Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Russia. Yucca Mountain. Serious Subjects. Silly Videos.

I'm not quite sure why I think these videos go together, but somehow I feel they do.

The first video is real. Vladimir Putin teasing Germany about not building new nuclear plants.

The second video is a satire about Jaczko and Yucca Mountain, shamelessly stolen from Dan Yurman's blog yesterday. Dan found it on a Wall Street Journal blog. Maybe I didn't steal it. Maybe it is just going viral, and I am helping.


Saturday, November 27, 2010

The 29th Carnival of Nuclear Energy

The 29th Carnival of Nuclear Energy Blogs is up at Idaho Samizdat. I need to start by saying I am grateful to Dan Yurman for putting this post together over the Thanksgiving weekend! Many of the linked posts are spectacular.

Gwyneth Cravens and Dan Yurman link to their op-ed in the New York Post about Indian Point. Areva North America points to a William Tucker article in the American Spectator about the nuclear renaissance. Cool Hand Nuke describes how TVA may buy a six-pack of modular reactors. In my own blog, I explain why Vermont Yankee will probably receive a purchase offer.

In the international sphere, Charles Barton points out how little energy the Germans get from their photovoltaic investment. Rod Adams notes that mainstream media has just discovered that AP 1000 technology (design documents, etc) has been transferred to China. Rod posted about this when the deal happened, in 2007. At Next Big Future, Brian Wang describes how China is reducing coal consumption by building nuclear plants. This business of reducing coal consumption is happening all over. NEI Nuclear notes describes how Ontario may go nuclear; the province hopes to eliminate coal plants by 2014. Gail Marcus of Nuke Power Talk says that Poland has just joined the international Nuclear Energy Agency, NEA. However, United Kingdom may drop out of the NEA.

In a very important post, ANS Nuclear Cafe discusses how we talk about nuclear, and whether or not we truly communicate.

Reading the Carnival is a treat! After you read it, you will have a lot to communicate about!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Protests Grow in Southern Vermont. About Biomass.

The Biomass Facility

Pownal Vermont is the proposed home of a 29 MW biomass plant and wood pellet facility. Like Vernon, home of Vermont Yankee, Pownal is in southern Vermont, close to the Massachusetts border. Pownal is in the western half of Vermont, near New York State, while Vernon is in the eastern half, near New Hampshire.

People in Pownal and neighboring Massachusetts are vigorously protesting the biomass plant. About eighteen protesters recently lined the road to the proposed plant (there's a great picture in that link). At meetings in local churches, groups against biomass have described many possible hazards, including:
  • biomass plants used as incinerators
  • biomass plants starting fires in neighboring areas
  • particulate from biomass escaping the very best scrubbers, and lodging in people's lungs
A biomass opposition website contains extensive information about the hazards of biomass, along with specific ideas on how to fight this plant. Plant opponents also attack the safety record of the company proposing to build the plant.

If the company breaks ground for the plant before the end of the year, the developers may be eligible for $50 to $80 million in federal grants. Naturally, plant opponents are eager to slow them down. As Vermont Digger reports: Pownal resident Doreen Forney said she wants to see the process slowed. “At least be thorough with your investigation of this company,” she said. However, it is not just this company that is the problem. Vermont Digger reports that Rachel Smolker of Biofuel Watch Group states that “Big oil sees this (biomass) as a way out of their oil dilemma...There are a lot of powers at play here,””

Still, some local residents want the plant. Others feel that biomass money should be used for solar and wind power instead.


Why does this all sound so very familiar?

I give thanks that I don't plan to investigate the pros and cons of this biomass plant.

It is interesting to observe yet more excitement about power plants on the Vermont/Massachusetts border. That is why I decided to blog about this protest. But I'm not going any further with this.

For electric power production, I prefer heat engines based on nuclear fission. I'm going to leave it at that.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Will Entergy Get an Offer On Vermont Yankee? Three Myths Dispelled

Right after the election, Entergy announced Vermont Yankee was on the market. The local response was completely predictable: "Nobody in their right mind would buy that plant!" I disagree. I think someone will buy it.

I need to point out that I have no insider information on this. I only know what I read in the paper.

Myth One: Nobody will offer for that old rustbucket.

In the eighties and early 90s, it became clear that a company that owned only one nuclear plant could not run it well. Some nuclear plants in this situation were closed (Rancho Seco, Trojan). Most nuclear plants were purchased by big companies. Today, a company owns more than one nuclear plant, or it owns no nuclear plants at all.

In other words, the only companies that might offer for Vermont Yankee are companies that already own nuclear plants. These companies know how to judge a nuclear plant, and they know that Vermont Yankee is a good one:
  • Green rating from NRC
  • Recent power runs of more than 500 days each
  • Good relationships with the on-site union
  • Industry-wide award for innovative inspection equipment
  • Caught and repaired its tritium leak much faster than many other plants which had similar leaks.
Anyone who owns a nuclear plant would like Vermont Yankee.

Myth Two: Vermont Yankee doesn't have a license to operate past 2012, so nobody will want it.

A buyer can make a contingent offer. We made a contingent offer on a house at one point. Buying our new house was contingent on selling our old house for a certain sum by a certain date. Such offers are very common in all sorts of contracts. Our house offer was accepted, and the next phase of the purchase was called clearing the contingencies. Then we closed on the house. We owned it.

You can do this with a power plant, too. "We offer you this much, contingent on having license renewal approved."

Can the new utility clear the contingencies? Or will it be an offer with no closure? Nobody can completely predict the outcome of contingent offers, or they wouldn't need to be contingent. But I think the purchasing utility will sweeten the deal for the legislature and clear the contingencies. Perhaps the new utility will supply more money for the Clean Energy Development Fund. Perhaps it will make a one-time tax payment or cut a really good deal for a power purchase agreement.

In any case, there will be a new set of money on the table, and Vermont has a $112 million budget shortfall next year. I think a new utility can finalize the deal. However, nobody really knows about a contingent deal until it is near closing. That's why I headed this post "Will Entergy get an offer" rather than "Will Entergy sell the plant." I feel confident Entergy will get an offer.

Myth Three: The shortfall in the Decommissioning Fund means nobody will buy the plant

The decommissioning fund contains about $350 million, and decommissioning is estimated to cost about $800 million. This isn't actually a killer. If the plant operates for another 20 years, it will be easy to fill the fund completely with money from electricity sales.

Some opponents take the position that the customers buying nuclear electricity should not have to pay for decommissioning. They believe that decommissioning money needs to fall like a golden rain from heaven, or be some sort of charge against Entergy stock in the future. That is a very unrealistic view of finance. Luckily, neither golden rain nor charges against stock will be necessary. Nuclear power plants can provide the cheapest power on the market and still put a few mills per kWh away for decommissioning.

I don't know how the deal will be structured, but I know it is possible.The status of the decommissioning fund will not deter a buyer who plans to operate the plant for another twenty years.

In short, I predict that Entergy will receive an offer on Vermont Yankee.

Currency image and golden eagle dollar image from Wikimedia Commons.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The 28th Carnival of Nuclear Energy

The 28th Carnival of Nuclear Energy is up at Next Big Future. This fascinating compendium of blogs covers some big international questions.
  • Canadian Energy Issues reports that nuclear power is subsidizing gas and solar energy in Canada.
  • ANS Nuclear Cafe shows that United Arab Emirates are on-track for new nuclear power plants, and working well with their Korean vendors.
  • At Idaho Samizdat, Patrick Moore looks at the big picture, from early days of the environmental movement until today.
  • Nuclear Green shows you how to track, in real time, the solar PV power output in Germany. Hint, it doesn't look very good, especially at night.
  • This blog looks at where our energy will come from, once renewables are in place. Fossil and nuclear are still the majority of our energy supply.
  • Brave New Climate watches energy projections through 2060.
  • Next Big Future describes mining, commercial shipping powered by nuclear, and tracks nuclear energy production in 2008, 2009, and so far in 2010.
As usual, it's a feast! Far more nourishing than cotton candy and just as much fun!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Some Thoughts on Decommissioning and Carpetbaggers

Vermont Yankee Decommissioning

I think Vermont Yankee will continue to operate, but the opponents are having a great deal of fun planning the decommissioning. There was a big meeting in Brattleboro late last month, with all sorts of speeches and excitement from the opponents. Howard Shaffer attended and blogged about it at the ANS Nuclear Cafe this week. Quoting that blog:

They demanded a “Citizens Oversight Panel” to allow them to dig in to the process, and in the words of one of the panelists, Ray Shadis, to “advocate.” It turns out that this means agitate for unrealistically low post cleanup exposure standards. They achieved this in the past by getting state standards to be lower than the Nuclear Regulatory Commission standard. This has had the effect of making decommissionings much more expensive. They boasted that, regarding the decommissionings of Maine Yankee and Yankee, the owners had to go back to the ratepayers for more money, which will be in the ratepayers’ bills for years.

I think it is only fair to note that Ray Shadis commented on this post:
I regret that I may have left you with the impression that environmental and safety enhancements we advocated at Maine Yankee drove up big costs. That was not the case.

Since I am quoting Ray, I will also quote something else. Howard emailed me that Ray made this statement at the meeting. I trust Howard to be an accurate reporter.

"We had them by the short hairs because we were intervenors." Ray Shadis

Those Workers

Howard also picked up a handout from the Vermont Citizen's Action Network and Citizen's Awareness Network, two related organizations. This handout about decommissioning was distributed at the meeting. Here's a quote:

Although waiting the proposed twenty years cuts costs and lowers worker exposure, Entergy shouldn't be trusted. Its systemic mismanagement and dishonesty makes delaying cleanup too dangerous. (emphasis added by blogger)

Apparently, in their view, increasing worker exposure is not "dangerous." Something else (delaying?) is dangerous to someone (intervenors?). Workers are a kind of untermenschenen whose safety does not matter.

Well, I could go on. For example, there's a whole anti-Yankee program to get towns in other states involved. I'm not going to review that effort in this post.

The Green Fields of Vernon?

An important part of the anti-Vermont Yankee agenda is to have decommissioning done to "greenfield" standards, instead of traditional NRC standards. In greenfield standards, the site basically becomes a park, with little trace of its industrial past. In traditional decontamination, most of the site can be released for other uses within a few years. In other words, new industrial facilities can be built there. After all, the site probably has switch yards, areas for water cooling of various processes, etc. It would be a great site for another industry.

The actual citizens of Vernon, many of whom work at the plant, have applied for a grant to study options if the plant closes. According to the Brattleboro Reformer, they plan to:

look into scenarios without the plant on-line, such as analyzing tax incentives for new industries, potential redevelopment of the site and reviewing how other towns dealt with closing of a nuclear plant.

The people in Vernon would rather have a new plant on-site than a park. They won't have this option if the intervenors once again grab the short hairs.

Carpet Baggers

This whole thing made me think a bit about who the intervenors are. Shadis is a regular commuter from his home in Maine. Katz lives in Massachusetts. People come in from all over to fight against Vermont Yankee. From the testimony of their own brochures, these people don't give a hoot about the health of people who work at the plant. They don't think that the people in Vernon are citizens who might choose to make land-use decisions for their own town.

My advice to the intervenors. If you want a park where the plant is located in Vernon, get the idea onto the Warning for the Vernon Town Meeting. That's the traditional Vermont thing to do.

Oh, you can't do that because you don't live in Vernon? Aw shucks. Lemme tell you about how we do things in Vermont. It's not Massachusetts or Louisiana, you know.

Image of dry cask storage from NRC student information area.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

27th Carnival of Nuclear Energy. Julia Angwin and Privacy.

The 27th Carnival of Nuclear Energy is up at Next Big Future.

This one is a real feast. There's a post about natural gas supply, and demand. And the bets the big companies are placing on gas (hint, they think the price will rise). A link to a new blog by filmmaker Robert Stone, and information about his latest project: Pandora's Promise. Another topic: would molten salt reactors be cheaper than Gen IV reactors? To learn about energy, attend the Carnival!

Truth In Advertising

My family has a tradition of bringing the truth forward wherever we can.
  • My aunt, Blanche Stein Vision, was one of the few women lawyers of her day. She worked for the Federal Trade Commission, and led the actions that required construction companies to label their model homes honestly: this is part of the base price while that is an upgrade. She is in her 80s, retired, and lives in Phoenix.
  • I do my best to tell the truth about nuclear power, and counter the endless lies of the Vermont Yankee opponents (Tritium is very dangerous in tiny amounts! Ending the Vermont Yankee license will fill Vermont with renewable energy!) I attempt to be a source of reliable information.
  • Our daughter, Julia Angwin, is a technology editor at the Wall Street Journal. In recent weeks, she has spearheaded the effort to find out What They Know about you. You are being tracked on the internet, and the information is not just used to suggest books you might like. It is sold, sometimes with your name attached. Recently, Congress and the President have vindicated the Wall Street Journal work. They are considering plans to add internet privacy controls similar to privacy requirements standard in Europe.

Well, it's my blog! So I decided to post this video of Julia at the Wall Street Journal. She is being teased about possibly moving to Washington to implement privacy controls. (I don't think she is moving!) It is a triumphant video and we are all so very proud of her work.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Guest Blog by Cavan Stone: Where Does Our Energy Come From?

Today, the guest blogger is Cavan Stone, a graduate student in physics at Dartmouth. He studies Quantum Chaos, which examines the link between quantum mechanics and chaotic behavior. If you want, you can read one of his recent papers: this one on quantum chaos in a boson system.

Mr. Stone takes an active part in various energy discussions. I obtained his permission to use some of his recent remarks as a guest post on this blog.

I think that going negative on this type of energy or that type of energy is not helpful. The truth is more like the following:

"I am for cheap electricity that does not harm our health or environment. I think nuclear is the best way of achieving that goal but in those instances where wind and solar are competitive, I'm for them. However, according to the DOE Wind Integration Report, wind can compose at most about 20% of our electricity market, or, by the governments own admission, a very optimistic 30%. (The government only does these projections through 2020.) Solar is even less than that in New England: just look at our weather.

These percentages can't really go up unless there is some radical technological breakthrough in energy storage technology. Right now, we still have to get around 80% from of our electricity from somewhere. According to the report, most of that will still be from fossil fuels. Fossil fuels benefit by avoiding payment for huge externalities that cause damage to our health and environment. I think it's clear that we need additional options to replace fossil fuels and the evidence supports nuclear as the best option for that 80%."

I know that this position does not play well to the cable news / extremist audience, but it plays extremely well to the internet and the John Stewart Daily Show Audience. And when it comes to extremists, either you have someone who'll refuse to listen or someone to whom you'll be preaching to the choir.

Cavan Stone

Meredith comments:

Solar in New England is a little like solar in Germany. It isn't going to contribute that much (capacity factor around 10%) even with a big installed capacity.

To read about externalities for fossil, it is worth looking at the summary of the latest National Academy of Science report on Hidden Costs of Energy: Unpriced Consequences of Energy Production and Use. Nuclear comes out very well.The difference between the best and the worst coal plants is huge.

People often look surprised when I say: "Well, there are really only three energy choices: nuclear, fossil and renewables. Renewables are great, but they can't do it alone. So we have to choose between nuclear and fossil for the rest." Somehow, in all the debates about Vermont's Energy Future and Shut Yankee Down and all that...people get the impression there are as many choices for electricity as there are for toothpaste.

Many thanks to Cavan Stone for this post!

Beautiful image, from Wikimedia, of bunsen burner flames with different air feeds.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Transformer Fires? Erosion-Corrosion? Recent Events at Indian Point and Vermont Yankee

Two days ago was not the best day for Entergy. Indian Point Reactors Unit 2 was taken off-line by a transformer fire, while Vermont Yankee was shut to repair a 60-drop-a-minute leak of radioactive water within the plant. In my opinion, the best description of these incidents is in the Wall Street Journal.

Quick on the trigger, David Lochbaum of Union of Concerned Scientists was on the job about the transformer fire, while Ray Shadis of New England Coalition hopped aboard to discuss the leak. You can read their remarks in the Brattleboro Reformer.

In this case, they have made statements without knowledge. On the other hand, knowledge isn't their job. They are paid for anti-nuclear activism, not for scientific or technical credibility. Unlike science, which actually looks for causes, Lochbaum and Shadis's remarks always fit this theme: "The plant is aging and can't run anymore."

Okay. Let's look at the facts, instead.

The Transformer Fire at Indian Point

Quoting Mr. Lochbaum:

David Lochbaum,
director of the nuclear safety program for the Union of Concerned Scientists, said both problems were probably due to their age. As plants get older, they face more and more such challenges, said Lochbaum......Transformer explosions happen, on average, about a half dozen times a year at U.S. nuclear power plants, Lochbaum said.

Really? It happened because the transformer was old? The Wall Street Journal is pretty famous for digging deep, and they asked Entergy about that transformer. Here's the answer:

The transformer that failed was made by Siemens AG (SIE.XE) and installed in 2006, Nappi said.

The question then arises: Why would a new transformer fail?

Well, because it is new.

They Don't Build Them Like They Used To

Transformer fires are nothing new, but more transformer fires are happening. There's a company whose business is transformer fire prevention. (There are several companies in this market, but this is the biggest one I found by Googling.) Transformer Protection Corp.

Transformer Protection Corporation says on its website that they expect transformer fires to increase in the future because: .....This (regulatory) weakness, in addition to the globalization market, has opened the door to a disturbing drop in the quality of new transformers...Many experts anticipate that the number of failures will increase significantly in the near future, from 1% in 2001 to 2% in 2008 ..... In addition, the shorter lifetime of new transformers will sharply increase above this rate after 2008

The website also notes that there were around 800 transformer fires in the U.S. in one year. I have no idea if Lochbaum's "a half-dozen fires at nuclear plants" is correct. If it is correct, I can rephrase his statement as below.
  • Less than 1 % of the transformer fires in the U.S. were in nuclear plants last year.
  • Nuclear plants should be careful to not replace transformers unless they absolutely need to do so. The old (aging) transformers usually have better life expectancy than their replacements.
Erosion Corrosion

For years I was a member of NACE and a working corrosion engineer. Mr. Shadis's description of erosion-corrosion is accurate. It is a terrible, sometimes catastrophic form of corrosion. It breaks pipes.

In other words, erosion-corrosion rarely seeps. It busts things. It causes pipe failure. I would say "Erosion-corrosion never seeps" but I have been a corrosion engineer too long to be throwing around the word "never." Things happen, you know. Not everything goes according to form. Erosion-corrosion could make one through-wall pit, under some complex circumstances, a single pit that leaks. It would be unlikely to leak at a drop-per-minute rate, however. Also, erosion-corrosion is rarely seen in straight flows of steel pipes. It is far more common in copper, or at places where the flow in a pipe becomes turbulent.

Let's say that erosion corrosion would NOT be the first thing I would consider in a case of seepage in a straight run of pipe. Indeed, Vermont Yankee had seepage around a weld, the most common thing on earth, corrosion-wise. Mr. Shadis decided that to say that the seepage was erosion-corrosion because that was the worst thing he could think of. It was not a likely cause for the leak.

As I said, Shadis is paid to attack the plant, and that is what he does. Most of the time, frankly, he does it better than he did in this case.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Without Vermont Yankee, ISO NE Predicts Possible Transmission Line Melting

The Auction and the Melting Transmission Lines

Since it is not clear that Vermont Yankee will be operating in 2013, I found this announcement strange. The grid operator (ISO-NE) won't let Vermont Yankee drop out of an auction? Huh? The news appeared and disappeared in local newspapers with the speed of a greased pig escaping its captors. Now you have it, now you don't. Where did it go?

Yesterday, ISO-NE explained the situation more clearly. "Melting transmission lines" is more understandable than the statement: "Vermont Yankee must stay in the forward power auction."

ISO-NE Talks About Reliability

The computer simulated assessment from the Independent System Operator (ISO) New England reports Vermont and New York could face overloads -- defined as more electricity flowing through the system's equipment than it can handle, which could lead to the lines heating up, sagging, possibly melting and eventually shutting down -- in the system if the nuclear facility goes out of service once its license expires in roughly 17 months.....

The head of VELCO, a Vermont transmission utility, doesn't see Vermont as having a problem, but he does see New Hampshire as possibly affected:

Chris Dutton, CEO of Vermont Electric Power Company, Inc. (VELCO), said problems within the state would likely revolve around low voltage issues -- such problems are likely resolvable with minor equipment modifications in different substations.
"In New Hampshire, however, it appears the situation is more acute and that there will actually be lines that overload if Vermont Yankee is not relicensed," he said.

Dutton then talks about N minus one reliability criteria a bit, but I didn't find the article particularly easy to follow on this point. Also, ISO says there will be a problem in Vermont, but Dutton thinks it will be a problem in New Hampshire, not Vermont. I think more clarity is still in order.

The Energy Education Project Presentation

In the first meeting of the Energy Education Project, I gave a presentation on grid reliability and electricity pricing. I include a short YouTube of the reliability section of the talk.

Despite the disagreement about what state will get creamed, the bottom line is very simple. Local grid reliability requires Vermont Yankee.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

The 26th Carnival of Nuclear Energy

The 26th Carnival of Nuclear Energy Bloggers

The latest Carnival of Nuclear Energy Bloggers is posted at the ANS Nuclear Cafe, and it is a great Carnival. It should be, because the American Nuclear Society Winter Meeting is happening this weekend, and the Carnival has a special edition for that meeting.

With the elections just over, Nancy Roth of Fuel Cycle week wonders if you can kiss cap-and-trade goodbye. NEI looks at a Republican-dominated House and asks the age-old question: So, is it good for nuclear?

Internationally, Vietnam wants to build a whole fleet of reactors, as reported by Cool Hand Nuke. (Think aluminum.) Dan Yurman at Idaho Samizdat notes that the Russians are still on the bidders list for the Czech reactor project. In America, two projects are for sale:
  • Vermont Yankee, running smoothly, future license in doubt (reported at Yes Vermont Yankee)
  • Calvert Cliffs, to be built, by somebody, as reported by Matt Wald of the New York Times

Meanwhile, the question "How much electricity does Ontario need?" revolves around natural gas prices, as described by Steve Aplin in Canadian Energy Issues. Rod Adams at Atomic Insights describes gas price volatility in America.

And more! And more! Liquid core reactors! Pacific Basin news! Come to the Carnival! Read all about it.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Shumlin Won. Scott Won. Referendum on Vermont Yankee? I Don't Think So.

Election is Over! Thank Heavens!

And I think I can speak for many when I say I thought the campaign would never end. It's been negative. Very negative.

Shumlin Won.

Oh yeah. It's over and Peter Shumlin won the race for governor. Did I mention that?

Peter Shumlin stated, over and over, that he was against Vermont Yankee being relicensed. He won the election. On the other hand, in the early days, when he talked almost exclusively about the Radioactive Peril and how he would Shut It Down, he was losing. As I noted in an earlier post, when he changed his tune to women's reproductive rights, jobs, and single-payer health care, he pulled ahead. I find these New York Times charts of election projections over time fascinating. Dubie was ahead while Shumlin ran against Vermont Yankee. When Shumlin finally noticed and began running on the Democratic agenda, he pulled ahead.

Also, the most recent vote count is Shumlin 115,222 (49%) and Dubie 111,728 (48%) Not exactly a Shumlin landslide. A squeaker. And if Shumlin hadn't gotten off the "Vermont Yankee and only Vermont Yankee" rhetoric sometime in September, he would have lost.

Phil Scott Won

If the people of Vermont hate Vermont Yankee, they should have handed Mr. Phil Scott a resounding defeat. He's a Republican during a year of the Democrats sweeping Vermont. He was running for Lieutenant Governor; the Democratic candidate for Governor won. Most importantly, Scott was one of the four honorable Vermont Senators who voted FOR relicensing Vermont Yankee in February. Remember that 26 to 4 business? Scott was one of the four.

Poor guy. Everything was against Mr. Scott, if you are one of the people who believes that Shumlin's attack on Vermont Yankee was the source of Shumlin's squeak to success.

Phil Scott won by a far bigger margin, about 10 percent. Scott credits his success to his experience in the Senate, and to running a positive race. Clearly, supporting Yankee didn't defeat Scott. A little more about Scott at this article in Vermont Digger. Among other things, he's a serious race-car driver.

(Hint for future candidates: Scott talked about jobs and the economy and being bi-partisan. As the Clinton campaign said, ever so long ago: "It's the economy, stupid.")

Referendum? No.

I don't think this election was a referendum about Vermont Yankee. However, if it was a referendum, the clear supporter of the plant won by a far greater margin than the plant's chief detractor.


The plant is up for sale, legislators are commenting on it, and is the Secret Garage Meeting one of the issues?

Last I looked, there was only one of me, and I have to give a talk about reprocessing in France at a class this afternoon. So...for now, a quote from the Entergy Press Release:

Entergy Corporation (NYSE: ETR) announced today a process is under way to explore the potential sale of Vermont Yankee, its 605-megawatt nuclear plant in Vernon, Vt.

The sale process is being conducted on a confidential basis and no additional details will be released at this time. While no decision has been made to sell the plant, the company expects interest from multiple parties. The plant has an outstanding operational record. It completed 532 days of continuous operation in April 2010, the second breaker-to-breaker run in the last five years. The record run for the plant is 547 days, which ended in 2007.

"Our motivation for exploring the sale of the plant is simple - we want to do whatever is in the best interest of our stakeholders, including the approximately 650 men and women who work at the plant," said J. Wayne Leonard, Entergy's chairman and chief executive officer.

The Secret Garage Meeting and the Implausible Denial

This is worth a couple of posts, really, but I have to get ready for class...

There was a meeting in a garage (really) with Democratic Movers and Shakers, including Peter Shumlin. Supposedly, Mr. Shumlin said that..yeah, with some other company owning the plant, and a good power deal for Vermont...he might give the matter some more thought. Someone leaked this to the press.

Shumlin was asked about it, and said he "couldn't remember saying that." (Really? Have we elected a man in early stages of memory loss? Or is there another explanation?)

Later Shumlin compared Vermont Yankee to a junker car that would not run better because it had a different owner. However, Shumlin never stated: "I never said that, in that garage. Whoever said I said anything like that, that person is a liar." Since Shumlin calls a person a liar at the drop of a hat, this means...they weren't lying. Shumlin said it, in that garage. That's my opinion.

As I said. More later.

Monday, November 1, 2010

The Great Miscalculation: Musings Before Election Day

Tomorrow is election day, and considering the negativity of this campaign, I think everyone in Vermont will be glad when it is over.

The Governors Race

Everyone's focus has been on the governor's race, where Shumlin and Dubie are running neck-and-neck. The latest Rasmussen poll shows Shumlin slightly ahead, 50 to 45%, with a 4% margin of error. On the other hand, a recent VPR poll has Dubie ahead by 1%.

Peter Shumlin has been running against Vermont Yankee as much as he has been running against Brian Dubie. On September 18, in Bradford Vermont, Shumlin said: "I am Vermont Yankee's number one enemy." Shumlin accuses Dubie of putting the interests of Entergy Louisiana ahead of the interests of the people of Vermont. And so forth.

The Great Miscalculation

Don't get me wrong. Shumlin may win. It's been too close to call, and it could go either way. Still, Shumlin made a huge miscalculation.

With his endless rhetoric against Vermont Yankee, I believe Shumlin expected that Vermonters would sweep him to victory because of their hatred of the plant. At the beginning of his campaign, he constantly railed against Vermont Yankee, and he was constantly behind Dubie in the polls all summer.

In late September, Shumlin changed his tune. If you watch the later debates, all of a sudden Shumlin is talking about single-payer health care, about a woman's right to choose, about taxes. He may have learned something about what people in Vermont really care about. Employment. Taxes. Women's rights. Health care.

As I pointed out in a post last spring, Vermont opinion on Vermont Yankee fluctuates.
  • In the spring of 2009, more Vermonters wanted to relicense Vermont Yankee than to close it.
  • In the spring of 2010, during the tritium scare, slightly more Vermonters wanted to close VY then to relicense it.
  • Today, the tritium scare is in the past, and running against Vermont Yankee is not the royal road to victory.
Shumlin may win or he may lose. However, with anti-VY as his main platform, he was losing.

Why Did Shumlin Miscalculate?

I think Shumlin miscalculated because he doesn't listen well.
  • Much of the time, he doesn't listen at all: If you watch to him talk or debate, he is always interrupting. He has to get HIS words in there. He is not a person who cares to listen, and he certainly doesn't listen to people who disagree with him.
  • The rest of the time, he believes only his cronies: He made the mistake of saying that Germany got 30% of its electricity from solar (it gets 1%). Several reporters asked him how he could make such a mistake, and he explained it to John Gregg of the Valley News. He thought Germany got 30% because The erroneous number about Germany ... was regularly bandied about the Statehouse in Montpelier. That is what his cronies believed, and he didn't bother to check it.
  • He is out of touch with ordinary people. He hangs out with people who hate Vermont Yankee, and he is unaware of the fluctuating opinion that many Vermont citizens have about the plant.
This is not good leadership. A leader would listen. A leader would have real numbers (not hearsay) about energy at the tip of his fingers. Energy is too important to be a matter of rumors.


I urge my Vermont friends to vote responsibly. It's a tight race, and your vote counts. Make it count for the person you trust.