With additional reporting by Olga Peters.
Originally published in The Commons issue #157 (Wednesday, June 20, 2012).
VERNON—Technicians at Vermont Yankee are removing a motor generator in the nuclear plant’s reactor building to determine the cause of an electrical failure that produced smoke Monday afternoon.
Rob Williams, a spokesman for Vermont Yankee, said the plant was operating at 38 percent power Tuesday morning. It reduced its power to 36 percent Monday.
“This morning, we are making preparations to remove the motor and continuing our investigation as to what happened,” Williams said.
There are two motor generator sets at the plant. The generators vary the flow of reactor coolant water which, in turn, changes the reactor power level.
The motor generator sets are not safety related, Williams said.
He said the plant will remain at reduced power while the investigation is being conducted and repairs are completed.
Williams said there appears to be damage to the electrical parts of the motor. The other motor is functioning normally.
Critics of the nuclear plant say the electrical failure is another indication of the 40-year-old plant showing its age.
Arnie Gundersen, chief engineer for the consulting company Fairewinds Associates, said the issue will probably keep the plant at reduced power for a significant period of time.
“This is not something you start back up in 12 hours,” he said.
Gundersen said the fact that there was smoke in the reactor building is a bad sign.
“Where there’s smoke, there’s fire,” he said.
Gundersen said the nuclear reactor is about 100 feet from the motors, but it is contained.
The plant, which is the subject of federal litigation and proceedings before the Vermont Public Service Board, is seeking a new license.
The plant has experienced problems with its condenser — a mechanism that acts like a giant radiator — also this year.
Editor’s note: Our terms of service require you to use your real names. We will remove anonymous or pseudonymous comments that come to our attention. We rely on our readers’ personal integrity to stand behind what they say; please do not write anything to someone that you wouldn’t say to his or her face without your needing to wear a ski mask while saying it. Thanks for doing your part to make your responses forceful, thoughtful, provocative, and civil. We also consider your comments for the letters column in the print newspaper.