by Michael J. Colomb
As the debate over the future of Vermont Yankee continues, it is important that all stakeholders have accurate information concerning the plant’s operations. Vermont Yankee is a top industry performer as measured by variety of reliability indicators. These operational achievements follow Entergy’s investment since 2002 of more than $400 million to maintain and improve the reliability of the plant.
Before addressing plant reliability, it is worth noting that Vermont Yankee provides an extraordinary level of operational transparency. Vermont Yankee reports to federal and state authorities a range of technical information that far exceeds the information other industrial facilities are required (or choose) to provide. Under this reporting framework, Vermont Yankee routinely reports many incidents where there is no threat to nuclear safety, plant reliability, or public health and safety. These reported incidents may not – and indeed often do not – indicate any problems with plant reliability.
Vermont Yankee measures equipment reliability using industry standard parameters. Tracked monthly, these parameters provide a way to forecast issues that need attention. Of the 104 U.S. nuclear plants, Vermont Yankee ranks in the top 25% for Equipment Reliability with a score of 90 out of a possible 100. Moreover, like all U.S. nuclear plants, Vermont Yankee is subject to the NRC’s Regulatory Oversight Program, which evaluates plant performance in the areas of reactor safety, radiation safety, and security. These Performance Indicators are assessed monthly and reported to the NRC quarterly using a color rating system (green, white, yellow and red) to evaluate plant performance. “Green” represents that level of performance consistent with satisfactory application of problem identification and corrective action resolution. Vermont Yankee’s Performance Indicators are all currently “green.” Moreover, the NRC assessment reviews of Vermont Yankee from 2003 through 2010 indicate that plant performance has generally been good. Inspection findings have been classified as having very low safety significance and performance indicators have indicated performance at levels requiring no additional NRC oversight.
Vermont Yankee also has a strong record of reliable and continuous operations. The plant achieved a capacity factor of 100% in 2009, compared to an industry average of 90.5%. From 2003 to 2009, Vermont Yankee achieved an average capacity factor above 92%, ranking the plant near the top among similar plants. Prior to its most recent refueling outage, Vermont Yankee completed 532 days of continuous operation in April 2010, the second breaker-to-breaker run in the last five years. The record run for the plant is 547 days, which ended in 2007.
For the first 30 years of its life VY’s average capacity factor was below 78% and it never had a breaker-to-breaker run. Over the last five years the average capacity factor has been above 94% percent and it has had two breaker-to-breaker runs. In fact, Vermont Yankee has earned the highest rating given by the Institute of Nuclear Power Operations.
Notwithstanding its impressive operational record, Vermont Yankee has been the focus of considerable media attention due to a leak of tritium identified in early 2010. Vermont Yankee worked diligently to stop the leak and remediate the environmental effects. To date, Vermont Yankee has removed approximately 180 cubic feet of soil from the area near the leak and pumped more than 300,000 gallons of tritiated water from the ground. Both the soil and water were transported to licensed facilities outside of Vermont for proper disposal. Vermont Yankee takes the leak and its remediation seriously and has committed significant resources to the issue.
Vermont Yankee has been maintained and improved appropriately by its owner. The plant provides safe, clean, and reliable energy to Vermont.
Michael J. Colomb
Site Vice President
Entergy Nuclear Vermont Yankee