Protestors interrupted a public meeting with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in Brattleboro Wednesday night. Anti-nuclear activists brought the session to a temporary halt by reading a letter from Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey criticizing a recent NRC decision.
“Quote, spent nuclear fuel pools are a disaster waiting to happen, unquote, said Senator Markey,” the group read in unison.
The federal agency voted this week not to require plants to speed up the removal of spent fuel from spent fuel pools into safer dry cask storage.
NRC officials were in the area to discuss Vermont Yankee’s mostly favorable yearly inspection. They also fielded questions on decommissioning, which begins when the plant closes at the end of December.
The spent fuel rods at the plant are a big concern for some. But NRC Region One Administrator Bill Dean said the fears are unfounded.
“Really, the most significant time for spent fuel, really is early after a spent fuel assembly has been removed from an operating reactor and put in a spent fuel pool. Within a year, 15 months the heat and the radioactive decay has reached such a point that you could actually lose the water in the spent fuel pool and air cooling would be adequate," Dean told the audience.
Diana Sidebotham helped found the New England Coalition on Nuclear Pollution 43 years ago. The group has long opposed Vermont Yankee. She disagreed with the NRC's assessment of the safety of the spent fuel pool.
“It is widely understood, whether or not the NRC is willing to acknowledge it, that a spent fuel pool is subject to extreme radiation release in the event of a terrorist attack or an earthquake or perhaps something wrong with the cooling system," Sidebotham said.
Entergy agreed to expedite the removal of spent fuel in a Memorandum of Understanding with the state.
Story updated May 29, 9:46 p.m. to identify Diana Sidebotham as a founder of the New England Coalition on Nuclear Pollution.