Thursday, April 29, 2010

Press Conference

Repowering Vermont?

Last summer, VPIRG issued a report Repowering Vermont, explaining how renewables will provide power after (they hope) Vermont Yankee is closed. I discussed this report to some extent in my recent post on the Legislative Consensus economic report.

The Group and The Evaluation

I belong to a group, Coalition for Energy Solutions. We are all local energy professionals: one physicist, one chemist (me), and four engineers. Some of us have active careers and companies, some are semi-retired. At any rate, we felt that this VPIRG report overstated the ease of replacing Vermont Yankee with renewables, and understated the costs. (Actually, they didn't state the costs.) We began doing research for a report on the costs and engineering feasibility of their recommendations.

It has been a long road, in which we evaluated the capacity factors of wind farms in Maine, called foresters to assess the sustainable yield of our northern forests, and tried to assess the costs and reliability of cow power. And of course, we argued with each other, and improved our estimates, and argued and improved some more. All six of us seem to be from Missouri...Show Me! We finally finished the report: well-documented, a little geeky, low on graphics, but we backed up every straight-forward number, and argued out every estimated factor. Let's put it this way: I think it's the best report out there on renewables for Vermont, and I'm not just saying that because I am one of the authors.

Launching Now!

So, now it's Showtime! We are having a press conference at the Statehouse in Montpelier to launch the report tomorrow afternoon. We all chipped in for xeroxing and we will give a copy to every legislator in Vermont tomorrow. Patty O'Donnell, the representative from Vernon, reserved the room for us. We will be introduced by Representative O'Donnell and Senator Peg Flory, a Senator who voted for Vermont Yankee.

I include the press release below. A summary of the report is on our website, and the entire report can be downloaded from that page of the site. (You don't have to register.)

A Thank You

Press Release

STATE HOUSE - Cedar Creek Room
1:30 -3:00 pm
Subject: Release of Vermont Electric Power In Transition (VEPIT), an Evaluation of the feasibility of the renewable proposals in the 2009 VPIRG report, Repowering Vermont.

The VEPIT Evaluation has been prepared by the Coalition for Energy Solutions, a group of six engineers and scientists from the Upper Valley, four of them Vermonters. They are: Meredith Angwin, Wilder; Steve Fox, South Pomfret; Willem Post, Woodstock; Peter Roth, Quechee; Robert Hargraves, Hanover, NH; and Howard Shaffer, Enfield, NH.

Our Evaluation makes the same assumptions about total electric demand, total purchases from the grid, and complete use of renewables (no extensive gas-fired back-up) as Repowering Vermont. Both Repowering Vermont and our Evaluation assume that Vermont Yankee power will not be available to Vermont. Both consider only the issue of where Vermont (not New Hampshire or Massachusetts) get their energy supply. Both consider solar, biomass, wind, cow power, hydro and landfill methane.

However, our Evaluation also considers the engineering realities of cost, location, and environmental impact. Our evaluation uses appropriate capacity factors for wind, solar, and biomass availability, and documents its sources. The Evaluation uses the best cost data it could find, and documents its sources. Repowering Vermont does not state its capacity factors, and its “economic evaluation” is not traceable.

Our Evaluation separates engineering from policy. It includes some policy recommendations in an Afterword. It finds that the proposed supplies could be built if sufficient funds were available. Building all those renewables will take far longer than estimated in Repowering Vermont, because of the impacts discussed.

Our Evaluation does not discuss Vermont Yankee issues. However, the conclusions of the Evaluation, and the general opinion of the Coalition members, favor extending VY’s license while building renewables at an achievable pace.

Our Evaluation, and more information about the Coalition and its members may be viewed at:

For more information contact Howard Shaffer or Meredith Angwin.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Three Views of the Outage

The First View: Business is Booming in Brattleboro

Vermont Yankee is on a refueling outage, and business is booming in Brattleboro. This video shows people in Brattleboro who own small businesses, and are happy with the lively days and free-flowing money of the nuclear workers coming into town for the outage. They are happy with the plant, too.

This is a group that doesn't go to Vermont Yankee hearings in the evenings. This is a group you seldom see on TV.

(If you can't access the embedded video, you should be able to link to it here.)

The Second View: Hatred of the Plant and Its People

Not everyone in Brattleboro likes the plant or its people.

On the "Save Vermont Yankee" group page in Facebook, Entergy employee Theresa Derting had this post:
Went to a local hardware store today and bought some last-minute supplies for the outage, used my company credit card, and got sneered at by the guy taking my money. Guess who won't go back there?

(I have Ms. Dertling's permission to use this post in my blog.)

I would like to think that being sneered at because you work for Entergy is an unusual occurrence in Brattleboro, but it isn't. Brattleboro votes against Vermont Yankee. Brattleboro sent two of the most fervent anti-VY people (Rep. Sarah Edwards and Pro Temp Peter Shumlin) to the Statehouse. A constant stream of anti-VY letters-to-the-editor in the Brattleboro paper serve to infuriate or depress plant employees in Vernon. The people at the plant call the Brattleboro paper the Mis-Informer and many of them refuse to read it.


Plant employees are often treated like pariahs. My evidence comes from emails that I have received, and postings on the Save Vermont Yankee page of Facebook.
  • One Entergy employee said that when the employees went to Montpelier last May, senators and representatives "seemed to be avoiding us."
  • Another employee emailed me that she frequently feels like crying, because her family is from the area and she feels so many of the locals hate the employees.
  • An employee of nuclear plant in the South visited VY to do some benchmarking. She emailed me that felt she didn't want to admit that she worked at the plant while she was in downtown Brattleboro. She felt very uncomfortable.
I have more examples, but in the interest of length, I will stop here.

In an earlier post, I talked about the two cultures, and people at the plant and anti-nuclear people were unlikely to see eye to eye. In the VPR article about the two cultures, people at the plant talked of their jobs, church and families. Some spoke of feeling unwelcome. In contrast, anti-nuclear people spoke of their fears that something would go wrong at the plant and hurt them. Different issues for the different groups. The article on two cultures is well worth reading.

Brattleboro is Southern Vermont

This is hard to write, because most people (at the plant, in Brattleboro) are good people and treat each other well. Yet there is a significant minority in Brattleboro who are happy to marginalize plant employees and temporary workers. Some of these people treat VY employees as non-people who have no feelings, and generally act as if the people of Brattleboro are the ruling class and the people of Vernon are.....

Hey, I'll go further. I'll say what I mean. Some anti-nuclear people in Brattleboro act as if they are the whites in the pre-integration South.

The whites in the pre-integration South were top dogs. They were defending their way of life from interlopers and frightening possibilities. The whites of the Old South were sure they were right, and they were highly self-righteous. They weren't shy about keeping the "others" in their place with interruptions and other methods of showing that the words and actions of the marginalized people didn't count for much. They were proud of these actions.

It sounds familiar.

This attitude is not universal among the anti-nuclear people in Brattleboro, and most people on both sides of the fence are basically good-hearted. But I would be lying if I said that scorn of plant workers is uncommon in Brattleboro.

The Third View: The View from Montpelier

Outages are scheduled, plant project charts are prepared, but Montpelier goes right ahead with its agenda.

If you remember, in a post about Old Tritium and New Problems, I described how the Conservation Law Foundation had persuaded (or maybe forced) the Public Service Board to open up a whole new docket about Vermont Yankee, docket 7600. This docket is not about license renewal; it's about shutting the plant down early due to the leak of tritiated water. In my February 27 post, I suggested that the leak would be found and fixed before the new docket could get underway.

I was right, but mere facts can't stop a docket. There's been all sorts of flapping around because the various intervenor consultants on that docket want to visit VY and see the holes and the remediation. They want to come, outage or no outage. The consultants can't re-arrange their schedules. Also, it is possible that the remediation work could finish during the outage and the consultants wouldn't get to see it. The consultants will visit Thursday, April 29, during the outage. The Burlington Free Press blogged about this. The Public Service Board interviewed all stakeholders and issued a Board Order. The visit will happen despite the outage.

Parking on site will be a problem, due to hundreds of extra workers. Security may also be a problem. The visitors will have to carpool from an off-site parking lot. I am sure this will work out fine, with only minimum inconvenience to the intervenors.

End Note:

Tamar Cerafici has an excellent post today about the communications issues at Vermont Yankee. My friend Tamar is a lawyer who lives in New Hampshire.

Economic Reports: De-Constructed

Green or Hybrid: The Confusing Options
Once again, I return to the three reports on the economic effects of closing Vermont Yankee.
An earlier post considered the relatively simply case of shutting or relicensing Vermont Yankee. Both the legislative report and the IBEW report had similar findings of a loss of $60 to $90 million dollars per year for economic impact on Vermont, and around $10 million dollars per year fiscal impact (taxes) on Vermont government. Both reports show the loss of 1,000 jobs per year in the state.

I pointed out, however, that the legislative report made the odd assumption that by 2040, there will be 1500 GWh per year saved through efficiency. Since Vermont only uses about 6,000 to 7,000 GWh per year, that seemed high to me.

Green and Hybrid

The earlier post considered the first two options in the report: Shut Down Vermont Yankee or Relicense Vermont Yankee. This post considers the Green and Hybrid options, options 3 and 4 of the consensus report. This is the hard part to understand.

3) Shut down VY and start an aggressive Green Energy building program (Green Scenario)
4) Relicense Vermont VY and start an aggressive Green Energy building program (Hybrid Scenario)


According to the Brattleboro Reformer, the model used in the consensus report took 16 months to create, and then two economists did two separate forecasts. Then the two economists put together this report (consensus).

I believe that the analysis of the first two options (relicense and shut down) were not particularly difficult, and used standard models. I also believe that the second two options (Green and Hybrid) were contentious and political.

With teams of economists working for over a year, this blogger is aware that she can't do a particularly complete critique. So I am putting together some ideas to think about, rather than a complete analysis.

With options three and four, we have moved away from the IBEW report. The IBEW report doesn't assess a Green option, though the VPIRG report sort-of covers it (without many dollars attached.) This post is my attempt to understand the Green and Hybrid options in the legislature's report, and I will occasionally compare these options to the options in the VPIRG report.

Various aspects of the Green and Hybrid Options are discussed separately below.

Load Reduction

All options in the legislative report include load reduction through efficiency: 1658 GWh/year for the simple relicensing or shut-down scenarios, and 2591 GWh/year for the Green and Hybrid scenarios. (page 5 of the legislative report, both numbers by 2040) For comparison, according to the Vermont Department of Public Service, in 2003, Vermont Yankee supplied 2131 GWh to the state of Vermont. out of a total of 6,009 GWh.

These assumptions on reduction-through-efficiency are actually more stringent than those of the VPIRG report, which assumes that Vermont will use either 6300 or 8400 GWh per year in 2032(pages 18 and 19, Moderate and Strong Scenarios). I believe 2,000 GWh of load reduction is unrealistic. However, since the legislative report executive summary does not give a number for total load in 2040,the 2541 GWh/year reduction could be compared to a unreduced theoretical load of 12,000 GWh by 2040, for all I know.

Renewable Build-out

The legislative report lists a significant amount of renewables that the Green and Hybrid scenarios will build. Some of these include:

  • 100 GWh provided by community scale wind
  • 510 GWh provided by utility scale wind
  • 29 GWh provided by utility scale solar PV
  • 125 GWh provided by biomass (I assume this is wood, since methane is called out seperately).
This is far less aggressive a build-out than VPIRG used in Repowering Vermont. The VPIRG report calls for:
  • 1463 GWh of wind from "large" wind farms (I assume utility plus community scale).
  • 430 GWh from solar PV
  • 1,379 GWh of wood biomass

I am quoting the lower "moderate case" VPIRG numbers, not the higher "strong case" numbers. The "strong case" assumes a major electrification of the transportation sector, and I don't think those numbers are comparable.

I think the legislative report numbers for building renewables are far more realistic than the VPIRG numbers, though think the legislature's load reduction numbers are less realistic.

Costs of Power

The legislative report and VPIRG report both waffle on this one.

VPIRG claims the renewable power mix will be around 7.3 cents per KWh, (page 15) despite the fact that the feed-in tariffs for renewables are set for twenty years at 12 to 30 cents per KWh. It appears that the VPIRG report takes credit for the avoided costs of the power that is not produced due to efficiency (page 32), but the method of factoring this into the mix is not made clear.

The legislative report about the cost of green power is quite confusing (or rather, it is quite confused). The report has these straight-forward statements about shutting down Vermont Yankee (page 9, edited for length)

Even assuming replacement power at market prices, the retail power bill is likely to be higher in the event of plant closure, resulting in additional negative economic impacts. Power bill impacts associated with the plant shutdown will further reduce employment by about 120 jobs per year....Total VY Shutdown scenario impacts, relative to the Relicense scenario, result in about 1,100 fewer jobs per year and real disposable personal income levels more than $60 million per year (in 2012 dollars) below VY Relicense levels between 2013 and 2031.

On page 10, however, the report discusses the electricity cost rises of Green Scenario in quite a different manner:

Retail power bills in the Green scenario are generally higher than most other scenarios in the initial 5+ years, but are substantially lower in the out years as consumers buy less power and competitive power source fuel prices (driven by projected fossil fuel price increases and national greenhouse gas limits), increase substantially in real terms. Even with additional negative RSA impacts through 2023, beneficial power bill impacts will eventually result in more than 1,000 jobs per year by 2040.

Okay. Let's leave those green employment impacts alone for a moment and try to parse the earlier part of this sentence.

  1. Power bills are higher in the green scenario. I believe this.
  2. People therefore buy less power in the green scenario. I believe this.
  3. Therefore power bills come down and jobs are created. I don't believe this
In this scenario, the price of power drops but people still don't buy more power. It simply doesn't make sense. People are being priced out of using power, power prices come down from lower demand...and people still don't buy power. Somehow, this creates jobs??

In contrast, here's the standard market story:

Oranges are only available in the south, or for high prices in the north. People in the south notice this, and begin shipping more oranges north, hoping to make lots of money from their high-priced product. Since so many oranges show up in the north, the price of oranges in the north comes down. Therefore, people in the north eat more oranges. Etc.

In contrast, in this legislative analysis, the price of power comes down but people still don't buy more power. This makes no sense except for the following fact:

The entire analysis is driven by the required load reduction.

The analysis assumes that people will use 2,500 less GWh in 2040 than they use now. This isn't an output of the model. It's an input to the modeling.

In general, the graph at the head of this post (lifted from the consensus report) is the graph everyone likes, because it shows that continuing Vermont Yankee while building renewables is the best path for Vermont. The blue line of the "hybrid" scenario is clearly the best for Vermont. I like that graph also.

However, considering how the modeling was done, this jobs-in-the-green-scenario graph is more telling.

You will note that Safstor (early-stage decommissioning) adds jobs, energy efficiency adds jobs, green buildout adds jobs. All of this happens despite the high price of power. The lower price of power in later years doesn't seem to have any effect. However, anti-Vermont Yankee legislators love this graph because it proves that we don't need Vermont Yankee for jobs. If you believe it.


A friend of mine, an excellent scientist, said that if you gave her twelve parameters, she could curve-fit an elephant. With overly-complicated models, you can easily delude yourself that you have found the right answers. (She believes in simple models whenever possible.)

The econometric model of the legislative report has many parameters and some careful thought. Unfortunately, the results don't make sense. The results basically violate simple economic principles of supply and demand.

Complex models of physical phenomena should be checked by experiment, and complex economic projections should be checked by common sense.

Despite the problems of these models, I believe that Vermont Yankee plus renewables is the correct way forward for Vermont. IBEW and the legislative model agree on the negative economic effects of a simple shut-down of the plant. I am disappointed that I cannot find the legislative model convincing about the positive effects of a green build-out.

The legislative model contains too many assumptions about efficiency, too many parameters, and perhaps too much politics. I want Vermont Yankee plus green build-out for Vermont. I wish I could have more faith in the model presented to us by the legislature.

Graphs and quotes are from the Consensus Economic and Fiscal Impact Analysis Associated with the Future of the Vermont Yankee Power Plant, Executive Summary, March 2010, prepared by Economic & Policy Resources, Inc. and Kavet, Rockler & Associates, LLC
In collaboration with Synapse Energy Economics, Inc., the Vermont Department of Public Service, Green Mountain Power Corp. and Central Vermont Public Service Corp.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Legal Report

While I took the weekend off and left town (silly me!) the report by Morgan Lewis & Bockius was issued. Entergy had hired this law firm to do an internal investigation who-knew-what and who-said-what about underground pipes and radionuclides. The report was much discussed, even before its release. In an earlier post, I suggested that some of the report might not be released because it contained personnel matters which should not be made public.

The report was released over the weekend. A storm of commentary has followed: it is incomplete, Entergy isn't playing straight, etc.

I have to admit, I haven't read the report yet.

Until I do read the report and blog about it, I suggest two sources of information.

The Blog: Rod Adams wrote an excellent post on the report and miscommunications as weapons. His post includes links to the legislative acts that formed the oversight panels, background on the panel participants, and even some comments by one participant. A very strong and well-written post, and he got this blogger off the hook!

The Report Itself: If you want to go straight to the horse's mouth on the report, read the actual legal report here. It is over 100 pages long. You have been warned.

The graphic is an illustration of a barrister by Henry Holiday. The original is in the book The Hunting Of the Snark, by Lewis Carroll.

Friday, April 23, 2010


Welcome, Nuclear Archer!

In the past few days, the nuclear industry has a new blogger, Nuclear Archer. He is doing a great job of explaining materials science, right down to the grain boundaries in steel. My favorite quote from his most recent post:

(A) reactor is just a design until the metallurgists say if it can be built or not.

So true! He's being honest about the materials challenges, and serious about the solutions. This blog fills an important gap in the blogosphere, in my opinion. Most nuclear bloggers are systems people. This new blog concentrates on how materials work or fail. Welcome, Nuclear Archer!

Gordon Research Conferences

This may not be totally relevant, but this summer I will attend (again) the Gordon Research Conference on high temperature materials and chemistry. Since I no longer do active research in this field, I am honored to be allowed to attend the conference. I am especially excited about the nuclear sessions.

However, I will not be blogging about the conference. Gordon Research Conferences are meant for working scientists from all over the world. At these conferences, people critique ideas, trade hypotheses, and discuss experimental methodologies. Scientists can speak freely because the discussions and results are not made public. The Gordon Conferences are a ferment of ideas and international cooperation. Later, many published peer-reviewed papers result from ideas hatched at these conferences.

However, the conferences have also been called the Leisure of the Theoried Class. (That was a little joke.)

I won't be blogging in mid-July, but I will be thinking about nuclear power.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Earth Day Video, Art and Vermont

The Video

Film about energy and nuclear energy by

Madison Richards, Samantha Noll, & Lauren Nixon
8th Grade
"I've Got the Power"
McKinley Middle Charter School
Racine, WI

The Art

You may have wondered about this picture on the side of the blog. On the other hand, if you clicked on it, you would have found yourself at the website of a young artist who supports nuclear. For a long time, she wouldn't share her name, because she lives in a very "liberal" very anti-nuke community. I see she has her name up there now..Suzy Hobbs!

I encourage you to view her designs or watch her slide show. You can see her sketches on the Areva blog.

The Planet and Vermont

Daily Finance lists Five Technologies That Can Save the Planet (nuclear is one of them).

A professional nuclear society did an excellent one-page description of the legislature's assessment of Vermont Yankee and renewable options. However, if you prefer, you can read the legislature's entire executive summary here.

Keeping Vermont Yankee while building renewables is the best option for Vermont and the planet.

Happy Earth Day!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Who Said?

The NRC Meeting

I attended the NRC meeting yesterday in Brattleboro, or at least, I attended most of it. I'll blog a little about it later, but you might want to watch this video for the general idea of the endless fear of tritium in the river. Of course, we had Putting Picos in Perspective from John Wheeler, and Rod Adams excellent Tritium Calculation. Dan Yurman noted that exaggeration is not a defense of the environment and I blogged with pictures of bananas. Still, Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt about tritium remain alive and well in Vermont.

Perhaps devious and dumb are alive and well also.

Chasing a Quote

Last week, I went to a meeting sponsored by Entergy and blogged about it. In the blog, I posted a picture of a man from NEC (New England Coalition on Nuclear Pollution). He was taking a picture of a model of a reactor. I thought it was only polite to link to the NEC website when I posted the name of the organization, and so I put in a link.

Once I was on the NEC website, I read a sentence, ascribed to Arnie Gundersen, which he supposedly stated after the Senate vote against Vermont Yankee. In this sentence, Gundersen supposedly praised NEC as being an early strong organization against Vermont Yankee, and that NEC had tied Entergy's ankles together (that "ankles" business was an easy phrase for me to remember) and other organizations had later come and pushed Entergy's shoulders, knocking them over.

Now, this sentence didn't surprise me. Before Mr. Gundersen was a consultant to the legislature of Vermont, he was a consultant to NEC. This is not a secret. His belief that VY should be shut down isn't a secret either. So I just noted that there was an interesting quote from Gundersen on the NEC website, and forgot about it. In all honesty, it didn't strike me as a particularly big deal. If I had thought it was a big deal, I would have put the exact quote on my blog.

Instant Reactions

I wish I had quoted those words and posted them.

I almost immediately got an email from NEC, stating that they had checked with Gundersen, he had never said that quote, and they had taken it off their website. I was surprised, but amended my posting.

At the Brattleboro NRC meeting yesterday, NEC had set up a table with their literature. This whole thing puzzled me, and I wanted to find out more about it. I talked to the man at the NEC table. He was very uncomfortable, and merely said that they had been asked to take down the quote, that Gundersen never said it. I asked who put the words up, if Gundersen never said them. He re-iterated that they had been asked to take it down, and that is all he knew about it. He looked completely miserable when I repeated my question.

I will never be a bull-dog reporter. I let the matter drop.


I have two hypotheses here.

First possibility. Gundersen never said this. Somebody not-too-honest or not-t00-bright (okay, somebody either devious or dumb) put the sentence up, ascribed it to Gundersen and hoped Gundersen would never see it. Further, the NEC organization was not organized enough to notice this had happened. However, due to my blog, Gundersen became aware of it, and the incorrect quote was removed.

I like this possibility, because as a blogger, I strive for truth and justice, and this scenario shows me righting a serious wrong! This is my favorite possibility!

Alas, there is also possibility two. Gundersen said it, didn't mind it being posted, and then became upset when a person who doesn't buy into NEC's agenda (that noticed it. I don't like this possibility, because it shows Gundersen as being pretty naive.

Lots of people who don't agree with me read my blog, and I know it. Some reporters read it. Sierra Club members read it on occasion. Several of the walkers told me they followed my blog during the walk to Montpelier. If Gundersen and NEC think that only their supporters will read what they put on the web, they are naive beyond belief. At least, naive beyond my belief. I reject this possibility entirely.

My Vote

It's possibility-one for me. I am glad I brought this misquotation to Gundersen's attention and it got corrected. I expect Gundersen to give me a word of thanks next time we meet. (Unless, of course, the truth is possibility two, in which case he will probably be steaming mad because I made this matter public. We shall see.)

Thursday, April 15, 2010


I am going out of town for a few days, and so I may get behind in posting and moderating comments. Please be patient with me!

Because of my trip, I am also extending the Caldicott Satire contest through the weekend.

Also, there's a little mystery going on. Yesterday Clay Turnbull emailed me and I put the exchange in my blog as follows:

The next picture is Clay Turnbull of the New England Coalition (an anti-nuke group) taking a picture of the reactor model, while a security guard keeps watch in the background. (By the way, there's an interesting quote from Arnie Gundersen on the New England Coalition website.)

Clay Turnbull of the New England Coalition just emailed me that the quote from Arnie Gundersen was incorrect and has been eliminated from the New England Coalition website. In case people have already visited their website, I decided to leave my original statement in this post, and add the new correction. I thank Mr. Turnbull for the update.
My question: Does anybody who reads this blog know about the incorrect quote from Gundersen, how it got on the NEC blog, and how long it was there? The whole thing aroused my curiosity. The quote was something about how good NEC had been about tying Entergy's ankles together. Supposedly said at a party the day after the Senate vote. Turnbull emailed me that NEC checked with Gundersen, Gundersen said that he didn't say this, and NEC took it off the site. But how long was the quote up there and why? Why did it get taken down after my blog linked to the site? Lots of people must read that site daily. Any ideas?

Don't forget. I'm still running the Helen Caldicott Satire Contest. Why cars, toothpaste and paper (so far) are terribly dangerous. Get your entry in soon. Contest ends APRIL 19 (Extended Deadline). Enter early and often!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Real Information at a Real Meeting

Vermont Yankee hosted an informational meeting for the public yesterday at the Ramada Inn in Brattleboro. The meeting room was set up for poster-type exhibits, like a science fair. Exhibits included:
  • A big model of the plant
  • An excellent diagram of the famous Advanced Off Gas System.
  • A timeline on the tritium leak detection.
  • On-going slide shows and videos.
  • Several areas devoted to various aspects of tritium.
Entergy also had a great new fact sheet about tritium at Vermont Yankee.

The people there were plant people who knew about the plant systems, and contractors who knew about other systems (such as well drilling and hydrology). It wasn't a PR show; active professionals provided information.

The picture above shows part of the tritium area: the rules of a contest and a one-liter bottle. The tritium EXIT sign is not in the picture.

Another good thing about this science-fair arrangement was that anti-nukes couldn't disrupt the meeting. Part of this might have been the police presence: I counted three policemen in the room at one point. There have been shouting and manure-throwing at other meetings, and people were prepared for the worst at this meeting. Of course, in that case, the worst didn't happen.

I found the police presence reassuring. On the other hand, my friend Howard Shaffer takes the attitude that the anti-s don't actually hit you, so what's the big deal?

The "science fair" type set-up didn't lend itself to disruptions. There was no built-in audience as people moved from display to display. As one organizer said: "Someone shouting would just look silly. People would wonder 'why is that man shouting at the chemist?' " Many anti-nukes attended, but all they did was talk endlessly to various people at the exhibits, or grab press time.

The Meeting and the Media

In this news video, you can see Deb Katz grabbing half the air time, while identifying herself only as a Massachusetts resident, and not as the president of an active anti-nuke group that has hired their own lobbyist in Montpelier (through an affiliate group).

Aside: For those of you who follow this blog faithfully, yes, this is the same Deb Katz that debated the clown in Putney. End Aside.

Other anti-s also got significant play in the press, and some reports noted that not many people came to the event. But some people who came were quite happy to have the company reach out (as WPTZ reported).

"I really don't know much about tritium, so before I got all excited I thought I'd get the details," said Bill McGee, who lives four miles south of the plant in Massachusetts, and attended the forum.

Here's a note from Howard about the beginning of the meeting:

There were perhaps as many as 10 of the hard core antis there. I know most of them by sight and name. I was holding a sign outside, on the motel grounds as a guest of VY. The motel would not let the antis have signs on the grounds since they were not guests of VY. They could and did come into the meeting as you know. One of the TV reporters began to video my sign and Deb Katz stepped in front of the camera with her sign, and got an interview. One of her partners tried to engage me in conversation while this was going on..... The antis signs said, in black and yellow, like road signs "Caution Entergy LIES ahead."

The meeting was worthwhile. Good information was available, and it was presented very clearly. The plant people were patient and open to questions. The anti-s came, but they weren't surrounded by whipped-up crowds of followers. Plant personnel and plant managers attended, and all visitors were treated very respectfully (no matter how repetitive some of the questions were, from the hard-core antis). I was impressed. At this meeting, everything that could be done to encourage participation was done. Entergy should be proud of itself.

I wish there had been better media coverage. Some of the media noted the affiliations of the people they interviewed, which was good. Others didn't, allowing Ms. Katz to claim to be merely a citizen of Massachusetts, rather than a professional anti-nuclear activist. I hope this changes in the future as more meetings are held.

Pictures and people:

When Rod Adams blogs that he is awaiting my blog post on the meeting---that means I had better get busy and post! Hope you like it, Rod!

A few words about the pictures. The overview at the top shows Dr. William Irwin, (teal jacket) and some of the exhibits. Dr. Irwin is Radiological Health Chief for the Vermont Department of Health. He was the Department of Health man-on-the-scene at the tritium investigation.

The next picture is the guess-the-jelly-beans game for tritium. I saw several people enter a calculation.

The next picture is Clay Turnbull of the New England Coalition (an anti-nuke group) taking a picture of the reactor model, while a security guard keeps watch in the background. (By the way, there's an interesting quote from Arnie Gundersen on the New England Coalition website.)

Clay Turnbull of the New England Coalition just emailed me that the quote from Arnie Gundersen was incorrect and has been eliminated from the New England Coalition website. In case people have already visited their website, I decided to leave my original statement in this post, and add the new correction. I thank Mr. Turnbull for the update.

Near the bottom, Senator Mark MacDonald (gray sweater), a long-time foe of the plant, confers with his supporters. They have managed to position themselves with all of their backs facing the information and displays.

Actually, that last sentence was catty and unfair. Senator MacDonald was clearly un-interested in the exhibits, and made an extremely perfunctory tour of the room. On the other hand, Gary Sachs (the tall man in the pony tail) spent hours talking to various people from the plant. I don't know the third man in the picture.

Also, I was happy to meet people who read my blog, people who don't read my blog, and especially Representative Patty O'Donnell from Vernon. (She reads my blog sometimes.)

Economic Report: Well-Constructed

A year ago, the Senate ordered a panel of economists to write a report on the economic effects of closing Vermont Yankee. Two months ago, President Pro Tem Shumlin forced a vote about Vermont Yankee before that report was ready. Many senators were upset that they were forced to vote before they had received and reviewed it.

A few days ago, the legislature's consensus report on the Economic Impacts of Closing Vermont Yankee was finally released. Since then, I have gotten emails and notes from all sorts of people: have you seen this? Why haven't you blogged about it? Why indeed.

I have seen it. Let me sum up my understanding of it. Some of it is good, and some of it is pretty questionable. I don't know why nobody else has mentioned this before. I feel like the little kid pointing out the nakedness of the Emperor. I feel like...well, enough about me. Let's talk about the report.

I'm concentrating on the good parts in this post. However, I believe the legislative report had some serious weighting against Vermont Yankee, but Vermont Yankee still came off as a strong contributor to the economy. Because Vermont Yankee IS a strong contributor, and you can't hide that, even if you try.

It will take me several posts, over a few days or maybe weeks, to do this analysis fairly completely. This is the first post, concentrating on the simplest options in the consensus legislative report.

I apologize for the length of this post. Imagine if I had tackled all four scenarios, instead of just the first two!

Three Economic Reports

I can't review the consensus report without comparing it to two other relatively recent economic reports. The electric workers union (IBEW) funded a report issued in February; this IBEW report reviewed the economic effects of shutting down Vermont Yankee.

Another report, issued last summer by VPIRG, cannot be called an economic report because it is not very firm on dollar figures. However, VPIRG's Repowering Vermont describes the "green" options VPIRG recommends. These options are similar to some of the options in the legislative consensus report. (You have to register at the VPIRG site to download the full report, but you can read the executive summary at the link above.)

The Four Scenarios

The legislative consensus report on closing down Vermont Yankee has four scenarios, also described by Rod Adams in his recent post.

The four options are:

1) Shut down VY and continue other business-as-usual
2) Relicense VY and continue other business-as-usual
3) Shut down VY and start an aggressive Green Energy building program (Green Scenario)
4) Relicense Vermont VY and start an aggressive Green Energy building program (Hybrid Scenario)

This post discusses the first two options: simple shut-down and simple relicense.

Relicense or Shut Down: The Economic Impact

Comparing Shutting Down versus Relicensing, with business--as-usual otherwise, the Legislature's report concludes (page 8) about the overall economic impact:

Total VY Shutdown scenario impacts, relative to the Relicense scenario, result in about 1,100 fewer jobs per year and real disposable personal income levels more than $60 million per year (in 2012 dollars) below VY Relicense levels between 2013 and 2031

The IBEW study has similar numbers. On page i, the executive summary, we read this about the economic impact:

In 2009 the disposable income of Windham County residents was $64.5 million higher due to the presence of the VY Station than it would be otherwise. Elsewhere in the state, disposable income was $14.0 million higher due to the VY Station. In total, disposable income of all Vermont residents was $78.5 million higher in 2009 than otherwise due to the presence of the VY Station
The Fiscal Impact
On page 11, the legislative report describes the fiscal impact (impact to state revenues) of VY Shutdown as $4 to 6 million per year below the base-case of relicensing, with a total fiscal impact of minus $110 million over thirty years.
On page ii of its summary, the IBEW report also describes the fiscal impact: In 2009, VY station and the economic activity it generated resulted in $7.67 million to Vermont's General Fund and $4.94 million to Vermont's Education fund.

Assessment Comparison
These both seem to be well-constructed assessments. Econometric models answer certain sorts of questions very well: "What effect will shutting this plant down have on the local economy?" Or "How will raising gas prices affect economic growth in America?"

To me, it looks as if both the legislative report and the IBEW report used reasonably standard economic models to assess the effects of closing Vermont Yankee, and they came up with very similar results.
  • For general economic impact, IBEW gives somewhat more credit to the stimulating effects of Vermont Yankee on the general economy than the legislature's report does: $78 million a year( IBEW) versus $60 million (legislative) for total economic effect.
  • For fiscal impact (tax revenues to the state), IBEW lists $7 million general plus $4 million educational ($11 million total) while the legislature assumes $4 to $6 million a year. I don't know if the difference between IBEW and the legislative document is due to methodological differences or not. Perhaps the legislature's report doesn't count the educational fund?

Methodologies Compared
There were significant differences between the report methodologies, however.
  • The IBEW report used existing 2009 data without manipulating it excessively or projecting far into the future.
  • The legislative consensus model projected far into the future (2040).
  • The IBEW model did not consider the (as yet undefined) power agreements after 2012, but evaluated past experience.
  • The legislative model made assumptions about the future, including the extent of the Revenue Sharing Agreement and load growth to 2040.
Models Depend on Inputs: Load Growth
The legislative report used an advanced econometric model, the La Capra model. This sounds great, except that the economists determined load growth by consensus assumption and then sent this information to the La Capra model.

Page 5 of the report contains this statement above a boxed set of assumptions used in the econometric modeling.

Energy supply assumptions, including VY purchases by Vermont utilities, in-state renewable energy development, and modified peak and average load forecasts were developed through a consensus process with the group and provided to La Capra as model inputs. (emphasis added)
The boxed set of assumptions includes the following (for the regular, non-Green scenarios)
  • By 2040, there will be 1,568 GWh per year saved through efficiency.
Since Vermont only uses 6,800 GWh per year now, I question this assumption. However, if you assume load growth to 10,000 GWh per year by 2040, perhaps this level of efficiency will occur. The total electricity requirement for Vermont in 2040 is not in the legislative consensus document that I have downloaded (the executive summary). 10,000 GWh? 5,000 GWh? Certainly, however, if Vermont needs less electricity in the future, relicensing any particular power plant will have a smaller economic effect. This assumption works against Vermont Yankee, in my opinion.

Revenue Sharing Inputs

On page 4, the legislative report states that it is making a conservative assumption about the revenue sharing agreement. I do not know enough about this assumption to evaluate it here, but I thought I should point out this statement. With a more liberal (or perhaps more realistic) assumption about revenue sharing, the economic benefits of Vermont Yankee would be higher. Coupled with the 1,500 GWh demand decrease, this assumption helps stack the deck against Vermont Yankee.

(As a matter of fact, if they had made only this assumption about the Revenue Sharing Agreement, I would be okay with it. It is this assumption PLUS that huge "efficiency" savings that looks bad to me.)

In contrast, IBEW assesses existing conditions which include a Power Purchase Agreement, but not revenue sharing. Since this assumes less income to the plant, and therefore probably less taxes and a tighter rein on the payroll, it is also a conservative assumption.

Green and Hybrid

When the legislature's report discusses the Green and the Hybrid options, things get considerably more confusing and less believable. But that is a post for another day.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Letter about the Caldicott Show

Yesterday, April 9, my local newspaper ran a letter to the editor under the heading A Voice Against Nuclear Power. Sighing, I settled in to read. I discovered it wasn't an anti-nuclear letter at all! The letter was a strong critique of Helen Caldicott's recent presentation at Dartmouth.

I quickly looked up the author in the phone book and asked if I could print his letter in my blog. He agreed and thoughtfully sent me a digital copy, including the "note" which was not printed in the paper. Dr. Trebitz is a chemist, now retired. I had never heard of him until I read his letter.

This incident illustrates some things which we should all remember. Depending on the poll, 30-40% (in Vermont) to 60% (nationwide) support nuclear power. Nuclear supporters are not a fringe group. We may be a minority or a majority, but we are mainstream.

Enjoy the letter, and don't forget the Caldicott Satire Contest!

The Editor, Valley News:

NOTE: In its Thursday 4/01 issue, Valley News provided a lengthy coverage of anti-nuclear activist Helen Caldicott’s visit to the Upper Valley. Unfortunately, the article contains very little information regarding the contents of Caldicott’s presentations. In my comments, below, I’m discussing some of the speaker’s statements.

When I went to Caldicott’s speech at Dartmouth I thought I’d get a balanced presentation on nuclear energy and its problems. I was disappointed.

Caldicott’s strategy in fighting nuclear power is based on raising fear. At one time she stated: “I would not live within a fifty miles radius of VT Yankee”. In her presentation she painted a frightening picture of nuclear Armageddon, always presenting her “facts” in a worst case scenario. As a physician, no doubt, she has an understanding of health effects related to radiation exposure, including cancer and birth defects. Yet, when she linked these to nuclear power generation, she ignored other (natural and manmade) causes, often carrying significantly higher risks.

A scientist is trained to observe cause and effects and place these into a meaningful relationship with the surrounding natural environment. Caldicott seems to have abandoned that process of realistic assessment a long time ago. Not surprisingly, she denies the possibility of solving the problem of nuclear waste. She deplores the fact that spent fuel is stored in vulnerable water tanks at VT Yankee (and other nuclear power plants), but offers no concept of how to deal with the submerged fuel rods when decommissioning the plant at the end of its lifetime. For her, re-processing the waste into a second generation of nuclear fuel is not a solution. And she dismisses Nevada's Yucca Mountain for underground storage as an unstable depository site riddled with geological faults.

In the end, the evening was just another rally against nuclear power generation and specifically Vermont Yankee. And, as the Valley News Staff Writer in his report on the event observed: “The crowd sounded nearly uniformly in agreement with her stances…”.

There were almost no Dartmouth students in the audience, a fact also noted by the speaker. If they had been interested in a meaningful scientific discourse, they did not miss very much.

Heinz Trebitz

Don't forget. I'm still running the Helen Caldicott Satire Contest. Why cars, toothpaste and paper (so far) are terribly dangerous. Get your entry in soon. Contest ends April 15. Enter early and often!

Fountain pen image from Wikimedia.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

The More Things Change

The more things change, the more they remain the same.


A recent NRC press release stated that the plant

does not have any inspection findings that are “Greater than Green” and any Performance Indicators that are other than “Green”. Normally, a plant in that column would receive the normal level of NRC oversight.

But Vermont Yankee will get a higher level of oversight because of stakeholder concerns and a recent Demand For Information about communications about piping. Predictably, the plant is co-operating with the NRC, and the anti-s are treating this as confirmation that the plant is a complete disaster.

Arnie Gundersen has also repeated the findings shown in recent videos of the pipe inspections, but putting his own spin on the issue. There were eight failures, according to Gundersen. Two pipes had leaks (yes, we saw that in the video) and the concrete has more than one crack in it (this often happens when concrete forms a crack, as any fourth-grader can tell you). Still, his conclusion is that these are the reasons for the enhanced inspections, because

the NRC does not take on enhanced inspections lightly.

Gundersen said he believed a series of eight interrelated problems at Vermont Yankee went undetected by Entergy engineers and inspectors and created the tritium leak, which Entergy declared last week was under control and being cleaned up.

Of course, all these problems were in the area of the same pipe tunnel where Entergy found the leak and fixed it. To me, Gundersen's comments imply that there is no such thing as failure analysis. In this case, engineers couldn't inspect the piping in the tunnel, so a series of events led to a leakage (a failure). The failure is now fixed.

Gundersen speaks as if there each of these problems should have been detected. Each problem by itself led to no consequences visible to an outside observer. It often requires a series of events before there is a failure. That is what happened in this case.

That's also why Vermont Yankee had test wells to look for any released tritium. The wells were placed because a sequence of events could possibly lead to a tritium release, as had happened in other plants. You can't predict every sequence, but you can detect and fix the problems.


Remember when Vermont Yankee was the reason we don't have renewables in Vermont? When people walked in the middle of winter to Montpelier to insist the nuclear plant be closed down and replaced by renewables?

Well, guess what. Vermont just signed a contract with Hydro-Quebec, and sure as shootin', that contract will be the reason we don't develop renewables in Vermont! Environmental groups in Vermont and Canada are gearing up for the inevitable protests.

Their logic is impeccable. If we can't buy power from anywhere, we will have to use renewables at any cost. Not sure how most Vermonters will feel about this, but maybe that doesn't matter.

The more things change....

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Meeting and Advertising

The Meeting

If you remember from a previous post, the NRC was going to have an open meeting in Brattleboro on Monday, April 12. They need a bigger venue for their meeting, and I am not sure if it is scheduled yet. However, Entergy is having a meeting about tritium on Monday, the 12th. Here's the information and link. Come out and support the plant!

A public information session is planned for Monday afternoon about tritium found at Vermont Yankee. The information session is scheduled to take place at 4 p.m. until 7:30 p.m. at the Ramada Inn on Putney Road in Brattleboro, Vt.

Opponents will probably be out in force (Brattleboro, you know) eager to convince one and all that the plant has done them irreparable harm, and maybe even killed them already. Don't let the presenters be marginalized by the antics of the anti-s. Plant support may have fallen (statewide) from 40% to 30%, as I noted, but VY supporters are not a fringe group. Thirty to forty percent is not fringe. We are mainstream--as long as we stand up for ourselves. We can become the majority.

The Advertising

The antis are doing false advertising again, and this time it's kind of funny. If you remember, the anti-VY walkers chose to debate with a comic who pretended to work for the nuclear industry. They never mentioned that he was a comic. They didn't mention it in the ads, and they didn't mention it at the debate. On the other hand, while the Sierra Club wrote their ads as if the Montshire Museum was sponsoring their Chernobyl play, they did acknowledge sponsorship once you arrived at the meeting.

This case is funnier. Gro-Solar, a local solar company, had the ad shown above in a magazine called Seven Days. The ad was found by the Vermont Tiger blog, which points out that Vermont Yankee doesn't actually have smokestacks. It's worth reading Vermont Tiger's post about Truth In Advertising and some of the comments about other ads. For comparison, a later Vermont Tiger post links to an actual photograph of Vermont Yankee, but warns you how scary it is.

Usually my graphics come from Wikimedia. In this case, I lifted the Gro Solar picture from Vermont Tiger's website. I admit it. I don't think they will be mad.

Don't forget. I'm still running the Helen Caldicott Satire Contest. Why cars, toothpaste and paper (so far) are terribly dangerous. Get your entry in soon. Contest ends April 15. Enter early and often!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Town Meeting

Last night, I went to my Town Meeting. I felt at home, among friends, and not at all marginalized. The same thing happened last year at Town Meeting. This wouldn't be surprising, except that in both cases, I set up a table in the lobby and handed out pro-nuclear literature. On my table, I had a sign Yes Vermont Yankee, and two stacks of handouts from NEI: Nuclear Energy Quick Facts and tritium.

Some people weren't interested, some people took the handouts and said they were for nuclear power. Some people took the handouts and said they were for nuclear power but against Vermont Yankee because the management was lousy and people lied. Some people said they had a relative who worked in nuclear, while others said "No thank you, I know enough about THAT!" which didn't sound exactly positive. It was all very civilized.

There was one woman who was a little bit on the fringe, in my opinion. She harangued me about people "dropping like flies" in France after Chernobyl and how healthy the French lifestyle is. We ended up in a minor argument about butter. (She believes butter is good for you.) She might have felt at home at some of the meetings in Brattleboro, or at the Montshire meeting sponsored by the Sierra Club. At my Town Meeting, she was an oddity.

Enexus Again

My local representative was there. He said he had taken the tour of the wells and excavation at the plant, and he been very impressed. "Quite an operation they have there." He continued that "My concern is...."

I interrupted him, because we have HAD this conversation before, and I knew what he was going to say.

"They're not spinning off Enexus," I said. "Enexus is dead."

"Really!" He seemed taken aback. He always says: "We don't know who is going to own this plant."

"When did you hear this about Enexus?"

"This morning."

"Oh." He paused, regrouping. "They have to give us a good rate, though, and take care of decommissioning."

It was the most positive interaction I have had with him.

Being There

Well, this was my town meeting in my town, and I know a lot of people. A fellow member of the energy committee pulled me away from my table to meet the fire chief. The fire house was recently assigned to be "my" town building.

One friend came by and said he hoped he could help the schools by his vote. Another friend said she hoped she could help defeat the school budget by her vote. Another person came by and smiled and I failed to recognize him and I think may have offended him. And so forth.

At the meeting, four hundred and fifty people voted for the school budget, two hundred and fifty voted against it, but they all consider themselves mainstream people. Being pro-nuclear and pro-Vermont Yankee is also mainstream. In a recent survey of town meeting attendees, which polled around 12,000 Vermonters this spring:
More than 50 percent of Vermonters polled support the closing of Vermont Yankee nuclear plant, with 31 percent in favor of relicensing the Vernon facility and 17 percent unsure. This is a major change from last year’s results when the plant had support from 40 percent of those polled, 37 percent disapproved and 23 percent unsure.
In other words, even in the present climate, about as the same fraction of people want to relicense VY as voted against our local school budget. It is 50 to 30 against VY, while our school budget was 450 to 250. Last year, more people wanted to relicense VY (40%) than close it (37%).

The Mainstream

In other words, being for or against VY is as mainstream as being for or against a school budget. The recent vote in the Senate (26 to 4) and the fervor of the Anti Vermont Yankee Walkers or Citizen's Action Network speakers gives a different impression. My experience of town meetings reflects the polls of town meetings. I think these are more accurate reflections of the opinions of people in Vermont.

(I understand that a poll of town meeting attendees is not a well-designed poll, but such polls do indicate what politically-active people in Vermont are thinking.)

In short, pro-nuclear people are not a group at the margins of society. In my opinion, we have to take our part on the stage of these debates. We have to be there, in our towns, handing out literature, making contacts with others who support nuclear and so forth. We are not a fringe minority, and we have to stop acting as if we were.

Don't forget. I'm still running the Helen Caldicott Satire Contest. Why cars, toothpaste and paper (so far) are terribly dangerous. Get your entry in soon. Contest ends April 15. Enter early and often!

The image above is not a church, but a Vermont meeting house, built for town meetings. It's really pretty, but our town meeting took place in the high school gym. Most town meetings do.

Saturday, April 3, 2010


The Enexus issue comes up, and because I blog at Yes Vermont Yankee, everybody expects that I have an opinion on it. Of course, I do have an opinion. However, I haven't blogged about Enexus because I prefer to write about areas that utilize my background in chemistry and nuclear operations, areas in which I bring some value-added to the discussion.

My opinion on Enexus is just one person's opinion. This blog is an opinion piece.

The Background

Slightly over two years ago, Entergy announced that they planned to spin off their northern nuclear plants to a new company called Enexus. Late last month, the New York Public Service Commission turned down their request to start the new company and transfer the New York power plants to it. Basically, the New York Commissioners calculated that Enexus debt would be would be so high that that the company's bonds would be ranked "below investment grade." So the Commissioners decided not to allow this proposed company to own New York power plants.

Commissioners are supposed to ensure that utility infrastructure is owned by financially sound companies. In Vermont, the Public Service Board has had two black eyes recently in the telecomm area. Fairpoint Communications took over from Verizon, and within two years, Fairpoint went bankrupt. The same sort of thing happened with Burlington Telecomm, which is struggling to meet its debt payments. Utility commissions in the Northeast are pretty shy about debt now. Once burned, twice shy.

My Opinion

Well, I think New York State was right to turn Enexus down. Enexus was going to be a company with too much debt. As a matter of fact, when Entergy announced the proposed spin-off, I was annoyed. Isn't it going to be tough enough to get the VY license extension without THIS complication? I have stayed slightly annoyed, which is another reason I haven't blogged about it.

On the other hand, there are two ways that Enexus had some good things to offer. First, it was going to be a pure-play owner of nuclear plants. One of the most cogent arguments for nuclear is that it is better than coal. However, every utility that owns nuclear plants also owns coal plants. Therefore, no major utility makes the argument against coal. Only us lonely bloggers are willing to do daily comparisons with coal. It would have been nice to have one pure-play nuclear company out there, one willing to publicize: Nuclear Better Than Coal!

The second good thing would have been that Enexus could keep one set of books, not two. I don't mean that in a bad way. I just mean that if part of your company is regulated and part is not, the accounting can be nightmarish. Entergy has regulated nuclear plants in the South, and merchant nuclear plants in the North.

Difficult Accounting

I remember my own company. We had EPRI contracts, and EPRI audited our overhead rates. We were treated like a government contractor: direct, indirect, overhead, general-and-administrative. EPRI needed to know it all. How much time were we spending on direct and indirect? How much money were we spending on health insurance? Did all of this meet their guidelines?

We also had utility contracts. Utilities just asked our billing rates and paid a flat hourly rate. If the rate looked good to them, they signed the contract. They didn't care what else we were spending our time on.

Our lucrative utility contracts hurt our EPRI billing rates during the audits. It was a kind of no-win nightmare. I can see why Entergy would want to become two companies: one that accepted regulatory audits, one that didn't. Heck, there were moments that I wanted my four-person Fourth Floor Databases company to be two companies. I don't blame Entergy for trying to get the two parts of their business separate. But in this climate, and with that amount of debt, it wasn't going to work.


Everybody listens to radio station: WIFM. What's InIt For Me. I think Entergy didn't understand that. The Enexus spin-off would have been allowed IF the Commissioners saw it as in the best interests of the ratepayers. I don't remember ever hearing an Entergy argument that went: "Your rates will go down with this spin-off. Everyone in the Northeast will be better off with this spinoff because..." Maybe it was just a failure to communicate.

But in the meantime, it handed the anti-VY people yet another weapon. Vermont Yankee is a well-run plant. It is over 500 days into a power run right now. Only well-run plants can do this sort of thing. Badly run plants break down in some manner and have to go off-line. Also, VY found and fixed the tritium leak quickly. People who hate the plant won't accept this, but it's a good plant.

VY could stay a well-run plant under Entergy or Enexus or being sold to Duke Power or....whatever. The corporate structure never struck me as a tremendously relevant issue. To me, the Enexus spin-off was just another problem that did not have to exist. Not that it was a crazy idea (pure-play nuclear, all merchant plants, no regulated plants). But it wasn't going to fly, and it hurt people's opinion of VY, and VY's chances in the Senate.

What we have here is a failure to communicate on the part of Entergy. Or perhaps, a failure have good story to communicate. A good story would have answered the question What's In It For Me about Enexus? from the ratepayer point of view.

Entergy Scraps Enexus: An Update

I put up this blog post over the weekend, and this morning, Entergy announced that it is not going ahead with Enexus. I'm glad about this decision, but I am still annoyed at the memory of all the meetings I attended where anti-nukes could say: "We don't even know who is going to own this plant! Some company that doesn't exist, some company with a lot of debt." The Enexus plan didn't make life easier for plant supporters. I never felt I could defend it. I'm happy it's over.

Don't forget. I'm still running the Helen Caldicott Satire Contest. Why cars, toothpaste and paper (so far) are terribly dangerous. Get your entry in soon. Contest ends April 15. Enter early and often!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

The Caldicott Contest

I'm holding a contest! Right here on this blog. I admit that April Fool inspired me to be slightly silly, but the contest is real.

Helen Caldicott came to Dartmouth again, spouting her usual stuff. I wrote a little satire in an email for friends: Helen Caldicott takes on the automobile. That gave me the idea for the contest.

Contest Rules

Do a "Helen Caldicott" on some non-nuclear technology. Cars, soft-freeze ice cream, poetry books, wood stoves...whatever you want. Explain why this technology will kill people and should be banned. Whatever problems the technology presents, run with them. Reductio ad absurdum. The Caldicott method. Make it funny. Enter the result as a comment on this blog post.

Your essay should be less than 300 words long and in good taste. No swear words. Attack her ideas, not her hair style. The contest runs from today till April 15. The winner will be Guest Blogger on this blog in early May. (Yeah, I know. You'd rather have a bottle of decent wine. Okay, I'll think about it.)

Who is the judge? Well, I am, but I may recruit some friends. We'll have a bottle of wine and read the contest entries. No, we won't drink YOUR bottle of wine. Honestly! Why did you even think that?

My Contest Example

Your car is going to kill you even if you don't drive it. Its battery is full of enough lead to kill your family and every family on the block. But the battery won't get a chance to kill you because your gas tank is full of highly-explosive, carcinogenic material and will kill you faster! You cannot assure me that gas will NEVER leak out of the tank as it sits in the garage. You cannot assure me that it will NEVER ignite once it is in all in a puddle on the garage floor! You say such an accident has not happened yet, but you cannot PROVE it is physically impossible. No you can't! It could happen. It WILL happen!

First your garage will explode, along with any other cars you have in there. Flames will quickly spread, the fire department will be busy elsewhere, nobody will be smart enough to leave a burning building and---well, there you have it! The entire neighborhood completely destroyed. Children killed en masse at the school. Terrible, screaming deaths....

Heck, why stop at the neighborhood and the school. The fire can spread to the city, the farms, the entire ecosystem....

Can you prove this is physically impossible? Of course you can't. All you can say it that it is not likely (HAH!) and never happened so far (HAH!) I laugh at such prevarication!

My friends, such pale assurances are simply not good enough in this modern age.

FYI, a link to Caldicott at Dartmouth.

Illustration of patented early Benz car (1885) that needs to go through a learning curve.