Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Vermont Yankee Decomm: In Vermont, Do Not Make Predictions.


NorthStar Capabilities
From Entergy May 25 presentation
Concrete volume of VY is green bar at the right
This is Vermont.  Do not make predictions.

I'm reading Whiskey Tango Foxtrot. The book was originally called the Taliban Shuffle, but now that the movie is out, it's Whiskey Tango Foxtrot.  As I am reading, I am struck by how author Kim Barker is sometimes utterly dumbfounded by local people's reactions. Men become surprisingly violent after what she considers to be minor incidents, while major problems are greeted with shrugs about "fate." Several of her anecdotes end with her musing something like: "This is Afghanistan: what did I expect?"

Her story is sort of like the story of Vermont Yankee decommissioning.  As I observe the process, I keep getting dumbfounded by what people do.   (At least, nobody is shooting at anyone else.) I explain the situation to myself by musing "This is Vermont; what did I expect?"

The advantages of the NorthStar sale

Entergy has arranged to sell Vermont Yankee to a consortium of decommissioning companies headed by NorthStar. This is unusual, as a matter of fact, it is first-of-a-kind.  Other plants have handed their licenses to a decomm company  (Zion plants and EnergySolutions) with the expectation of getting the licenses back at the end of decomm.  At the end of decomm, the original plant owner is responsible for the site. 

With Vermont Yankee, NorthStar will buy the site, and will own the site.  When the used fuel is removed, NorthStar can sell the site.

The sale to NorthStar is attractive to the state because, if owned by Entergy,  the plant was going to be in SafStor for close to sixty years. In contrast, NorthStar expects to complete decommissioning by 2030.  Similarly, Entergy was going to begin moving fuel into dry casks around 2020.  In contrast, NorthStar expects Entergy to finish the process at that time. (Fuel moving is starting now.) An early article in VTDigger gives the basic story of the sale. 

Last month's NDCAP meeting

I was at the May 25 NDCAP meeting (Nuclear Decommissioning Citizen's Advisory Panel).  NorthStar and Entergy made presentation, and there were public comments.  Here's a link to a video of the May meeting, which was actually pretty civilized.  Though the NRC was there, the meeting was run by NDCAP, and they kept decent order.  In general, the NRC itself does not keep good order at meetings in Vermont, but the NDCAP  meeting shows it can be done.   Many of my comments below stem from the May 25 meeting. If you want to see me speaking at the meeting, I'm at the 1:45 mark, approximately.

There will be a NDCAP meeting tomorrow night at the Governor Hunt House on the Vermont Yankee campus.   I won't be there this time.

NorthStar consortium can decommission Vermont Yankee effectively

After listening to the presentations, I am convinced that NorthStar can decommission the site quickly and relatively inexpensively.  The company has experience with all sorts of sites containing both large structures and environmental disposal issues.  While nuclear opponents think that radiation is very different from any other possible contaminant, companies that actually clean up coal plants and industrial plants know how to deal with all sorts of potential problems.  NorthStar will  treat radiation with respect, but not fear or awe.  Entergy had a slide show at the May 25 meeting: I have stolen their Concrete slide to head this post, and I include the Contaminated Soils slide below.

Contaminated soils volume (VY at right, green bar)
From Entergy May 25, 2017

Of course, the opponents claim, sometimes loudly, and sometimes near tears (watch the video), that radiological contamination is so very different that all of NorthStar's capabilities don't matter. Whatever else NorthStar has done, they have only decommed rather small reactors.  Therefore, according to the opponents, they are not qualified.

This is Vermont.  What did you expect?

Transparency

NorthStar wants to keep some of its costs and overhead structures confidential. The state of Vermont is basically okay with that, but intervenors object vociferously.  

In my statement at NDCAP on May 25, I talked about the time that I tried to track down the costs of different phases of decommissioning for other power plants. I couldn't track the costs I wanted to track. Everyone (the plants, the decomm companies, the NRC) told me that I was trying to obtain proprietary information, and they could not share it.  

Judging by my experience, NorthStar is not being especially opaque. Yet the opponents continue to claim to be upset about transparency.

This is Vermont. What did you expect?

Forever?

Since the Department of Energy still has not set up a plan for picking up used nuclear fuel, the fuel is stored on-site at the power plants. Though the fuel is cooled and in dry casks, it still requires some security, until the Department of Energy picks it up, or until forever, whichever comes first.

When vertically regulated utilities are in charge of taking care of something "forever," this kind of works. Of course, the utility will not necessarily last forever, but if it merges or goes bankrupt, the utility has regulators that will (hopefully) make sure it fulfills its obligations. In the case of a merchant plant (like Vermont Yankee) or a consortium (like NorthStar), no regulator has such a clear obligation. 

Nuclear opponents worry that "the taxpayer" will pick up the bill.  I am sure NorthStar will decomm the plant successfully, so the only bill I imagine the taxpayers might have would be a bill for ongoing security around some dry casks. Not a huge bill, year by year, but a bill.

 I think the problem of paying for security would be about jurisdiction, not safety. This problem is not unique to Vermont. The question of "who is in charge decades later" could happen in any RTO area.  

Yet there is one aspect that is unique to Vermont. One entity, Entergy, is planning to sell the plant to another entity, NorthStar consortium.  As I said at the beginning, this is a First of a Kind financial arrangement for decommissioning. 

My feeling is that since neither entity is supported by being part of a regulated utility, it probably doesn't matter that much. 

But I admit it: This is Vermont, and I don't know what to expect.

Three more issues:  Rubble,  Employees, PSB appointments

This post is too long.  So I will go over these issues rather quickly.

Rubble: Northstar plans to fill the large foundation holes with rubble from the buildings.  This is a standard practice, and far less expensive than trucking the rubble out to disposal and trucking fill in to the site. However,  Entergy said that they would not use this technique, so the opponents attack NorthStar for bad faith in saying they will use the technique.  Well, when you transfer a plant to another company, the other company is not obligated to do everything the same way the former owner said it would do things. It's up to the PSB to decide what needs to be done. Howard Shaffer wrote an excellent letter on this topic, which has appeared in several local papers. 

Employees: I continue to worry about what will happen to Vermont Yankee employees who are near retirement age when NorthStar takes over. See my note at the end of an earlier post. This is an unresolved issue, as far as I know.  

PSB appointments: Governor Scott appointed a new Chairman for the three-person Public Service Board (PSB). The PSB will rule on whether or not Vermont will approve the sale. Governor Scott appointed Anthony Roisman to be chair of the Commission. Roisman is against Big Wind, but some of his cases have been against nuclear plant owners. Roisman has recused himself from the Vermont Yankee decision, which I think was a correct choice.

In Conclusion

This is Vermont.  Don't make predictions.

Monday, June 5, 2017

How to Help Nuclear Plants in Ohio

Davis-Besse
NRC photo

Two plants and three ways to help them

Ohio has two nuclear plants,  Davis-Besse and Perry.  They add up to around 2000 MW electric. Ohio as a whole is a coal and natural gas state.  I did a quick addition, based on this table of power plants in Ohio. By my calculations,  Ohio has about 14,000 MW of coal. That is a lot of coal.

 I grant you that some of those coal units are scheduled to close, and will probably be replaced by natural gas.  Nevertheless, it is clear that these two nuclear plants are essential for Ohio to avoid being completely fossil power.

As a Vermonter, I do not want Ohio to have nothing but fossil-powered electricity.  The prevailing winds are from the West, and Vermont has a long history of resenting the acid rain visited on our forests by the coal-burning states of the Midwest.  The rain is less acid nowadays, but our soils have not fully recovered.  And "less acid" does not mean: Good for the forests.  It does mean: Better than it used to be.

Three ways to help nuclear in Ohio

How can you help nuclear in Ohio? Three ways, and you can do it now.

1) If you live in Ohio: Write your legislator in support of two bills that value nuclear for its zero-emissions electricity.   NEI has a post  with links. Exelon Rep Urges  Ohio Lawmakers to Support Zero-Emission Program. 

2) If you don't live in Ohio (or even if you do) donate to Generation Atomic. Generation Atomic has been going door to door in Ohio, building support for the nuclear plants.  They have a plan, they have volunteers, they have an App for your phone, and they are having success, including more than a thousand people who are now actively in favor of nuclear, and excellent press coverage.  Here's their latest field report (Notes from the Field, Week 5, Sandusky Ohio)  And here's a very important link for people: the Donate screen for Generation Atomic.

3) If you live in or near Ohio, go to the rally-symposium June 13!  Well, okay, the event is called an educational symposium on nuclear technology. (I added the "rally" part because I think of it as a rally.) The symposium will include panels, speakers and questions. This event at the Ohio Statehouse atrium includes American Nuclear Society Michigan-Ohio Section, the AFL-CIO, and North American Young Generation in Nuclear.  Maria Korsnick, president of NEI, will speak. Be there!  I think this symposium  (rally?) will be heavily covered in the press, and quite important.

Help the Ohio nuclear plants keep generating clean low-carbon power.  The environment needs you!


Generation Atomic open meeting in Ohio

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Connecticut People: Now is the Time to Support Millstone

Millstone Power Station
photo from NEI  Nuclear Notes
Support This Bill. Right now.

Right now.  Today, or maybe tomorrow

If you live in Connecticut: Write your legislator!

Over the next two weeks, the Connecticut legislature will consider SB 106.  This bill will provide financial relief for Millstone Power Station, which produces enough power for two million homes.  The same bill will also encourage Connecticut's fuel cell industry.

Dominion has a good website about supporting Millstone.  Specifically, you can click the Take Action link, and be taken directly to a site where you can write to your legislator.  If you live in Connecticut, use the link, right now.

If you live in New England but not in Connecticut, read NEI's post With Nuclear Plants Closing, Fears Grow for Stability of the New England's Electric Grid. Be prepared to defend your local nuclear plant.

More about the Connecticut bill

Well, it's complicated.  While other bills (such as New York State's Zero Emissions Credits) mandate clean energy payments for zero-emission power plants, Connecticut SB 106 just allows Millstone to bid into certain types of auctions under the same circumstances as other zero-emission plants.

Under this bill, Millstone will be allowed to present proposals to supply energy, and those proposals will be reviewed by the Office of the Consumer Counsel, the Commissioner of Energy and Environmental Protection, and the Attorney General. (Among others...later these proposals must also reviewed be by the state Public Utilities Regulating Authority.) There are no guarantees for Millstone written into this bill.

Frankly, I think you have to be some kind of Connecticut-power specialist to figure out this bill in its entirety.  Here is a link to the SB 106, as it exists now: An Act Concerning the Diversity of Baseload Energy Supplies in the State and Achieving Connecticut's Greenhouse Gas Emissions Mandated Levels.

I have tried to read it, but I came to only one conclusion.  Everything is optional.  This bill does not mandate that Millstone (or any low-emissions source) will be paid any particular amount for their power.  It has many statements such as:

(The Office of Consumer Counsel and the Attorney General)... Shall evaluate project proposals received in response to any solicitation issued pursuant to subsection (a) of this section based on whether such proposal is in the best interest of ratepayers and whether the benefits of such proposal outweigh the costs to ratepayers, based on the following: (A) The delivered prices of such sources compared to the forecasted price of energy, as determined by the commissioner or his or her designee....
This bill levels the playing field. It allows Millstone to bid, along with other low-emissions suppliers.

Naturally, allowing Millstone to bid has infuriated many companies.  This is why you should write your legislator, right now, if you live in Connecticut.

Who are the Opponents?

There is plenty of opposition. Basically, the fossil industry is opposing this bill.

In February, Luther Turmelle wrote about this proposed legislation in  the New Haven Register:  2 Connecticut energy bills aim to help Millstone owner, spur fuel cell use.   His article described the opposition, which includes Calpine, Dynegy, NRG Energy, and the Electric Power Supply Association.  In other words, the opposition includes  the fossil power plants in Connecticut.  These companies and associations represent the plants that do not meet the low-emissions criteria set by Connecticut for energy proposals to be submitted under this bill.

The Time is Now

The problem is that it is spring, and state legislatures either pass bills before adjourning, or...the bills don't pass.  For the sake of the environment, we want this bill to pass.

Time is short. Write your legislator!

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Advocating for Nuclear Advocacy at the NEA meeting

Facebook Post by Sarah Spath, Kristin Zaitz and Heather Matteson of
Mothers For Nuclear

The Conference

Each year, the Nuclear Energy Institute and North American Young Generation in Nuclear (NAYGN) jointly sponsor the NEA Nuclear Energy Assembly.

At NEA, Monday includes the  the NAYGN Professional Development sessions (open to all attendees, not just young members). The Supplier Expo and "Top Innovative Practices" awards are more industry-oriented. These more general events started Monday night and continued to Wednesday, according to the program calendar.  This year, the conference started this Monday, May 22, and ended Wednesday, May 24.



Advocacy at the Conference

I was moved to see the emphasis on advocacy at this conference.  In the NAYGN portion of the conference, there was an afternoon session on Effective Storytelling, described this way: Attendees will hear from panelists on effective strategies in storytelling and industry branding to explore new ideas in how we should be talking about nuclear energy and best practices in reaching a broader audience on issues important to the industry.

Wow.  I wasn't at the conference, but just this description stirs my heart.  And there's more.

At the main conference (the NEA portion, not the NAYGN portion), the president of the Nuclear Energy Institute, Maria Korsnick, unveiled a "Wide-ranging Nuclear Advocacy Effort." This national outreach strategy will appeal to a wide range of advocates.   Here is a link to an article about her speech. But I can't resist one quote: "We have stepped up our advocacy effort not just a notch or two, but by a great margin."

I am so pleased to see this new policy. Nuclear needs a wide range of advocates.

Campaigning for Clean Air at the NEA meeting

I was not at the NEA meeting but my book was there!  Campaigning for Clean Air was given out in the NAGYN welcome packets. If you registered for NAGYN, you received my book!  NAYGN bought the book from me (bulk purchase with a discount) and distributed it.

It's hard to even write about this, because I am so happy.  But please understand, there was a lot of emphasis on advocacy at the meeting, at panels and announcements and more.  My book was just one part of the advocacy events at the meeting. But still: my book was there!

Mothers For Nuclear posted on Facebook about receiving my book in their packet.  I headed this post with a screen shot of this posting. What can I say?

 I can only say Thank You to Kristen Zaitz, Heather Matteson and Sarah Spath for their posting, and Thank You to everyone at NEA for advocating advocacy!

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Bonus Book: Inspiration and Brownies!

Bonus Book:

In May, when you buy Campaigning for Clean Air, you will get a bonus: a short book of inspirational essays– “An Advocate’s Inspiration: Shared Brownies for the Nuclear Soul.” This bonus will only be available in May.

To get the bonus book, buy Campaigning at Amazon, and forward the receipt to me at mjangwin at gmail.

Please share this offer with your friends and with other groups. I would love to send out lots of the short, sweet, inspiration book!

About the bonus book:

I am putting this offer together so people will click: Buy. It's a marketing thing. Yes,  it is.

But "An Advocate's Inspiration" is a book from the heart.  You will enjoy it.

Also, if you bought Campaigning earlier, please send me the receipt and I will send you "An Advocate's Inspiration."  The end-date of the offer is to encourage new buyers, not to discourage my friends who bought the book earlier.


Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Ecomodernist Podcast on "Campaigning for Clean Air"

I was recently invited to talk about my book, Campaigning for Clean Air, on the Ecomodernist Podcast.  The podcast was released, and here's the link.  I hope you will listen to it: I think you will enjoy the conversation.

The Ecomodernist Podcast:

Part of the podcast was talking about my book, There are many books about the virtues of nuclear power, but this is the first book (as far as I know) on how to support nuclear power in the public sphere.  It's the "then what" book:

"Now that I know about the importance of nuclear power, then what can I do to support it?"

My book is a major answer to that question.   I encourage you to read its excellent reviews on Amazon.

However, a good podcast goes beyond just discussing the book.  Gabriel Ignetti and Rick Maltese were great interviewers.

We discussed combustion versus nuclear energy for electricity. Specifically,  we discussed the nasty effects on air quality that are caused by nitrogen oxides from gas and coal-fired plants. Nowadays, carbon dioxide gets all the press, but nitrogen oxides are still out there, making smog and acid rain. We discussed  being members of environmental groups that are fighting climate change, and the importance of sticking up for nuclear within these groups.  Ignetti, especially, had good stories about his involvement in the environmental movement in Florida.  We discussed hecklers and people who really get "in your face" against nuclear, and possibly-effective versus certainly-ineffective ways to deal with them.

At the end of the podcast, Ignetti and Maltese have a short, separate section, sharing some research they did about how nitrogen oxides affect people's health, forest health, and even our sculpture and our buildings.

Ecomodernism

Painted trillium in Pisgah National Forest
A not-power-plant near a waterfall.
I was on the  "Ecomodernist Podcast," and now you may be wondering: what is "ecomodernism"?  Ecomodernism is a movement that started in 2015, with the publication of the Ecomodernist Manifesto. The ecomodernist goal is human prosperity and an ecologically vibrant planet.

This goal will be achieved by humans choosing technologies that can lift people from poverty and supply abundant energy, while using less of the of the world's area for human endeavors.  This means, for example, using compact energy sources like nuclear power, and leaving the ridges, the tides, the woodlands,  the pastures, and the streams to benefit the ecologies that need ridges, tides, woodlands,  pastures and streams.  In other words, giving nature room to breathe, while giving humans enough abundance to live healthy lives.

Ecomodernism hadn't been invented yet, in 2013, when I had an article in ANS Nuclear Cafe: Farmers, City Folk and Renewable Energy. But the idea in my article substantially the same: don't look at every woods and every waterfall as a source of energy, ready for "biomass" burning, or building a nice big concrete dam.

Let much of nature be nature.  Use compact sources of energy, rather than bulldozing the woods.

That is also a goal of ecomodernism.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Nuclear and the Trump Administration: Post at Nuclear Engineering International

NRC Chairman Kristine L. Svinicki and Commissioner Jeff Baran.
NRC photo from 2017 Regulatory Information Conference
Trump and Nuclear

Early this year, Nuclear Engineering International Magazine suggested that I write an article about the future of nuclear energy under the Trump administration.  (The magazine is based in Britain.)

This level of prognostication felt a little above my pay grade!

However,  I managed it, because I worked with an excellent co-author, Dr. Gilbert  Brown.  Brown is  emeritus professor/ director of the nuclear engineering program at University of Massachusetts, Lowell.  He is active in nuclear policy and was a Foster Fellow in the U.S. State Department.  Together, Brown and I wrote the article: Nuclear Power in the U.S.A.  It appeared in the March issue of the magazine.

I call the article "prognostication" because it was published in the March issue of Nuclear Engineering International, and written in February.  A  lot of things were in flux at that point. To quote the description of the article in the magazine itself:

President Donald Trump’s first few weeks in office have been a whirlwind of activity. When it comes to nuclear power, there has been some positive momentum with key industry appointments and initiatives for advanced reactors. What might the future hold? By Meredith Angwin and Dr. Gilbert Brown.

Why this article is different

Doctor Gilbert Brown
Though some parts of our article are now out-of date, most of the article is still relevant. In particular, we pushed some boundaries a little in this article. Many people who read nuclear industry periodicals expect to hear about DOE, NRC and EPA (we covered these agencies).

But many nuclear people are somewhat ignorant of FERC, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which is the commission that oversees the grid as a whole.

Dr. Brown and I covered the effects of the vacancies at FERC.  We felt we needed to expand our article past the "usual suspects."  FERC has so many vacancies on its board right now that it can't hold important meetings or make certain types of rulings.

I think you will enjoy reading our article about nuclear under Trump.  When I linked to it on Facebook, a very knowledgable man commented that it was a GREAT high-level summary article, and more such articles will be required in the future.
-------------

Endnotes about FERC:

In late March, long after we had finished the article, the Washington Examiner looked at possible FERC appointments in an article titled  The Politics of Fixing FERC.

Much of that article has an inside-baseball feel to it. Read it if you choose, but at any event, I think the title of the article ("Fixing FERC")  is an important  statement.  In my opinion, FERC has been  fast-and-free with its mandate, encountering little oversight and almost no press coverage. Most of FERC's actions have been either neutral or not-good for nuclear.

For example,  I keep meaning to write about FERC 1000, but I am every time I get ready to dive into that deep deep sinkhole, I remember that I wrote a book and I should spend  my time publicizing it.  If you want to know more about recent FERC actions, I suggest reading NESCOE's brief in its lawsuit against FERC: the suit is about FERC 1000.   Start reading the brief on page 4.

NESCOE is an association of New England states: New England States Committee on Electricity.  This association is made up of representatives appointed by the New England governors.  I consider NESCOE to be New England's attempt to defend itself against FERC.

NESCOE is rightly concerned that FERC's policy changes will cause states to be forced to pay for other states requirements for transmission lines--lines built for only for state policy purposes.  It is taxation without representation: one state votes in for a state policy, and other states pay for that policy. Before FERC 1000, states only shared the costs for transmission lines that were needed for grid reliability, not for state policy.

Oh heavens.  See what I mean?  I'm heading down the explaining-FERC sinkhole!  Okay! Done with that!  I'm climbing out now! I'll be okay!  Really...I will!

Endnotes about Nuclear Engineering International Magazine 

My most recent blog post based on a Nuclear Engineering International article is Pay for Performance on the U.S. Grid: No help to nuclear