A Timeline of Entergy Nuclear Vermont Yankee’s Falterings and Falsehoods

Prepared in January 2010

•    2002 – In preparation to purchase the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant, Entergy told Vermont that the company would cover shortfalls in the plant’s decommissioning fund should that fund not be sufficient when it was time to decommission the facility.  In 2007, the decommissioning fund was found to be insufficient, and that Entergy had not put any money into the fund since it’s purchase of the plant.  Company officials said they weren’t worried.  In the wake of the market crash in 2008, Entergy subsequently told lawmakers they would not live up to those assurances, choosing instead to place the responsibility on a spinoff shell corporation with only one asset—the Vermont Yankee plant.

•    October, 2003 – Vermont Public Service Board fines Entergy $51,000 for failing to provide complete information in a PSB case.  Entergy apologies, promises in-house review.

•    April, 2004 – Entergy loses two radioactive spent fuel rods, which eventually turn up in the plants spent fuel rod storage pool.

•    February, 2005 – PSB fines Entergy $85,000 for failing to obtain all necessary permits before beginning construction work at the plant in 2004.  Entergy attorney calls it “inadvertent,” and the company did not contest the fine.

•    April, 2006 – Entergy receives approval for dry-cask nuclear waste storage onsite.  As part of that approval, Entergy was required to monitor that waste.   In August, 2009, it was learned that Entergy had failed to comply with the order.  Entergy called this “an oversight” and promises to begin monitoring.

•    August, 2006 –Yankee increases power; the Vermont Department of Health finds radiation levels increased.  Entergy responded by saying the state’s measurements weren’t correct.  The company later purchases surrounding property and moved their fence lines further away from the plant, changing the radiation level readings.

•    August, 2007 – Noise from cooling tower fans alerts Entergy to problems in the tower.  Days later, part of the tower collapses.  A month later, Entergy admits the collapse was due to deficiencies in the inspection and maintenance program.  The Nuclear Regulatory Commission criticizes Entergy, but takes no other action.

•    2008 – Entergy launches an advertising campaign, claiming Vermont Yankee had “zero emissions,” and therefore did not have the large carbon footprint of coal- or oil-fired plants.  Attorney General William Sorrell, acting on a complaint filed by the Vermont Public Interest Research Group, called Entergy’s advertising misleading.  Entergy’s response was that the wording in the ads was “unfortunate,” and they pulled them down.

•    September, 2008 – After Entergy declares cooling tower is safe, inspectors find more degraded support beams.

•    May,  2009 – Entergy files a report with the NRC that states, in part, “The presence of tritium in station air compressor condensate and manholes (Storm Drain System) has been identified since 1995 . . . leakage of tritium to ground water beneath the site will be transported by natural ground water gradient to the Connecticut River.”

•    May, 2009 – Entergy Vice President Thayer testifies, under oath, to PSB, saying he did not believe there are “active piping systems underground containing contaminated fluids today.”

•    May, 2009 – Entergy Site Vice President Colomb testifies falsely, under oath, that the only underground pipe with radionuclides is now above ground.

•    June, 2009 – Thayer again testifies to PSB, saying Yankee does not have pipes carrying radioactive materials underground.

•    August, 2009 – Entergy’s Senior Liaison Engineer McElwee, emails Public Oversight Panel saying, “As for your outstanding question on underground piping goes . . . Other than piping carrying gaseous material (with very low amounts of contamination and no median to contaminate the ground water . . .) we have none.”

•    September, 2009 – Dr. William Irwin, Vermont Department of Health, testifies to Legislative Committee on Administrative Rules that Vermont Yankee’s storm drains are contaminated with radiation.

•    October, 2009 – Public Oversight Panel reports to Joint Fiscal Committee that there are underground pipes, cites May NRC filing; Entergy attacks report without denying the existence of the pipes.

•    January 7, 2010 – Public is first made aware of tritium contamination in a monitoring well at the Yankee plant.

•    January 14, 2010 – Entergy apologizes for “miscommunication,” and, less than a week later, a second well is found to have tritium contamination.

Many thanks to the Vermont Public Interest Research Group for compiling this summary and offering VNRC permission to post it on our web site.