NRC deems Vermont Yankee ‘green’
By Susan Smallheer
Staff Writer | March 07,2013
BRATTLEBORO — Apologies to Kermit the Frog, but it’s easy being green at the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant.
For the sixth or seventh year in a row, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission issued its annual assessment of Vermont’s only nuclear power plant, and it was green. In NRC parlance, green is good.
The green rating means that Yankee will receive the normal level of NRC inspections in 2013, and that NRC inspectors found nothing seriously wrong at the plant.
“The NRC determined that overall, Vermont Yankee operated in a manner that preserved public health and safety and met all cornerstone objectives,” wrote Ronald Bellamy, branch chief for the NRC’s division of reactor projects.
Rob Williams, a spokesman for Entergy Nuclear, said Entergy was pleased with its rating.
“The report is reflective of the fact that we have a good plant, good people and good programs. While we appreciate the NRC’s view, we hold ourselves to a high standard and continually strive for improvement,” Williams said Wednesday.
“Our safety performance has paid off in plant reliability. We’ve operated continuously since we restarted from the last refueling in November 2011 ... 490 days,” he said.
While Vermont Yankee has not shut down since the November 2011 refueling, it has reduced power for a variety of problems in that time frame.
The plant is currently generating at 90 percent of its normal load, as it “coasts down” to get ready to shut down for its annual refueling and maintenance outage.
Vermont Yankee is one of about 80 nuclear power plants in the country that receive annual green ratings, according to Neil Sheehan, a spokesman for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
That means about 20 nuclear power plants are on an NRC watch list. Included on the list is the FitzPatrick reactor, also owned by Entergy Nuclear, as well as the Seabrook 1 nuclear station in New Hampshire. Other plants include Nine Mile Point in upstate New York, and Beaver Valley, Browns Ferry 2 & 3, Catawba, Davis-Besse, Ermit, Harris, Point Beach, Prairie Island and San Onofre.
Three plants are categoried as having degraded cornerstones: Perry, Wolf Creed and Columbia Generating Station.
“Twenty reactors are currently receiving additional NRC oversight,” said Sheehan, noting that Yankee’s 2012 assessment means Yankee will receive “the normal level of oversight, based on no inspection findings that are “greater than green.”
In 2011, the NRC gave Entergy Nuclear a green finding for the 2010 year, the year that the plant coped with extensive leaks of radioactive tritium into the groundwater at the plant.