Unscheduled stoppage occurs after steam leak
A plant official said no radiation escaped from the plant and there was no public threat.

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) – Technicians at the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant shut it down Saturday after discovering an apparent leak in a pipe carrying steam from the reactor.

Robert Williams, spokesman for the plant in Vernon in Vermont’s southeast corner, said the action was taken at 5:03 p.m., after control-room technicians determined that more water than usual was collecting inside the plant’s containment.

Williams said no radioactivity escaped from the plant, and that there was no threat to public health or safety. “This was an internal leakage,” he said.

He said it was unknown how long Vermont’s lone nuclear plant will be out of service.

Williams said that as of about 8:30 p.m., it had not been determined exactly where in the plant the leak had originated. “They (plant workers) have gone in and are establishing the location.” He also said the cause also was unknown.

Williams said the leak was believed to have developed in a 2-inch auxiliary steam line. He said shutdown of the plant was not automatic, but was done manually, “according to our procedure.”

“We’ll restart after there’s been a thorough evaluation and all necessary repairs are made,” Williams said.

Vermont Yankee was sold last year by the consortium of New England utilities that owned it to Mississippi-based Entergy Nuclear Corp.

The 31-year-old plant is currently in hearings before the state Public Service Board on whether it should be allowed to boost its power output from its current 540 megawatt capacity to about 650 megawatts.

One of the issues in those hearings has been whether unscheduled outages at the plant – more are expected after the power increase, particularly in the first couple of years – would increase electric rates.

The utilities that previously owned Vermont Yankee have a contract to purchase its output until its current license expires in 2012. The Vermont Department of Public Service, which represents ratepayers before the board, is concerned that unscheduled outages could send the state’s utilities shopping for more expensive power on New England’s wholesale spot market for electricity.


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