MONTPELIER, 9Vt. (AP) – The Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant emitted higher levels of radiation in 2007 than in previous years, an expected result of its boosted power output, but the amount remained below the state’s limits to protect public health, according to a Vermont Department of Health report issued Friday.

“At no time has Vermont Yankee posed a measurable risk to public health,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Wendy Davis. “However, we are keeping a constant and close watch on radiation measurements at the site boundary and elsewhere around the plant in Vernon.”

But the state also changed the way it measures radiation since the plant increased power in 2006.

The Department of Health now applies a conversion factor to its measurements based on the absorption rate of radiation, saying an exposed person absorbs about 60 percent of the level of radiation energy found near Vermont Yankee.

Critics accuse the state of fudging the numbers to keep radiation levels within the permissible limits.

“The department applied a fudge factor of 40 percent because without that Entergy exceeds both the state limit and the federal limit for off-site radiation dose,” said Ed Anthes, of Nuclear Free Vermont.

The highest level of radiation measured in 2007 was less than 18 millirems, below the state’s limit of 20 millirems per year, the report said. The federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s restriction is 25 millirems per year, the NRC said.

Vermont Yankee spokesman Robert Williams said the state’s method is a scientifically valid means of determining the level of radiation present over the long term.

“The data clearly shows that our operations are within the state limits, which are the most stringent limits set for any plant in the country,” he said.

Cancer rates in the towns around Vermont Yankee were not statistically different than in the other towns in Windham County or statewide, the report said.

The Health Department also increased the number of dosimeters – instruments that measure exposure to gamma radiation – since the plant boosted its power.

There are now 26 dosimeters at the plant’s fence, up from six, with a total of 71 in place, including 11 at the Vernon Elementary School and other sites and 34 measuring radiation in six towns near the reactor.

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On the Net:

2007 Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Station Surveillance Report:

http://www.healthvermont.gov/enviro/rad/yankee/2007-surveillance.asp x

AP-ES-07-25-08 1855EDT


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