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Vt. Yankee reports on collapse in tower

Tries to reassure state regulators

Workers repaired a damaged cooling tower yesterday at the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant in Vernon. Entergy officials said degradation of wood beams caused the collapse. Workers repaired a damaged cooling tower yesterday at the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant in Vernon. Entergy officials said degradation of wood beams caused the collapse. (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

VERNON, Vt. - Officials at the Vermont Yankee nuclear station yesterday sought to reassure state officials as they prepared to bring the plant back to full power following the collapse of part of a cooling tower last month.

"This is a serious situation, and we at Entergy Vermont Yankee are taking it very seriously," said Ted Sullivan, the site vice president and the top official in the state for Entergy Nuclear.

"It's unacceptable to us, and it's not like us."

Sullivan spoke as officials at the reactor in Vermont's southeast corner said they would have the plant back to full power by the weekend.

The wood beams, metal piping, and plastic parts of a massive cooling tower cell crashed down Aug. 21, leaving a pipe nearly 6 feet in diameter spewing thousands of gallons of water.

Norm Rademacher, Vermont Yankee's engineering director, added: "What we know now is that the inspection program we have in place needs to be enhanced."

Vermont Yankee officials told representatives of the state Department of Public Service, Vermont's two US senators, and lone congressman that the cooling tower collapse was not related to changes made to the plant 18 months ago to boost its power output by 20 percent.

The power boost required the installation of larger fans on top of the cooling towers, but the new fans were on the other side of the football-field-sized buildings housing the towers, they said.

Instead, the problem was degradation in the 4-by-4-inch wood beams providing structural support to the tower, said Rademacher.

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