| March 21
March 21 U.S. power company Entergy Corp
installed a temporary cover over an opening in the reactor
building at the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant after a
so-called "blowout" panel opened on Monday, nuclear regulators
The issue did not cause any danger to the public or plant
workers, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and
Entergy told Reuters.
The reactor is currently shut for planned refueling and
maintenance. During testing of a reactor building ventilation
system on Monday, a roughly 6-by-10 foot (1.8-by-3 meter)
"blowout" panel blew out due to an over pressurization
Entergy spokesman Jim Sinclair said the panel blew out as
designed when pressure slightly increased. "It has been replaced
by a panel that meets/exceeds the original design," he said.
The panel opening had no impact on the refueling outage and
was not reportable under NRC regulations as it was an event of
no consequence, Sinclair said.
He could not say when the unit was expected to return to
service. Energy traders guess the unit, which shut for refueling
on March 9, will return in mid April.
The NRC said the blowout panels are located on the refueling
floor and are there to protect against tornado-force winds that
can cause over pressurization conditions in the reactor
If the reactor building is threatened by tornado-force
winds, the panels can blow out and provide near instantaneous
pressure equalization in the building. Other buildings,
including the turbine building, are also equipped with blowout
panels, the NRC said.
Separately, the NRC on Wednesday sent a letter to Entergy
requesting additional financial information following a
Securities and Exchange (SEC) filing by the company in November
about a financial impairment of Vermont Yankee.
The NRC staff said it wanted the additional information to
ensure that Entergy is meeting NRC requirement for financial
In the SEC filing, Entergy said it has "tested the
recoverability of the plant and related assets each quarter
since the first quarter 2010 ... because of the uncertainty
regarding the continued operation of Vermont Yankee."
That was about the start of Entergy's battle with some
Vermont politicians to keep the reactor operating for an
additional 20 years as the company sought a new federal
operating license. The NRC renewed the plant's operating license
in March 2011.
That battle between the state and the company is ongoing in
federal and state court appeals and regulatory proceedings at
the state Public Service Board.
Prior to the first quarter 2012, the company said "the
probability-weighted undiscounted net cash flows exceeded the
carrying value of the Vermont Yankee plant."
But, the company said the decline "in the overall energy
market and the projected forward prices of power as of March 31,
2012 ... resulted in the probability-weighted undiscounted
future cash flows being less than the asset group's carrying
Power prices in 2012 fell to at least decade lows in New
England and other parts of the United States, due primarily to
weak natural gas prices from record shale production.
Entergy said it estimated the fair value of the plant on
March 31, 2012 was $162.0 million, while the carrying value was
Therefore, the company said it wrote down Vermont Yankee to
the fair value and recognized an impairment charge of $355.5
million, or $223.5 million after tax.
Sinclair at Entergy said, "We will be responding to the NRC
request for information."