Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Ohio Energy Matters: Welcome to a new blog

A New Local Blog, and Why Local Blogs Matter

This post welcomes a new local blog, started by Will Davis.

Ohio Energy Matters
This blog's motto is:
Reporting on Ohio energy matters because Ohio's energy MATTERS

This blog is in the grand tradition of local nuclear blogs...well, I think that there are only five local nuclear blogs in North America.  Still, five can be a grand tradition, right?

The five local blogs that I know about are:
Ohio Energy Matters
Canadian Energy Issues
Atoms For California
Northwest Clean Energy
Yes Vermont Yankee

All politics is local. 

Local blogs can influence local actions by providing local information and linking to ways to use that
information (hearings to attend, newspaper articles that may have comment sections on-line, etc.)  The local blogs are adapted to their areas, and feature different types of information.
The blog posts at these blogs are  not always of national interest.  Yet they are tremendously important.  Local people want to link to legislative reports, hearing records and so forth. They want to refer back to something that happened six months ago, without trying to comb through the archives of a newspaper.  As a matter of fact, newspaper and radio reporters often (not always) read the local blogs when they want "the other side" of the nuclear story, and are pressed for time to find it.

All politics is local.

The Opponents Go National and We Must Go Local

Many nuclear opponents have nationwide reach.  For example, one of the men who was most active in closing Vermont Yankee is now "crisscrossing  (Ohio) labeling the power purchase agreement a “bailout” for the utility and specifically for Davis-Besse." From a   Dan Yurman blog post on activism against nuclear plants.  This man is determined to close down Davis-Besse next.

To defend the nuclear option, I believe we need both national and local blogs. A recent post at Ohio Energy Matters shows exactly the type of impact that a local blogs can have.

Nuclear Energy Institute did a report on the financial contributions of Davis Besse to the Ohio economy.  In his blog post,  Economic Impacts of Davis-Besse, Will Davis summarized the report and linked to the report.  But he went farther.  He compared this report to the report of economic devastation that is happening in Vermont due to shutting down Vermont Yankee.  In other words, he put the Davis-Besse report in context.

In the comment section, someone asked how to comment to agencies in favor of Davis Besse.  By having a local blog, Davis was able to both receive this comment (who you gonna ask?) and to answer it.  

Welcome the new local blog: Ohio Energy Matters!

Will Davis, Blog Author

Will Davis has an outstanding track record as a pro-nuclear energy communicator.  Davis has his own blog, Atomic Power Review, with over 800,000 page views. He writes for the industry newsletter, Fuel Cycle Week. He is one of the organizers and editors of the American Nuclear Society blog ANS Nuclear Café. Davis is also Communications Director for the Nuclear Ship Savannah Association.

So Davis is not just a nuclear communicator, he is a very busy and very sought-after nuclear communicator.  And yet, Davis has started this new, local blog.  Because local blogs are important.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Decommissioning Meeting Wednesday Night in Brattleboro

The Meeting and the NRC

There's a meeting of the Nuclear Decommissioning Citizen Advisory Panel (NDCAP) on Wednesday night in Brattleboro. The meeting will start at 6 p.m. at the Quality Inn and Conference Center, on Vernon Road in Brattleboro. Here's a link to the agenda.

As you may note, this is an unusual meeting because a representative from NRC will be there. NDCAP itself will continue to have meetings forever, though the Rockies may crumble and Gibraltar may, not that long.  Wrong song.

The meeting tomorrow night may well be an important meeting, because it is during the period when the NRC is taking comments on the Vermont Yankee Decommissioning Plan, the Post Shutdown Decommissioning Activities Report, aka the PSDAR. And a representative from the NRC will be there, which is always quite a draw for the opponents.  (See my post on one of the NRC-sponsored meetings: The Politics of Intimidation.)

Update Note: I originally wrote that NDCAP would have "monthly" meetings forever.  Howard Shaffer corrected this.  He informed me that NDCAP has had monthly meetings recently, since so much is going on, but the group is only required to have four meetings a year.  So they will have meetings forever, but not monthly meetings.

Sources of Information, and What to Say

Vermont Yankee has an excellent web site on decommissioning, including links to the PSDAR. The Public Service Department also a good site, with links to presentations at NDCAP meetings.  And a big Hat's Off to Howard Shaffer, for his submission to NDCAP. There were two presentations to NDCAP by nuclear opponent groups, and Howard also has a presentation.  (See December 18 meeting notes.)

The bad news is you can spend a week reading pages and pages of information about this meeting. But, if you go to the meeting, you will only get probably two minutes to say anything at all. What might you say?

My advice would be to say that with the plant shut down, and all fuel in the pool, the emergency planning zone (EPZ) no longer needs to be in effect at the time when the NRC says it doesn't need to be in effect.  In other words, the EPZ can be shut down in early 2016.

EPZ Controversy

Well, it isn't a controversy.  All nuclear people (plant, NRC etc) agree that when the fuel has been in the fuel pool for about a year, it becomes too cool to start a fire.  At that point, the emergency planning zone no longer needs to be funded.  However, the opponents are eager to have all nuclear plants spend as much money as possible and keep the emergency planning and so forth in place forever.

Or at least, they think that the EPZ should be in place until Gibraltar tumbles and...wait.  Wrong song!  No, actually, it may be the right song.

The VY Decommissioning page includes an analysis of the public comments received by the Public Service Board about the PSDAR.  You will note that the majority of the comments:

  • Request EPZ until all fuel is in dry casks
  • Request EPZ until all spent fuel is offsite, maybe in Yucca Mountain
  • Request EPZ expansion to fifty miles.
If you go to the meeting, explain perhaps that the fuel pool will not be a danger...just about the time when the NRC says it will not be a danger.  And that the EPZ can go away....just about the time that the NRC says it no longer needs to be funded!  These dates are calculations, not coincidence. 

Will I Be At the Meeting?

Probably not.  I have to admit that I have lost my taste for watching people walk up to the microphone and endlessly repeat that they are terrified about the fuel pool. The plant is not operating. They won, and I don't want to watch them anymore.  Also,  I have lost my taste for being intimidated, and the presence of someone from the NRC may lead the opponents to having more fun (so to speak) than a normal meeting.

However, Howard Shaffer said he may go, and I may go also.  Shaffer is a real trooper, filing testimony to partially balance the testimony of the opponents. I haven't decided about this meeting. Luckily, the blizzard didn't really blizzard here, the way it blizzarded in Massachusetts. So I could go, I guess.

A lot to think about.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

The Vermont Yankee Series Expands. The "Attitude Post" and more

The American Nuclear Society  blog has run a three-part series on the reasons for Vermont Yankee closing. Seven bloggers contributed.  Here are links to part one, part two, and part 3.

Now, the series has expanded at another blog.  Dan Yurman described the reasons for the series, and the credentials of the bloggers, at his blog: Neutron Bytes.  His post is called Seven At One Blow (seven bloggers on one topic, in one series).  Pro-nuclear bloggers are knowledgeable and accomplished people, but the bloggers are seldom explicitly acknowledged.  A big THANK YOU to Yurman for his post.

Well Begun is Half Done

The third post in the American Nuclear Society blog could be called the "attitude" post.  How shall we approach the political battle for nuclear energy?  Our attitudes matter.

Well Begun is Half Done. Confused beginnings  and confused goals rarely lead to success.

Vermont State House chamber
Howard Shaffer's post is titled "Failure to Politically Engage. As Shaffer writes: Unfortunately, Entergy Vermont Yankee carried through with the industry’s error of misunderstanding the campaign against the plant as a technical and legal policy debate, as opposed to recognizing it for what it truly was—a bare knuckle political campaign.

Shaffer doesn't leave it at that, though.  He develops a list for winning a campaign. The material on the list might be old-hat to a politician, but these things seems new to the nuclear industry. For example:

Be the first to get negative information about you into the media. You get to define the issue, not your opponents. 

Shaffer is a co-owner of  this blog, as well as a frequent contributor to ANS Nuclear Cafe. I recommend his ANS Nuclear Cafe post about testifying to a legislative committee about spent fuel storage: Getting Inside the Legislative Process.

Dan Yurman continues the theme with his post "Vermont Yankee Shuts Down for Good."  He concludes that low gas prices and the regulatory environment contributed to Vermont Yankee closing, Entergy, which is a Louisiana business, never got a sense of how to deal with New England greens.  Yurman's conclusion, however, is more about the market: Entergy...(could not) to recover value, nor earn revenue, ... based on the carbon emission reductions it provided to the region.
Prices in New England

In this case, it was the market that was ill-begun.

Dan Yurman is a pre-eminent nuclear blogger.  His current blog is Neutron Bytes: his former blog, Idaho Samizdat, was one of the pioneering pro-nuclear blogs.

So Many Thanks!

First, I want to thank Dan Yurman, who had the idea for this series of blog posts at ANS.  He was also a contributor to the blog, the collector of the posts (we sent them to Yurman), and a major force in publicizing this effort.

Second, I want to thank Will Davis of the blog Atomic Power Review and Linda Zec of the Outreach Department at American Nuclear Society, who took the seven essays across the finish line for publication at ANS Nuclear Café.

Third, I want to thank the people who wrote excellent, informed and thought-provoking comments on Reflections 1 and Reflections 2.  Join the conversation!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

On the Roof? Video about Vermont Yankee retirement

WCAX interviewed Howard Shaffer and Arnie Gundersen about Vermont Yankee's retirement.  Gundersen apparently does not know where the fuel pool is: he says that the fuel is stored "on the roof."  Really?  Last I looked, it was under the roof.

Shaffer is reasonable as usual.

Just a quick post to share this. I hope the video comes through.  If not, please follow the link.

  WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

At American Nuclear Society Blog: Second Part of Analysis on Vermont Yankee Closing

It's the politics?

In yesterday's post at the American Nuclear Cafe blog, Les Corrice and I analyzed Vermont Yankee's closing. We both concluded that  the statement that "it was uneconomic to operate the plant" was kind of a smokescreen. The "economics statement" was a way to avoid admitting the real issue: the plant closed mostly due to political opposition. That was the first post in the series at ANS Nuclear Cafe: you might call it "the politics post."

I also encourage you to read the first comment on the post, clearly written by someone who worked at the plant.  The comment includes more detail on exactly the type of political pressures the plant was facing.  Once you have read the comment, join the conversation.

It's the economics, maybe? Or the lack of advocacy?

Today, ANS posted  the second part of that three-part series on Vermont Yankee's closing.

In this post, three bloggers comment on the closing. Two of the bloggers describe the economics of the plant, and the third describes what real advocacy could mean.

  1. Rod Adams worked hard to convince buyers that the plant was worth saving, and he presents cogent economic arguments for keeping the plant running. Adams blogs at Atomic Insights, and most bloggers who read this blog have seen his posts and guest posts.   One of his recent posts is Prevention is Easier and Less Painful than Cure--Keep Vermont Yankee Open.  In today's post at ANS Nuclear Cafe, he gives a concise analysis of how Vermont Yankee could be an economic asset.
  2. Edward Kee is an energy economist, and the owner of the Nuclear Economics Consulting Group.  He blogs at Nuclear Economics where he recently posted Nuclear Lessons from Vermont Yankee Closure.  Today, at the American Nuclear Cafe blog, Kee writes that the lack of profitable power contracts was a major cause of Vermont Yankee's closing. He also notes that the grid markets do not financially favor nuclear plants, despite their reliability. 
  3. The third blogger, Robert Margolis, feels that the major problem was lack of advocacy.  We needed advocacy for Vermont Yankee, and while we had some, we didn't have enough.  As an example of "enough," Margolis cites Frederick Salvucci, a civil engineer who had personal reasons to advocate for the Big Dig in Boston...and he fought for it, and he won.  The Big Dig was built, however unlikely that might seem in retrospect.  Nuclear advocates are fighting for something better than the Big Dig, but we need some of Salvucci's fire.

I encourage you to read this second Vermont Yankee post at the American Nuclear Society blog, and comment on it.

1-93 Tunnel, part of the Big Dig

Monday, January 19, 2015

Bloggers Analyze Vermont Yankee Closure: Series Starting at American Nuclear Society Blog

Today, the American Nuclear Society blog, ANS Nuclear Cafe, started a series of posts that analyze Vermont Yankee's closing.   Today's post is Reflections on Vermont Yankee-1.   Seven authors have written their opinions, and their work will be published in three posts.

To quote the description of these posts: Seven authors – who have no official connection to Vermont Yankee, or to Entergy, have provided their opinions on the shutdown of the plant, its implications for the region, and possible implications for other nuclear plants in other areas of the country.

The authors are all nuclear advocates and/or pro-nuclear bloggers.

Today's post: It's the Politics, Not the Economics

Today's post has two authors.  I'm the first author.  My part is titled: The Price Is Not the Lesson.  I argue that the statement "it's just an economic decision" works as protective cover for plant owners and it works for plant opponents. However, the real reasons for closure include political opposition and heavy, targetted taxation.

The second author is Les Corrice, blogger at Hiroshima Syndrome.  His website hosts two blogs: Fukushima Accident Updates and Fukushima Commentary.  Corrice is also author of two books about the Fukushima accident.

Corrice's section is titled: The Unspoken Reason for Closure. As he writes: "In my opinion, the economic rationale is a smoke screen for an unspoken, over-riding reason.    V-Y has been under a socio-political attack for decades."

No, Corrice and I did not coordinate or collaborate on our posts. It's more a great-minds-think-alike situation!  I encourage you to read the entire post at ANS Nuclear Cafe and to comment on it.

Other posts, with other ideas, written by other bloggers, will be coming soon.


Yesterday, in the Valley News, I had a guest column on the front page of the "Perspective" section of the Sunday paper.  In a few days, I will reprint the column at this blog.  In the meantime, I hope this link works.  Why Electricity Costs Spiked.  (I don't control the illustrations for my columns, of course.  I am pleased that this column is illustrated with a very nice picture of Vermont Yankee.)

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Video of Interviews with Vermont Yankee People

Entergy made a short video of interviews with Vermont Yankee employees. The video was filmed on the last day of plant operations.

Vermont Yankee was a well-maintained plant. It was a plant where people worked together. A sad video. But it is an opportunity to hear the voices of the employees themselves.

Vermont Yankee Employee Thoughts on Closing from Entergy Corp. on Vimeo.