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Feds give Vermont Yankee good safety grade

VERNON — Federal nuclear officials will be in Southern Vermont Monday to talk to the public about Vermont Yankee’s most recent safety performance report.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s (NRC) annual assessment of safety performance at Vermont Yankee (VY) will be the subject of a public meeting on Monday. NRC staff will meet with representatives of plant owner Entergy at 6 p.m. to discuss the assessment, which covers the period from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31, 2006, and was documented in a March 2nd letter to the company. The session will take place at the Quality Inn, 1380 Putney Road in Brattleboro.

Before the meeting is adjourned, NRC staff will be available to answer questions from the public on the performance of the Vermont Yankee plant, as well as the role of the NRC in providing oversight of plant safety.

“Each year we size up plant performance during the previous calendar year, with the overarching goal of ensuring that facilities are achieving the levels of safety that are essential to protecting the public and the environment,” said NRC Region I Administrator Samuel J. Collins, who noted the agency also conducts mid-year assessments of performance. “At the May 14 meeting, NRC staff will talk to members of the public about how we go about evaluating Vermont Yankee and other nuclear power plants across the nation and will also answer questions from the audience.”

Overall, the Vermont Yankee plant operated safely during 2006, NRC officials said. The NRC utilizes color-coded inspection findings and performance indicators to assess nuclear power plant performance. The colors start with “green” and then increase to “white,” “yellow” or “red,” commensurate with the safety significance of the issues involved. At the conclusion of last year, all of the performance indicators for Vermont Yankee were determined to be “green.” With one exception, there were no inspection findings for the plant that were identified as greater than “green” at that time.

There was a “white” (low to moderate safety significance) inspection finding in regards to radiation safety stemming from a shipment that went from Vermont Yankee to a Pennsylvania nuclear power plant last summer.

Specifically, a package containing a radioactively contaminated control rod crusher/shearer was found to exceed U.S. Department of Transportation radiation limits upon its arrival at the Susquehanna nuclear plant on Sept. 1, 2006. The NRC claims the public was not exposed to radiation during the shipment because the package’s surface was inaccessible to members of the public. In response to the “white” finding, the NRC will conduct a supplemental inspection at the plant in 2007 to determine if the problem has been properly addressed. Routine inspections are performed by two NRC Resident Inspectors assigned to the plant and by inspection specialists from the Region I Office in King of Prussia, PA.

Among the areas of performance at Vermont Yankee to be inspected this year by NRC specialists are activities associated with the installation of a dry cask storage facility for spent nuclear fuel, emergency planning, radiological safety and the plant’s problem identification and resolution program.

The annual assessment letter for Vermont Yankee is available here.

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Local Fair Trade initiatives celebrated

BURLINGTON — The Peace and Justice Store will celebrate the hard work of local companies that produce or sell fair trade goods on World Fair Trade Day Saturday.

The store will offer samples of coffee and food in conjunction with City Market, and will highlight local Fair Trade certified companies Volga River Trading and Hope for Women.

The Peace and Justice Store's mission is to promote social change through education and to provide alternative, meaningful products and educational materials that foster cooperation, equality, and a sustainable society.

Volga River Trading brings products it considers outstanding and of value to U.S. buyers and supports the work of artists from the former Soviet Republics, giving them the tools they need to survive in a market economy.

Hope for Women is a socially responsible organization committed to providing sustainable employment for economically disadvantaged women worldwide.

The Peace and Justice store now offers workshops on fair trade and globalization. For more information, contact Kathy Bouton 863-8326 ext. 8, or kbouton@pjcvt.org.

Posted May 10, 2007

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