November 5, 2007: This website is an archive of the former website,, which was created 10 years ago by Charles Jenks. It became one of the most populace sites in the US, and an important resource on the antiwar movement, student activism, 'depleted' uranium and other topics. Jenks authored virtually all of its web pages and multimedia content (photographs, audio, video, and pdf files. As the author and registered owner of that site, his purpose here is to preserve an important slice of the history of the grassroots peace movement in the US over the past decade. He is maintaining this historical archive as a service to the greater peace movement, and to the many friends of Traprock Peace Center. Blogs have been consolidated and the calendar has been archived for security reasons; all other links remain the same, and virtually all blog content remains intact.

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 NRC clarifies 'catastrophic failure' at Yankee


Reformer Staff  



Thursday, July 28, 2005 - VERNON -- There was no catastrophe at Vermont Yankee this week. At least not one plant officials or regulators have yet detected.


 There was, however, a "catastrophic failure" of a piece of equipment in the plant's switchyard, which bumped the 540-megawatt reactor offline, where it remains today.


 Around 3:30 p.m., Monday, an 8-foot-tall electrical insulator broke, sending a signal through the plant that shut down its generator, turbines and reactor.


 Staff in Vermont Yankee's control room observed the failure and, as required, they sent a report to the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The first sentence of which reads "the plant experienced a load reject ... due to a catastrophic failure in the 345 kV switchyard."


 The report, which made rounds on the Internet after being published on the NRC's Web site, set off undue some alarms, said Neil Sheehan, a spokesman for the agency.


 "'Catastrophic' is a term used fairly frequently. It really just means there was a sudden failure of a piece of equipment. The safety significance was blown out of proportion," Sheehan said. "'Catastrophic failure' conveys something much more significant than it should."


 Rob Williams, a spokesman for Entergy Nuclear Vermont Yankee said the "catastrophic" term, as published in some news reports, was misinterpreted.


 "Catastrophic is accurate. It means the piece broke apart all at once," he said. "But it caused some unnecessary public concern."


 The broken electrical insulator was sent to a laboratory to be tested, Williams said, and a new insulator has been installed. As of Wednesday night, he said engineers were preparing to restart the plant.


 The governor of New Hampshire scolded Vermont Yankee officials Wednesday for not notifying his state officials sooner about the shutdown.


 "It's a big concern for me that Vermont Yankee officials failed to notify New Hampshire of all the facts surrounding the incident as it was unfolding," Gov. John Lynch said in a statement released by his office.


 Lynch continued, "We need a full accounting from Vermont Yankee of exactly what happened, why New Hampshire wasn't notified and how we can be assured this type of communication oversight by Vermont Yankee does not happen again. We also need assurances that the plant is indeed safe to operate in light of Monday's event."


 Williams said plant officials are required to notify the Vermont, New Hampshire and Massachusetts emergency management agencies within 15 minutes when there is an emergency at the plant.


 But plant officials didn't think Monday's shutdown fit within those guidelines, Williams said. It was not defined as an emergency by the NRC's standards and no radiation was released as a result of the shutdown.


 While Vermont Yankee has been offline, Central Vermont Public Service and Green Mountain Power have been shopping on the open market for replacement energy.


 That comes at a higher price for the state utilities, the costs of which could eventually be passed on to ratepayers, according to Stephen Costello, a spokesman for CVPS.


 The last time Vermont Yankee shut down unexpectedly was slightly more than a year ago.


 A transformer fire closed the plant from June 18 to July 5, 2004. The 17-day outage cost CVPS $860,000 and Green Mountain Power $525,000.


 Entergy Nuclear Vermont Yankee officials have said the fire was due to their failure to properly maintain and monitor equipment. However, there is still a dispute between CVPS and plant owners about the cause.


 If CVPS can prove the fire was related to a 20 percent power "uprate" under way at the plant right now, Vermont Yankee will have to reimburse the utility for money spent buying replacement power during the last outage.


 When the state's Public Service Board approved the plant's uprate proposal last March, it did so with provisions: if the plant goes offline because of uprate-related work, Vermont Yankee is required to repay utilities for costs incurred during the outage. Whether this can be applied to last year's fire is now a question before the Public Service Board.


 Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.


 Kristi Ceccarossi can be reached at