Thursday, March 10, 2011

NRC Will Renew Vermont Yankee License

Today, the NRC issued a letter saying that it would renew the license at Vermont Yankee. This is good news. Not unexpected news, but very good news nevertheless. As I noted in a previous post, the NRC was treating equal-performing nuclear plants in un-equal ways, depending on the amount of noise being made by anti-nuclear groups. Specifically, the Duane Arnold renewal (sister plant to Vermont Yankee) took slightly more than two years. Vermont Yankee's renewal took over five years.

Yesterday, the NRC also announced that Vermont Yankee had passed its annual review with All Green (highest quality) indicators for safety.

Technical Review?

The latest kerfuffle was about contentions by the New England Coalition, a long-term anti-nuclear group based in Maine. They carefully analyze whatever the NRC is investigating as a possible generic safety question, and immediately bring a contention that Vermont Yankee must be adhere to as-yet-unannounced standards that the NRC may someday-in-the-future decide to promulgate. The latest contention was the issue of water in electric cabling.

In my earlier blog post, I pointed out that this was equivalent to telling a business owner that he couldn't open a business because they were still deciding on some type of regulation about signs. If the problem was an immediate safety issue, the NRC would have acted, not put the issue up for review. If an issue is up for review, all plants can await the NRC's ruling on what should be done. The NRC finally recognized this.

Just to note: the person filing contentions from New England Coalition is also the man who boasted of getting state regulators "by the short hairs" about decommissioning. Looks like the NRC broke free of this grip.

Political Pressure on the NRC

Various senators and congressmen have put pressure on the NRC about Vermont Yankee in recent days.

Republican Politicians: Two Republican senators, James Inhofe and David Vitter, recently objected to the lengthy delays of the NRC in relicensing some plants.

Vermont Politicians: The Vermont congressional delegations went to the NRC to try to persuade it to forbid Vermont Yankee from using the SAFSTOR decommissioning option. Like our governor, the delegation seems to have forgotten that the state signed an agreement allowing SAFSTOR as an option. The NRC can't break that agreement. Or if it can, it can also take away the state's powers to regulate the plant. THAT would be interesting!

Assuming they are reasonable, who is NRC is more likely to listen to?
  • Senators telling them to do their job without lengthy delays
  • Senators telling them to beat up a power plant's agreement with a state
The NRC chose to do their job, thank heavens!

Or, if you don't like reason, try politics.

Who will the NRC listen to?
  • A true-blue state that has three total votes (2 senators, 1 congressman) and is sure to vote with Obama's plans, whatever the NRC does.
  • Populous Republican states, whose congressional delegations can conceivably help (or not block) Obama initiatives.
This question has an underlying assumption that the NRC is influenced by politics. I hope that is not true. Still, it's nice when reason and politics actually work in the same direction.

I am elated to see Vermont Yankee get relicensed!

-----

I also want to recommend the Idaho Samizdat post on the renewal, with reactions from anti-nuclear groups and a perspective on the state situation. As usual, Dan Yurman pulls it all together!

31 comments:

Rick Maltese said...

Great news Meredith. I was rooting for a win by VY. You deserve credit for making people aware of how easy it is to delay projects and renewals.
We need to figure out how to prevent these kind of prejudicial abuses. Perhaps a subcommittee to decide if claims are valid. There should never be a delay where a company needs to wait for a regulator's approval over such trivial matters.

Bob Stannard said...

It's more than a little ironic that on the day the NRC declares that VY is safe to run for 20 more years (when no one has any clue if that is true) that we are witnessing a nuclear catastrophe in Japan. What's happening there appears to be a failure of cooling systems and backup power generators. I'm sure those in power ensured the regulators that these components were sound and would work.

So much for clean and safe.

Bob Stannard said...

To Mr. Maltese's comments: When a plant leaks radioactive material into our ground water through pipes that the owners testified, under oath, did not exist, it should not be viewed as a trivial matter.

This company has mismanaged their plant to the degree that they now want to sell it, because they know they have no credibility left in Vermont. That's not a trivial matter. That's the reality and it's a reality of their own creation.

Presumably, the owners of the Japanese nuclear plants now exploding told their regulators that their redundent systems would work, too.

On another note, it was nice seein Howard Shaffer on CNN attempting to down play the Japan disaster.

Tom said...

Bob,

Please know a little before speaking on things you apparently have no clue over. The fact of the matter is that the issue in Japan, horrible as it is, is not VY. The NRC would not have extended an operating License if the plant was not in a reliable and safe condition. I am more than sure that these systems in all nuclear power plants in the US are tested on a normal basis. Lets stop talking about who owns the plant and start thinking about the bigger picture of things. The fact is that VY provides 33% of the power used by VT and is 80% of the power that is generated in VT. The economy of the state and nation can not withstand the closure of VY. Mrs. Edwards in a statement says "With all of the other issues facing us this session -- health care, the jobs bill, Telecom and budget cuts to name a few -- there isn't an appetite in the House Senate or the governor's office to revisit this issue. We need to move on." Closing VY is just going to make this worse; more jobs lost, more budget cuts, and very upset Vermonter's when they are paying more in electricity. As for Japan, Saying well "what if it happens to us?" is like saying "what if I get hit by a car walking across the street today?" Nuclear Power plants as a whole, including VY, have redundant systems, highly trained operators, and a sense of pride in there work. This so that we take all steps needed to test, confirm, and provide operation of these systems. In fact, nuclear power is a safe, clean, and reliable form of energy. To say anything other is just false.

Bob Stannard said...

It is not false to say that VY officials lied under oath. It is not false to say that their control room operator tested positive for pot. It is not false to say that VY has deferred maintenance on this plant to the degree that they've allowed their cooling towers to collapse. It is not false to say that the plant is old to the degree that their underground pipes that they said they didn't have, leaked.

You just don't want to hear it.

Meredith Angwin said...

Bob.

I know you are a lobbyist, and paid to write these comments. Everything you said above is false. (With the possible exception of a drug test result that I do not know about.)

Vermont Yankee is a high-performing plant and just got a renewed license. It is well maintained, as the NRC knows and capacity factors show.

Nobody lied under oath, no matter how many times you repeat that particular lie.

I have thought a lot about the number of comments you post on my blog. I want to have a relatively open blog, but when a paid opponent lobbyist becomes a troll on my blog, the bit bucket awaits. Don't be surprised.

Tom said...

Like I said in my previous post, lets not talk about managgement issues, since the plant is bigger than who owns it. Yes it is public record that they said there were no pipes and in fact there was. It is also fact that those pipes leaked tritiated water. It is also fact that that tritiatied was has not been found to be not safe for the general public around the plant. That it is in the limits prescribed. As for the the VY officals that lied under oath, if my research serves me write, they were relieved of there duties at the plant. I may be wrong. The Cooling tower collapse was of a tower that is only used during parts of the year to ease the transition of water back into the river. In fact if I remember this as well they were offline at the time of the collapse. As for an operator who popped positive for drugs, is neither a plant, reliability, or safety issue. It is a human resources problem with a policy set forth by the NRC in it US wide Fit for Duty policy. Also, I am open to hearing anything that is said, I just hope that statement are made as factual and realistic as possible. With all this said in my original post, which states that the NRC would not of given the ok for 20 more years if the plant was in any way not safe, not reliable, and not in the opinion of the people that do this for a living able to be operated for 20 more years and provide benifit to the state and couuntry as a whole.

Bob Stannard said...

Entergy revealed it's last, best offer in December of 2009. In that offer they stated that they would only sell us 115mw of power; down from 250mw. The rate would increase from 4.5 cents to 6 cents with annual escalators. To get this good deal from VY we had to agree to allow them to spin the plant off to another LLC, Enexus, which was being created to shield Entergy from liability.


Eleven employees of VY were either fired or reprimanded for "misleading" Vermonters, under oath, before the PSB.

July 21, 2007, the control room operator was fired after he tested positive for pot.

It's your blog and you can refuse to post my words if you want, but be assured everything that I say here, or anywhere, is true and can be verified and substantiated.

If you would like to see the accounting of everything I have stated here, just ask me.

Oh, FYI, Jay Thayer, who "misled" the PSB was fired and now works for the NEI. David McElwey, who "misled" the PSB, under oath, was initially, let go, but has now been rehired and is the coordinater of employee concerns. If an employee is considering whistleblowing it would be McElwey who they would talk to. My guess is that will cease anyone's desire to come forward with any problems at the plant, don't you think?

Yes, I am a paid lobbyist, but believe me when I say that I hold very strong feelings towards this industry and in particular, this company. Oh, and they were forwarned that their cooling towers might collapse and ignored the warnings. Their towers collapsed. That's a fact, too.

Bob Stannard said...

Perhaps if you would post my last post your readers could see the truth about the VY deal. That is, if you are interested in hearing the truth, which I will assume that since you are not posting my comments that you are not.

Bob Stannard said...

Interesting, Ms. Angwin. You call me a liar and then don't allow me to defend myself by posting the real truth.

Nice to see the true colors.

Engineer-Poet said...

Let's have some truth here.

1.  The VY executives were correct that there were no undergound (as in "buried in earth" and nearly impossible to inspect) pipes.  The pipes were in a tunnel, I presume for the explicit purpose of allowing inspection.  Arguing otherwise is absurd legalistic hair-splitting.

2.  Japan's current situation has lessons for us, but only if we look at the whole picture.  Japan has avoided the purchase of hundreds of billions of dollars of fossil fuel by using uranium to generate much of its electricity.  It has also avoided millions of tons of pollutant emissions in a densely populated island.  The price it is paying now is the loss of some older industrial hardware which was hit by a tsunami, and a temporary evacuation of an area which was pretty badly hit by other things already.  Passively-safe plants would have eliminated even that much, but it's not a bad trade.

The irony is that passively-safe plants have been on the drawing boards for decades (and even operated back to the mid-60's, in the case of the Molten Salt Reactor Experiment), but have not gone much beyond experiments due to the very same people now telling us that the existing plants are too dangerous.  Of course, if they could appreciate irony they would probably not be anti-nuke activists.

Martin Langeveld said...

Engineer Poet, just to correct your Point 1:
Those pipes were in a tunnel, but not a tunnel that was accessible for inspection. They might as well have been buried in earth, and they had not been inspected since the day the tunnel was sealed. It took days to get at them to figure out what the problem was. Whether that question under oath was correctly answered could be argued a long time, but the fact is, there were pipes under the ground, and the answer given was disingenuous.

Meredith Angwin said...

Martin.

The word "disingenuous" means "not candid or sincerely, typically by pretending that one knows less about something than one really does."

If you had followed this pipe-testimony issue more closely, you would see that the answers were misguided, but not designed to mislead. For example, one of the answers was about the fact that the pipes contained gaseous material, not liquids. This was a correct answer. It was a pipe to the off-gas system. I have some blog posts about this back last summer, with bunches of quotes from the various parties.

I am taking the viewpoint that your comment was uninformed, but not disingenuous.

Meredith Angwin said...

Mr. Stannard.

I decided to post your comments. They are a grab-bag of insults to individuals at the company, complaints about a power offer that you didn't like, and downright falsehoods:

Nobody was punished for lying under oath because the NRC and the lawyers found that nobody HAD lied under oath.

A cooling tower collapse does not prove a plant is falling apart.

But anyway, your words are here for everyone to read and be amused.

Tom said...

Yep it is offical, Bob you are so full of yourself it is unreal. You can't support your own facts as Mrs. Angwin has shown in her blogs where an investigation showed there were no misleading in the comments by any VY offical. In fact it specifically states that the offical were answering in the most accurate and informative way. As for Mr. Thayer's statements, he says that there are no underground pipes that carry radioactive fluids, he also stated he would get back to the board after some research. This is a true statement as the investigation clear puts it. Actual it says "The evidence does not substantiate that thayer intended to mislead the PSB or others by testifying on May 20, 2009, that he did not believe there were any active piping systems containing contaminated fluids." According to Act 189, the question asked "Are there any underground pipes that carry radionuclides" refers to liquid, whole system, in contact with the soil piping that is/or can be contaminated. I may be wrong on my interpretation, but that that is how I read the facts. As for us not wanting to hear truths or fact, the coin flips both ways here man. You and other anti-VY activists don't want to listen either. I guess that is your true colors.

Bob Stannard said...

Thank you Meredith for posting my words. It wasn't that I didn't like the deal that Entergy offered. It was flatly refused by the utilities. I think you should know that.

Entergy stated that 11 people were either let go or reprimanded. That's not me saying that. It was them.

I guess you can say that a plant that has a cooling tower physically collapse is not falling down. It looked to me like it was falling down and that picture that's made it around the world sure did make it look like it was falling down.

Tom, I have to assume that you do not know that Thayer, et. al. were vindicated by their own law firm, or else you would not have said they were. One would expect their lawyers, who were paid handsomely, to vindicate them, wouldn't they?

In closing, I know that you, Meredith strongly advocated for the use of MOX fuel at the debate with Gundersen. You might be interested in this quote from Japan: ""The fuel's integrity has been considerably compromised. We are assessing a considerably serious situation. This unit uses plutonium-based MOX
(mixed-oxide) fuel; accident consequences from a reactor that uses MOX fuel are even higher than for a more traditional uranium-fueled reactor."

The unfortunate catastrophe in Japan may have been the result of devine intervention. This event will bring the so-called nuclear renissance to an end. That will not only save taxpayers billions of dollars, but it will, in the end, save lives.

Margaret said...

To call such death and destruction "divine intervention" is appalling and disgusting. I cannot believe any responsible person would STOOP to such lows.
You have lost all credibility with anyone who cares about human beings and the real pain and suffering going on in Japan right now.
I have personal knowledge of people working on THOSE plants who lost everything, homes, families, everything. They are working 24 hours/day in dedication to what is arguably one of the safest industries on the planet.
Shame on you for such a heartless statement.

Engineer-Poet said...

"I guess you can say that a plant that has a cooling tower physically collapse is not falling down."

I guess you can say that a home which has a disused detached garage physically collapse is not falling down.  Oh, wait... it's true, you can!  The garage has nothing to do with the integrity of the home.

"I know that you, Meredith strongly advocated for the use of MOX fuel at the debate with Gundersen. You might be interested in this quote from Japan: ""The fuel's integrity has been considerably compromised. We are assessing a considerably serious situation. This unit uses plutonium-based MOX (mixed-oxide) fuel; accident consequences from a reactor that uses MOX fuel are even higher than for a more traditional uranium-fueled reactor.""

Nobody has demonstrated that the consequences are at all hazardous to people or the environment beyond the short term.  The current evacuation is precautionary.

"The unfortunate catastrophe in Japan may have been the result of devine intervention. This event will bring the so-called nuclear renissance [sic] to an end. That will not only save taxpayers billions of dollars, but it will, in the end, save lives."

Absent the interference of special interests in the 1970's to today, the progress of nuclear power would have gone from solid-fuel LWRs to LMFBRs and molten-salt reactors starting 4 decades ago.  Both types can be made passively-safe more easily than LWRs, not the least because they do not require pressurized coolants and have no need for containments which function as pressure vessels.

It was the interference of people such as you who stalled the progress of nuclear power 40 years ago.  The "renaissance" is the resumption of this progress; you now crow about the prospect of killing it using the news out of Japan.  Should you succeed, the results will be guaranteed prospects for fossil-fuel interests and increased energy prices and carbon emissions in the near term, and the collapse of industrial society (with the collapse of the population it supports, by starvation and disease) in the longer term.

The most charitable appraisal I can give of someone advocating your views is "sick".

Finrod said...

Bob Stannard's 'divine intervention' remark is disturbingly remeniscent of the psychopathic ramblings of the Westboro Baptist Church.

Martin Langeveld said...

Hi Meredith: whether Mr. Thayer was being disingenuous or misguided is a matter of opinion, not fact. That facts are that (a) he made the statement, (b) he failed to get back to the panel as he promised, and (c) Entergy considered his miscommunication serious enough to relieve him of his duties. In my book, that says disingenuous, not simply misguided.

Jack Gamble said...

Bob,

Are you so blinded by your irrational fear that you would call what is happening in Japan a godsend?

I am literally sickened by how twisted your mind is that you cannot see that tens of thousands of people are dead and that thousands more will likely join them as a result of this disaster (the earthquake and tsunami, NOT the nuclear plants).

The only human disaster here is what happened everywhere else except the nuclear plant. Nobody has been killed at the nuclear plant, but tens of thousands have been killed elsewhere. For you to use this for political gain ranks you among the ambulance-chasing lawyers and paparazzi, you are truly a reprehensible, manipulative politician in it's worst form.

Perhaps you and the other fanatics should put the cork back in Champagne for now.

Tom said...

Martin,

If you look at me previous post, I posted references that clearly state no VY official intended to mislead and PSB member or VT General Assembly member. In fact that their statement were true for the questions asked of them. That there are no underground pipes carrying radionuclide fluids other then the one before Entergy bought the plant.

Bob Stannard said...

Tom - it's my understand that Entergy had over a dozen opportunities to correct the record re: their testimony on the pipes. They opted not to do so. If there was any misunderstanding or miscommunication it was their responsibility to point it out and correct the record. By not doing so the only obvious conclusion is that they intentionally misled Vermonters, or they are very incompetent. Either way, as a Vermonter I would have no desire to do business with them.

There are those who think that the catastrophies that occur in the world are a result of divine intervention. I'm not one of them. But there are those who do.

Tom said...

Bob,

So would you work with/for Gov. Shumlin. He just basically did the same thing to the public. Well didn't misled then but has lied on tv interviews, has said he will not honor a signed legal document, or the fact he only has his political/financial future in mind not those of his fellow constitutes. Be honest here now bob,don't just act as a lobbyist. He has no proof that the plant is not safe, not reliable, and not efficent. As a person I feel he is not able/fit to handle the job as Governor. The facts still rest solidly that vy is in the best interest of vt and the surrond areas.

Mrs. Edwards stated she feels there is no time to relook at vy issue, instead wants to look at the job bill and budget cuts. VT is 5 billion in the red and they want to cut out a major revenue source. Can you say more cuts and less jobs, so in fact there talks about these other issues is pointless without saving vy. Again you have to agree.

Tom said...

You may say you don't lobby for governor shumlin, but again be honest. You do looby for him just indirectly. Trust, you say is a major issue here, well it works both ways.

Meredith Angwin said...

Stannard

You claim you are not one of the people who think catastrophes are the result of divine intervention? Really?? You wrote THIS in your last comment:

The unfortunate catastrophe in Japan may have been the result of devine intervention. This event will bring the so-called nuclear renissance to an end. That will not only save taxpayers billions of dollars, but it will, in the end, save lives.

As I see it, you think the human beings in Japan are not really human. Their suffering is DIVINE INTERVENTION (as you said above) because it may FURTHER your energy agenda!

And you are willing to LIE like a RUG, trying to deny what you said in the last comment. When anyone can see it, in full force, on this post. They can see your lies, and your cruelty.

No doubt, you will come up with some other long screed about how you didn't MEAN that the suffering in Japan (unfortunate. though it might be) was divine intervention to prevent a nuclear renaissance, you just happened to WRITE that it was divine intervention to prevent...etc.

Don't bother writing this. Nobody is going to believe it.

Oh, go ahead and write it. I'll post it. It ought to be fun to see you try even HARDER to deny what you said.

Bob Stannard said...

No Meredith, I would agree with you. Those who participate in the site are as committed to their beliefs as I am mine. No minds will be changed here. No matter how often someone really does lie, under oath, you won't believe it. Earlier, Engineer Poet compared the cooling tower collapse to a decrepit garage. The two are not comparable. We're talking about a nuclear power plant, not a house.


But hey, if you folks want to trivialize what is happening at VY that's OK with me. It helps to convince more Vermonters that we have better options than dealing with this plant and this company.

BTW, in your earlier posts you stated that you don't like to use the word "lie", but misled. I see that you're making an exception for me, in spite of the fact that I have told the truth here on this site. Interesting.

Tom said...

No Bob, you haven't been as honest as you say you have. Meredith as I can see, pretty much sticks to stuff she can prove. Unless she specifically says it is her opinion. So I want to know how much of a man you are, can you atleast agree with my last 2 posts. Or do you say those are false as well. That VT is negative 5 billion dollars and they want to cut away a power resource without an option that can equate to nuclear power. That the are worried about jobs but want to cut away jobs by closing VY. And lastly they want to cut away from a major state revenue with a deficit as much as that. Gov. Shumlin is not in it for the people only himself and did exactly what you say is the reason people want to close VY. He misled or lied and is going against a signed contract. Safety, reliability, and efficiency are not the issue anymore. The NRC squashed that by giving an extension. The issue here is that the state legislative body as a whole can't have a set of B*lls and say we were wrong and sorry it is not in our best interest to close VY. Sorry if it offends anyone the use of profanity, I need to make a point.

Bob Stannard said...

This will be my final post on this site as it is futile and a waste of my time. No, Tom, Vt is not $5 billion in debt. I have no idea where you got that number, but then again, I have no idea where a lot of this information you (collectively) use. The state has a projected deficit of $176 mil; not billion. It's a challenge but the legislature will most likely meet the task in front of them. They always do.

Once the plant shuts down in 2012 there will still be many people working provided Entergy properly closes the plant vs. cutting and running and leaving the job to some future generation. This, of course, is the legacy of nuclear power; get a deal today and kick the legacy costs down the road for tomorrow.

It's about making money; a lot of money. I have found it quite intriguing to watch you folks and try to understand why it is that you are so passionate about nuclear power. It's not cheap. Quite the contrary. When you add in the subsidies and loan guarantees it's THE most expensive power we have, and that's without the decommissioning costs.

Your arguments might have some validity if you were equally as passionate about hydro, geo-thermal, etc., but I don't see that happening. Becoming animated over a power source that produces waste that will need to be guarded and protected for generations is, well, difficult to understand.

But as I said, you folks are fully vested in the energy source; a source that is currently leaving quite a mess in Japan and will, undoubtedly leave an equally as big a mess in this country one day. It's simply a matter of time, because as we know the things man makes, break.

Good luck to you and your thoughts on this site.

Tom said...

I am sorry to see you go Bob. The state will not be able to recover from the debt if they close VY. As for other forms of entergy, I am ok with all forms of energy. That is not the question here. Yes I am for nuclear power first, but I am ok with all. There is no way that a group of anti-nuclear activist in VT are going to change the path of the country as a whole. Nuclear is the path set forward by our current administration and will be on going for a while to come. I am sorry for what happened in Japan, and the people over there. This is not because of nuclear power as a whole though. When it come to VY, there may be ideas on the table for how to generate the amount of power the VY generated. However, there is nothing actually constructed, not in the works to be constructed to go online if the state so happens to close VY. I am passionate about nuclear power becasue I am educated on nuclear power as an operator and see the benifits of it. I see people scared of nuclear power and radiation, when they have no education on the topic. Furthermore they are not willing to learn about it either. I really feel you are missing the bigger picture of things here. Again you are not willing to look outside your anti-nuclear box. Yes I see this labeled as a save VY site, and yes it strongly promotes nuclear energy. However, like I said there is a bigger picture behind it all. That if VY closes, it will cause your so called 176mil deficit to go up (undisputable), it will cause the loss of thousands of jobs (IBM, VY, and local business; undisputable), and will cause the rate of electricity to go up more than keeping VY (undisputable). Yes, you can say IBM never said they were leaving, but anyone can read between the lines here.

Engineer-Poet said...

"Earlier, Engineer Poet compared the cooling tower collapse to a decrepit garage. The two are not comparable. We're talking about a nuclear power plant, not a house."

We are talking something as unimportant to the house as a detached garage.  Given the availability of the river, the cooling tower is essentially irrelevant to the operation of the powerplant.  It has minimal operational impact, and no effect on safety.

"This will be my final post on this site as it is futile and a waste of my time."

Thank heaven for small favors.