VERNON — While other nuclear power plants using similar but flawed fuel storage casks have resumed transfer operations, Vermont Yankee has not. Entergy Nuclear suspended moving its old nuclear fuel from wet storage to dry storage on March 10 after a problem was revealed at the San Onofre nuclear power plant in California, which was using the same Holtec International Hi Storm 100 casks. San Onofre immediately halted its fuel transfer, but it has since resumed after inspecting its other Holtec casks. Entergy spokesman Joe Lynch said Friday that Entergy was still inspecting its empty Holtec casks and did not have a timetable for resuming the movement of the highly radioactive fuel from the spent fuel pool at Vermont Yankee to a new storage facility on the plant’s grounds in Vernon. “At Vermont Yankee, the unloaded casks are undergoing a rigorous inspection process,” Lynch said.The cask inspection at VY is ongoing. The resumption of fuel loading at this time is indeterminate,” he said, declining to answer why Yankee hadn't resumed the fuel transfer, while other plants affected by the Holtec problem had. Lynch said despite the delay, Entergy remained confident all the fuel would be transferred by the end of 2018, a condition of the plant’s sale to NorthStar Holdings.Vermont Yankee’s focus continues to be the safe transfer of spent nuclear fuel from the spent fuel pool to the independent spent fuel storage installation by the end of 2018 to support the transaction with NorthStar or transition to SAFSTOR,” he said. The casks are more than 18 feet tall, and made of concrete and steel, and will air-cool the highly radioactive fuel, which has been in a pool at Vermont Yankee since it was removed from the reactor core during the past 42 years. Vermont Yankee ceased producing power in December 2014, and at that time planned to put Vermont Yankee into mothballs for upwards of 60 years, a process known as SAFSTOR in the nuclear industry, waiting for the plant’s decommissioning trust fund to grow and the low-level radioactive contamination to lessen. At the time of the shutdown, Yankee already had 13 casks loaded with old nuclear fuel since it had run out of storage space. When movement activities were halted three weeks ago, a total of 43 casks had been filled and moved. Lynch said a total of 58 casks were needed to hold Vermont Yankee’s 42 years' worth of irradiated nuclear fuel. The already-filled canisters cannot be inspected for any loose bolts, according to both Entergy and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and Lynch declined to say how many of the 43 filled casks were of the problematic Holtec design. According to an article distributed by the NRC on Friday, the problem with the loose bolt or pin found in one of the Holtec casks functioning as a shim at San Onofre was believed to have been caused in part by a design change initiated by Holtec, but without the permission of the NRC. Holtec is in the process of redesigning the cask, according to NRC spokesman Neil Sheehan. But Sheehan noted that David Lochbaum, a nuclear scientist with the Union for Concerned Scientists and a noted nuclear critic, had said that even with the Holtec design change involving the bolts or pins, there was adequate space within the casks for air and helium to circulate, cooling the still-hot nuclear fuel. Lynch referred comment on the cask problems to Holtec Internation, whose spokeswoman Caitlin Marmion did not return a call and email seeking comment.

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