BRATTLEBORO, Vt. (AP) – The Vermont Department of Public Service is asking the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to send inspectors to examine the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant in Vernon to see if it is safe.

The call comes in the wake of the discovery of more problems with the plant’s cooling towers.

The state wants inspectors to “consider whether any of the newly discovered cooling tower problems could affect the safety of seismic cooling tower cells,” said the letter by Public Service Commissioner David O’Brien’s letter, dated Friday, to NRC regional administrator Samuel Collins.

Vermont Yankee spokesman Rob Williams says a total of five cracked or broken columns have been found since leaks were discovered Tuesday night in a pipe carrying cooling water.

Williams said two of the five beams have already been replaced.

He says the leaks, which were caused by faulty packing in pipe joints, have been repacked.

Last year a cooling tower pipe six feet in diameter collapsed. Earlier this year it was determined that repairs made after the earlier mishap were inadequate.

O’Brien said Friday the state was extremely concerned by the repeated problems with Yankee’s cooling towers.

“Recurring failures of this nature are totally unacceptable,” he said.

Since the leaks in the cooling tower were discovered the plant has been operating at reduced capacity.

“We fully briefed the NRC and the Public Service Department on the cooling tower issue and we’ve provided both with all of the information they requested and we will continue to do so,” Yankee spokesman Larry Smith said late Friday.

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