Thursday, November 20, 2014

Meeting about Decomm and Important Posts about Closing Vermont Yankee

Marlboro College
Graduate School Building
graphic from Wikipedia
The Meeting and the Comments

Yesterday, I posted about ways to comment about Vermont Yankee's decommissioning plans. The comment period is only open until Tuesday.

Tonight, there is a meeting in Brattleboro of the Vermont Nuclear Decommissioning Citizen Advisory Panel (NDCAP).  The meeting starts at 6 p.m. at Marlboro College on Vernon Street.  Here's a link to the agenda. Regrettably, I still have a rather bad cold, and I will not be attending.

Did I say "regrettably"? Hmm....I try to be more honest than that!  These meetings can be very hard to attend because the nuclear opponents tend to dominate the conversation.  However, I have heard that this NDCAP meetings have been far more civilized than the earlier VSNAP meetings.  I encourage people to attend and support Vermont Yankee's continued operation and careful closing.

The 165 Layoffs and the Pain

As Vermont Digger posted yesterday, Entergy has announced that 165 Vermont Yankee workers will be laid off on January 19. According to an Entergy press release, 69 of these workers live in Vermont, 48 live in New Hampshire and 39 live in Massachusetts.  (I linked to the Digger article rather than the press release because you can comment on the Digger article.)

Evan Twarog at the left
Speaking at Rotary Day  at the U N
Today, I have a guest blog post at NEI Nuclear Notes about the spreading pain of Vermont Yankee closing. I attempt to cover layoffs, taxes, the grid, and my opinion that the Entergy payments for Windham County development won't help Vermont Yankee employees that much. I hope you read it and comment on it.  Pain from Vermont Yankee Closing Spreads Far and Wide.

Evan Twarog about the pain on the grid

Evan Twarog, the son of a Vermont Yankee employee, is now a blogger at Atomic Insights.  Today he has a very well-researched and thoughtful post about the price rises on the grid.  Power in New England: Why are Prices Increasing So Rapidly?  As usual, at Atomic Insights, the comment stream is also worth reading.

Those of you who follow this blog may remember that Twarog has been a frequent guest blogger, and was a summer intern at the Ethan Allen Institute Energy Education Project, two summers ago.

NEI Report on Vermont Yankee

This week, the Nuclear Energy Institute has written an excellent multi-faceted report on Vermont Yankee.  My blog post (linked above) was the final step in this report.  I encourage you to read the entire report, bookmark it, and use it!

Blog posts:

Closing Vermont Yankee, and All That It Means (overview and market problems)
Vermont Yankee and the Looming Energy Crisis (the energy market shortfalls)
Vermont Yankee and All That It Does Not Produce (effect of closing on the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative)
Pain From Vermont Yankee Closing Spreads Far and Wide  (my post, referenced above)

The report itself (Permanent at the NEI site, not blog posts):

Closing Vermont Yankee (overview and links to other pages, including great links about the energy markets, nationwide)
Nuclear Plant Shutdowns Reveal Market Problems
New England's Looming Energy Crisis
Vermont Yankee Closing Will Challenge Region's Emission Goals


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Opportunity Right Now to Comment on Decommissioning Plan

Time is Short!

In its agreement with the state of Vermont, Entergy promised to prepare several documents outlining decommissioning plans and costs.  Of course, it prepared the documents in a very timely fashion.

The best opportunity to comment on these documents is between now and Tuesday of next week. What's the hurry?  Well, the Bennington Banner explains it:

"Public comments on the draft PSDAR received by Nov. 25 will be considered for inclusion with the Public Service Department’s comments that will be provided to Entergy for incorporation with its PSDAR submittal to the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission."

The Documents

You can find the links to the documents on the Entergy VYDecommissioning Document Library Page.  The two documents that are most relevant are the Site Assessment Study, and Appendix C: Draft Post Shutdown Decommissioning Activities Report .   Oh right....  I need to tell you that Appendix C is the PSDAR referred to above (Post Shutdown Decommissioning Activities Report). The Site Assessment Study is the SAS, of course.

I hope you will comment.

Comment on what?

Well, yes. What to say? We are talking about two rather dry documents, each about 50 pages each. Reading the documents would be best used as a way to fall asleep without a lullaby or a glass of brandy (depending on your age).  Luckily, however, your comment does not have to be as long as the document.  I have three suggestions for commenting on the PSDAR:

1) The fuel pool:
Not actually in the PSDAR, but the opponents will insist that storing the used fuel rods in the spent fuel pool is very dangerous and the plant must keep all warning and safety and emergency response measures in place. They will claim that all emergency systems must be fully staffed and tested for the entire emergency planning zone, and they must be in place until all fuel rods are removed from the fuel pool after five years.  However, Entergy has calculated the residual heat in the fuel pool and the various accident scenarios, and Entergy plans to shrink the 10-mile planning zone to the plant fence line after about a year. After about a year, the fuel is cool enough for this change.

Opponents oppose this, of course, and Vermont Senator Sanders is particularly incensed at the idea of shrinking the emergency zone.  He seems to think that fuel pools are infinitely dangerous. Meanwhile, at  Fukushima, with fresh fuel in fuel pool 4 and the roof falling in, just about the worst-case-scenario you can imagine....nothing happened.  No melting, no fires, and all the used fuel rods have been removed successfully.

Bottom line: You might want to write a note saying the fuel pool at Fukushima 4 was okay, and the fuel pool at Vermont Yankee will be fine, too.

2) GEIS:
The PSDAR refers many times to the General Environmental Impact Statement (GEIS) issued by NRC about decommissioning. The PSDAR explains how the Vermont Yankee decomm process is governed by that document.  The opponents will undoubtedly attack the GEIS and also attack the idea that Vermont Yankee's situation is covered by the GEIS.  Meanwhile, the PSDAR has elaborate and (sleep-inducing) descriptions of the various parts of the GEIS.

Bottom line: You might want to write a note saying how you found the GEIS to be more comprehensive than you expected (too much information!) and it will be a good guide to the decommissioning process.

3) Timing:
Oh baby. This is a big one.  On page 21 of the PSDAR  there's a time-line for decommissioning.  As Entergy promised, the first part of the decomm (removal of fuel from the fuel pool and into dry casks) goes as fast as possible.  This phase ends in 2021.  But then, the plant is in SAFSTOR as the radiation gets less and the trust fund grows.

In the table on page 21, Decomm is shown as complete in 2073. Site restoration is complete in 2075. It is 59 years (just shy of the 60 allowed by the NRC) between plant shutdown and license termination.  Governor Shumlin initially believed that SAFSTOR was not even allowed in Vermont. You can see chilling footage of Shumlin's statements in my blog post: In Vermont, Our Word is Our Bond, So We Don't Honor Contracts.

Despite Shumlin's odd ideas, SAFSTOR is allowed in Entergy's agreement with Vermont, and it is allowed by the NRC, and Entergy can choose it.

Bottom line: You might want to write something saying acknowledging that SAFSTOR is not the choice that many people in Vermont would have liked, but it is legal and allowed by contract. It is also  safer for the workers and the community allow radiation time to diminish before dis-assembling a plant.

Submitting your remarks:

IMHO, the State of Vermont is not making it easy to make comments. However, you can submit them.  To quote the Bennington Banner again:

Written comments may be mailed electronically to the State Nuclear Engineer at : anthony.leshinskie@state.vt.us. Please include “PSDAR/SAS Comments” in the email subject line. Written comments may also be mailed to the Public Service Department at Vermont Public Service Department, ATTN: PSDAR/SAS Comments, 112 State Street — Drawer 20, Montpelier, VT 05620-2601.

To facilitate the ease of compiling all comments received, please consider emailing comments as an attached MSWord or PDF document. When sending comments via US Mail, please consider using a Compact Disk and either MSWord or PDF format.


Why?

It's all part of the Entergy agreement with the state.  Entergy agreed to consider feedback from state agencies before submitting its documents to the NRC.  The Department of Public Service decided to take comments from the public.  And here we are, commenting...

To quote Chris Campany of the Windham Regional Commission (as quoted by Olga Peters in The Commons)

According to Campany, he asked the DPS to actively seek public comment.
“This is all voluntary on Entergy’s part,” he said of Entergy sending its draft reports to the state agencies for feedback.....
Ultimately, what appears in the PSDAR is “Entergy’s prerogative,” said Campany. “This is not a PSB process.”


Monday, November 10, 2014

Energy and the Vermont Election

Recently, I was asked my opinion about how the Vermont election results would (or would not ) change Vermont Energy policy. I wrote a lengthy email, which has now morphed into this blog post.

Bottom line: despite Governor Shumlin's squeaker (probable) victory, not much will change,

----------
Scott Milne
The election

Over here in Vermont, we don't actually have a newly-elected governor.  The race was very tight, and in these cases, our constitution says that the legislature votes for Governor.  Governor Shumlin had a razor-thin margin over Republican challenger Scott Milne, but the legislature will decide.  If the Libertarian vote was combined with the Republican vote, Shumlin would have lost, but that is not very relevant.  Governor Shumlin says he is "personally humbled" by the election results.

Our legislature will decide.  Despite gains by the Republicans, our legislature has a heavy majority of Democratic/Progressive members, and so we can assume that our current Governor, Governor Shumlin, will be re-elected when the legislature convenes in January. Milne has not conceded victory.

In other words, Vermont's energy policy is unlikely to change very much on the basis of this election. The majority leader of the Vermont House is resigning, but I doubt if any relevant committee chairs will change.

The gas pipeline

The Governor (and others of his party) must be aware that he lost votes by supporting the Addison gas pipeline extension.  That awareness probably will not stop the pipeline, but it may affect Vermont energy policy going forward.  Also, Green Mountain Power is buying a great deal of its power from the grid, and its Hydro-Quebec contracts are "market-follow."  So I expect electricity price rises in Vermont, starting in January.  However, this has nothing to do with the elections: the purchase agreements are already in place.

The Governor's race in Vermont was very tight, but we can expect Governor Shumlin to be re-elected by the legislature when it comes into session in January.  (Such an election is required by Vermont's constitution in situations where neither candidate has over 50% of the votes.) This means that Vermont energy policy is unlikely to change very much.  However, Shumlin supported the Addison gas pipeline extension.  His tight race may have taught local politicians that if they support gas pipeline extensions,  they themselves will lose supporters.  This could have an effect on Vermont energy policy in the future.

Many pundits seem to agree, however, that energy policy was not the deciding factor in this election.  Issues included that Governor Shumlin never explained how he was going to fund Single Payer health care. Also, his attempt to buy land super-cheap from an impoverished neighbor led to doubts about his personal integrity.

Electricity

Governor Shumlin
Other factors, not dependent on this election, will have the major effects on Vermont electricity

Vermont Yankee will close down in December, and it produces about 70% of the electricity that is produced within the state.  This may affect Vermont power costs or reliability. Even though Vermont utilities did not explicitly purchase Vermont Yankee power, the power was very available on the local grid and was part of the  "grid power" that they bought.   Now much more power will have to be imported.

Vermont utilities have some PPA power, such as 60 MW fixed-price Seabrook power. However, much of their power (market purchased power, Hydro-Quebec "market--follow" contracts) follow the prices on the grid. Therefore, in general, we can expect Vermont electricity prices to rise and be closer to parity with the prices of other New England states.

Also, some New England states no longer buy RECs (renewable energy certificates) from Vermont. Inability to sell RECs may accelerate Vermont's electricity price rise, because less out-of-state money will be flowing to our local utilities.

In short, the election itself will have few immediate effects.  Yet we can expect long-reaching changes  to electricity costs in Vermont.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Entergy Conference Call: Vermont Yankee is a well-run plant!

A few days ago, Entergy announced its third-quarter earnings and The Street published a transcript of its earnings-report conference call.  The transcript is quite long.  I decided to use some quotes from it as my blog post.

My conclusion: Vermont Yankee employees can be VERY proud of the operation of this plant!

In the quotes below, the speaker is Leo Denault, Chairman and CEO of Entergy. I have made some additions for clarity: additions are in parentheses. Material in bold was also added by the blogger.

---------

Vermont Yankee running very well, breaker to breaker

At Entergy Wholesale Commodities operational performance was once again strong. As I noted earlier, our plants ran well. For example, the extended outage at FitzPatrick came in below the shorter end of our expectations and at VY our employees have kept the plant running for nearly 600 consecutive days now. Remarkably they are on their fourth breaker to breaker run.

But in fact all of our EWC plants play important roles in their respective regions and communities.....

About the plant closure

Let me now turn to Vermont Yankee since I know a lot of you will have questions about its closure. As you may know, in September the plant began its coast down to permanent shutdown which will occur at the end of the year. Last month, as we said we would, Entergy delivered a first of its kind site assessment study to the state of Vermont.....

Using conservative estimates about the growth of the (decommissioning) trust we think it will have enough money to begin such (major) activities in the next 25 to 35 years. At this point we don't expect to add funds into the trust to meet NRC financial assurance requirements.

A tough decision, but the economics were bad

The decision to close the plant was tough. It came with certain risks and challenges. But we planned to meet and manage these challenges thoughtfully which I think we have.

For example, we obtained an order from the Vermont Public Service Board authorizing VY to operate through the end of the fourth quarter. We targeted elimination of overhead associated with the plant and replaced the majority of Vermont Yankee employees wanting to stay with the company in new roles. It is worth reiterating that this was the right decision.

First, we now see an incremental benefit of shutdown versus continued operation of an additional $50 million through 2017. And second, despite the upturn in forward power prices in New England over the past year, economics for VY would still not be sustainable in the long run.

One reason why Pilgrim is different: Capacity Markets

Forward capacity market improvement, through the newly defined constrained zone that spans southeastern Massachusetts and Rhode Island, is improving the revenue outlook at Pilgrim and RISEC, but VY would not have benefited from this new capacity zone.



Monday, November 3, 2014

New Blogs and Bloggers, including Evan Twarog (of Vermont Yankee)

I am pleased to welcome new bloggers, and thank another blogger for welcoming a new blog. Then I welcome another new blog. Then I notice a blog I left behind by mistake. Next, I welcome a non-blog.

In other words, it's time to wrap myself in knots keeping up with the nuclear blogosphere!

Evan Twarog blogs at Atomic Insights

At the U.N.
Evan Twarog, Rotary International
President Gary C.K. Huang,
Antonio DiSilva
Let's start close to home.  Evan Twarog is now blogging at Atomic Insights.  Rod Adams of Atomic Insights welcomes Evan with a thoughtful post: Another blogger for Nuclear Energy: Evan Twarog. Evan is the son of John and Cheryl Twarog: John is a shift manager at Vermont Yankee.

Twarog has been a frequent guest blogger at Yes Vermont Yankee. He participated in rallies for the plant, testified before the Public Service Board, and wrote letters to the editor.  Twarog also worked as a summer intern at the Ethan Allen Institute in 2013. He helped with the email program, and he worked on a project model of the electric grid (along with engineer Richard Schmidt). More recently, Twarog won a prestigious competitive scholarship to Renssellear Polytechnic Institute, and won a Rotary Global essay competition. As a result of the Rotary competition, Twarog visited India and recently spoke at the United Nations.

Now Twarog will be blogging at Atomic Insights.  Welcome, Evan Twarog!

Atomic Insights Welcomes Energy Northwest Blog

Rod Adams also welcomed Energy Northwest's new blog, Northwest Clean Energy.  Since I am the lead blogger at that blog, this is another chance for me to say: Thank you, Rod!  Thanks for giving Evan Twarog a great platform, and thanks for welcoming Energy Northwest's blog.

New Blog: Nuclear Defender

I want to welcome a very new blog: Nuclear Defender.  You can't help loving a blog showing two cooling towers near a containment dome (looks kind of like a crown) with the motto: "Keep Calm and Use Nuclear."  So far, the blog has only one post:The Big Bad Becquerel. This post describes what a becquerel is, how tiny it is, and why nuclear opponents love to reference becquerels. Everything looks big...in becquerels! Nuclear Defender reviews an article about leakage at Fukushima and all those becquerels.

Sigh.  It reminds me of my early blogging days, when tritium was always described in the Vermont press in "picocuries" (a trillionth of a curie).  Picocuries, Becquerels.  Very big numbers....for very small quantities.

I look forward to more posts from Nuclear Defender.

Just Found the Blog: CASEnergy Coalition

Christine Todd Whitman
Well, I knew about CASEnergy Coalition (Clean and Safe Energy Coalition) and have used their reference material, such as Economic Benefits of Nuclear Energy.  CASEnergy is led by some pretty heavy hitters, such as Governor Christine Todd Whitman (former Governor of New Jersey and former EPA administrator). But I didn't know CASEnergy had a blog. Yes, they do.  The blog is Clean Energy Buzz, and the archives go back to January 2014.

Yeah. My face is red, especially since Yes Vermont Yankee is on the CASEnergy blog roll.  At any rate, I just added Clean Energy Buzz to my blogroll. A belated welcome to Clean Energy Buzz!

I encourage you to read their latest post, a clear and informative Halloween look at Who You Gonna Call? Nuclear Energy Mythbusters.

There Isn't Actually A Blog: Energy For Humanity

A group of environmentalists have gathered together to start a new website and group: Energy For Humanity.  The founders are Pandora's Promise director Robert Stone, environmental campaigner Kirsty Gogan, and philanthropist Daniel Aegerter. They have no corporate backing, and this group hopes to continue the network and momentum started with the documentary Pandora's Promise.

They have a great website, well worth exploring.  However, they don't have a linkable blog, or at least, I don't see one.  Still, I urge you to visit Energy for Humanity.

I love to hear all these new voices!  All are worth a visit!

Friday, October 31, 2014

Super Scary True Video of Price Rises on the Grid: Halloween Special!

I thought I would share this two-minute video about coming price rises on the New England Grid.  Super-scary for Halloween, and true!  Video is about two minutes long: from WWLP in Massachusetts.


I will be giving more details (and a broader view) of price rises on the grid in my upcoming webinar on November 6: the Myth of the Polar Vortex: Winter Electricity Prices Pressures and Responses.  I hope some of you will attend.  Register now!

Meanwhile, enjoy the video.  This video is a good way to get scared, even without benefit of spooky music.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Why Vermont Yankee Still Matters: Guest Post by Guy Page


As the planned shutdown of Vermont Yankee approaches, it is tempting to consider Vermont Yankee “old news”. The Big Decision – closing the plant – has been made, so the rest is just housekeeping, right?

What I learned at two Oct. 23 public meetings held on opposite sides of the Connecticut River suggests otherwise. Decisions of great importance to our economy and public safety remain.

At the first meeting, the Vermont Economic Progress Council - assigned to allocate the $2 million in annual economic development aid provided in the Dec. 23, 2013 shutdown Master Settlement Agreement  - sat for seven hours in Brattleboro, listening to five minute sales pitches from schools, museums, hospitals, business groups, and businesses. One after another, the hopeful said virtually the same thing: ‘We provide (or will if you help us) an important cultural, social, and/or employment service to Windham County and beyond. With your help, we can help make our little corner of the world cleaner, safer, healthier, and happier. Help us help others.’

At the second meeting, held at night directly across the river from brightly-lit Vermont Yankee in the gym of the Hinsdale NH High School, about 70 Granite State residents learned what decommissioning will mean to them. Perhaps the most interesting topic was Vermont Yankee’s plan to move all spent fuel into “dry casks” within six years. Dry casks are the gold standard for used fuel storage. Vermont Yankee could have just opted to keep much of the fuel in a pool at the plant– as permitted by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission and commonly practiced nuclear plants. But Vermont Yankee is going the extra mile, and spending the extra dollar, to respond to the public wish for maximum safety measures.

According to one expert presenter, dry casks make their contents about as secure as humanly, physically possible. Consider this: in actual tests, they have been rammed by a speeding locomotive, impacted the ground at over 200 miles an hour after being dropped from thousands of feet, and loaded onto a flatbed truck that is then rammed into a concrete wall at 80 miles per hour – and in every case the casks remained intact and their contents unspilled. They have been designed to survive the practically untestable, such as an attack by F-16s and a collision with a 350 MPH airplane. The dry casks at the Fukushima plant – perhaps the greatest “real world” test of any nuclear power plant to date – were completely unharmed.

Guy Page
with ancestor
Urban Woodbury
The Vermont Public Service Board met Oct. 29 to discuss Vermont Yankee’s request for construction of another concrete pad for dry cask storage, a prerequisite if this safety-enhancing measure is to become a reality. The PSB’s eventual yea or nay is just one of those crucial decisions looming in the future. So is any decision by any stakeholder – state, corporate, or policy advocate - that threatens to unravel the Master Settlement Agreement, on which depends not only this year’s $2 million, but an additional $8 million over the next four years.

Vermont wants economic development. We want the safest spent fuel storage humanly possible. Whether we get these outcomes depends on many decisions yet unmade. Stay tuned, and stay involved.

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Guy Page is the communications director of the Vermont Energy Partnership (VTEP), a coalition of about 90 Vermont not-for-profits, businesses, utilities, labor organizations, development agencies, and individuals committed to a clean, safe, affordable and reliable power policy for Vermont. Entergy – Vermont Yankee is a VTEP member.

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Page writes frequent guest posts at this blog.   His most recent post describes A Civilized Meeting about Vermont Yankee.