Saturday, March 19, 2011

Nuclear-related readings...

A letter written by my brother, David:
Dear Governor Shumlin,

My farm is ten miles from Vermont Yankee in Halifax. I am very concerned about the Vermont Yankee plant, which is the same GE Mark 1 design as the Japanese Fukushima reactors. Although it is scheduled to be shut down in 2012 -- and must be! -- there is a massive amount of spent fuel on-site which is obviously not safe from terrorism or any unforseen event that could cause a prolonged power outage. (And in Vermont, we sometimes have those just due to weather!)

If there is one lesson above all from the Fukushima disaster, it is that the spent fuel -- housed outside the containment structure -- is even more dangerous than the reactor core itself. Obviously we must look again more closely at the plan to maintain the spent fuel on-site after the plant is decommissioned. The simple fact is that just keeping the spent fuel pool wet can be impossible once cooling is interrupted and radiation drives workers away from the site. Fail safe, passive backup water delivery systems should be in place at all spent fuel repositories, with no assumptions allowed about the continued availablity of electric-powered systems.

Proper maintenance after shut-sown will be expensive. This is where Entergy's feet must be held to the fire! I have no doubt they will try to do only the minimum, and will not want to provide additional backup systems.

Vermont is at least ahead of the curve in having voted to shut down, rather than reauthorize and extend the life of, our creaky old reactor. Other states are not so lucky, and now face an uphill battle to rescind reauthorizations.

Please read the attached technical article by Christian Parenti about aging U.S. nuclear reactors.

At Fukushima each reactor has between sixty and eighty-three tons of spent fuel rods stored next to it. At Vermont Yankee, with its GE reactor of the same design as the Fukushima plant, there are a staggering 690 tons of spent fuel rods onsite. What’s worse, spent fuel rod pools at Vermont Yankee are not equipped with backup water-circulation systems or even backup generators for the existing water-circulation system.

Thank you again for your insistence that Vermont Yankee be closed in 2012, and please work to ensure proper safeguards are put in place in light of what we are learning from the Japanese experience.


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