC; then questioned by the NRC. NRC staff agreed that Entergy could do a complete confirmatory analysis on one â€œrepresentativeâ€ nozzle, a feedwater nozzle, and then, after hearings were completed, but before 2012, do complete analyses on two additional nozzles; recirculation outlet nozzle, and core spray nozzle.
The Atomic Safety and Licensing Board agreed with NEC that since NEC had raised the reactor component metal fatigue issues for litigation, analysis should be completed before the hearing docket was closed; not after. Moreover, in a November 24, 2008 Partial Initial Decision, the Board ruled that NEC could raise a new contention if new issues arose in the confirmatory analysis.
NECâ€™s expert witness in the matter, Dr. Joram Hopenfeld, a former NRC nuclear engineer and expert in metal fatigue and thermal hydraulics, identified several points in Entergyâ€™s renewed calculations where, he has testified, scientifically unsupportable assumptions and dubious technical application were used.
NEC is preparing a fundraising effort targeted at completing this effort, as well as a separate intervention before the Vermont Public Service Board.
â€œThis type of long, demanding struggleâ€ said Shadis â€œis the just part of the commitment serious eco-patriots must be willing to make. It is naÃ¯ve to think that any one battle will win the war. In the meanwhile, NEC has forced or otherwise persuaded Entergy, NRC, state regulators, and elected officials to examine safety and environmental issues more carefully than they ever anticipated.â€
â€œThe product of our workâ€ he said â€œis a less dangerous plant. The ball is in NRCâ€™s courtâ€