Friday, June 17, 2011

The Silence of Governor Shumlin

Shumlin Speaks

Let's start with Governor Shumlin speaking at a press conference in April, the day after Entergy filed suit against Vermont.

In the video below, at the one-minute mark, a reporter asks Shumlin if he regrets his comments on nuclear safety. The reporter notes that the Entergy suit quotes some of Shumlin's comments (on Vermont Yankee safety) as examples of state pre-emption of federal regulatory powers.

Shumlin answers that he never talked about safety, just reliability. Shumlin then puts his foot firmly in his mouth, saying the plant is "leaking radon into the ground" and other radiological non-sequiturs. In other words, Shumlin talks about radiation safety.

If I were Shumlin's lawyer at that point, I would have told him to shut up. Instead, my attitude was: "Go, Shumlin! Keep talking! Keep that foot in place!"

(This is a video from the website of True North Reports, of a Shumlin press conference on April 22, the day after Entergy filed suit against the state. I also featured this video on an earlier blog post.)

Shumlin Stops Speaking

A few days later, on May 5, Shumlin was supposed to appear on a radio show about Vermont Yankee. He didn't appear. Shumlin claimed he needed to visit the Lake Champlain flood damage at that time. (I mentioned this in my post on the Vermont Law School blog.)

I don't believe that that was Shumlin's reason for canceling his appearance on the show. I think he had gotten the message from his lawyers: "The state is being sued. You are not doing the state's case any good with your comments!"

I am not as important a person as Governor Shumlin, and I can persuade radio programs to meet my scheduling needs when they want me to appear on their programs. If I can do this, so can Shumlin. If the Governor had wanted to talk about Vermont Yankee, the program would have been re-scheduled for when the Governor was available.

The program was not rescheduled.

Shumlin hasn't said a word about Vermont Yankee since then. Shumlin talks about health care, cigarette taxes, schools. But not about Vermont Yankee.


It's so nice and quiet nowadays. Shumlin is nice and quiet.

I don't miss Shumlin's rants about Entergy Louisiana and their thieving ways. I was tired of his endless statements about the dangers of strontium in the groundwater--no strontium had ever been detected in the groundwater. I was tired of hearing his nasty innuendo and his fractured facts--repeated over and over.

I think Shumlin has gone quiet for the duration of the lawsuit.

My peonies were spectacular, and Shumlin has shut up about Vermont Yankee. It is shaping up to be a lovely summer, despite all the rain. Great peonies; quiet Shumlin. Who could ask for anything more?


Rich said...

Have the Vermont legislators and Governor Shumlin considered the impact that the thousands of wind-turbines they propose to replace Vermont Yankee spread throughout the mountains of Vermont will have on the tourism? When I lived in Connecticut, I visited every fall often staying a week or more. I am glad I have the pictures I took then, in a few years the views will be very rare. What are the mountains going to look like with the miles of construction/service roads? How many more miles of high-tension transmission lines will be built? I am not sure, but will probably take over 3,000 wind-turbines to get the same power as VY. How many acres of land does that impact? 1,000, 3,000, or 5,000? Will they even work well in the winter? Google wind-turbines and Pennsylvania (PA) for some views that only a wind-turbine salesman would love. I have driven across the PA turnpike and the scenic destruction is as bad as the environmental. Guess I will visit Montana.
Meredith, you need to gather as many pictures as possible and show them what it will look like.

Benjamin Ray Griffin said...

Montana is certainly beautiful but there are wind turbines out there, too. To your point about the aesthetics of the landscape, whether it be Vermont or elsewhere, I wonder what Southern Vermont might look like if VY had a meltdown. What would the Connecticut River corridor turn into if radioactive materials found there way into the water system? And finally, I wonder what the young children that are growing up in that area might look like if they were exposed to the potential dangers that VY harbors?

As a resident of Vermont and coming from a family with many generations born and raised in the state, I believe the Green Mountains are one of our greatest assets. I certainly love gazing upon them no matter what the time of year. And while turbines might detract from this panorama, I think it is a much better picture than a snapshot of the aftermath of an accident at VY.

And just to answer your question, it would take about 900 turbines to replace the maximum generation capability of VY.

Meredith Angwin said...

Thank you both for your comments!

Briefly, Mr. Griffin is close to correct on wind turbines, but also completely incorrect in another sense. Each wind turbine, small enough for our local ridges but big enough to make significant power, would be 2 MW. So replacing VY 620 MW would give us 310 turbines. However, VY has an 90% capacity factor (on-line 90% of the time) while wind turbines do well to have 30% capacity factor. So you multiply by 3 to get 930 wind turbines.

However, the incorrect part is that the wind turbines are not dispatchable. You can't turn them on and off and get 90% coverage. They are not baseload. They would only back up VY if they themselves are backed up by a VY-equivalent gas-fired plant, which is dispatchable.

Also, I want to assure Mr. Griffin that in normal operation, VY is safer for children than other power sources. It has 20 millirem emissions at the fence line, if you LIVED at the fence line all year. That is equivalent to:
moving from limestone to granite underfoot
taking three cross-country plane flights
four dental xrays.

People have concerns about nuclear accidents, and of course the entire nuclear industry and regulators work to prevent such accidents. But people should remember that areas are evacuated for their long-term safety, NOT because everything in those areas becomes a dead zone! It does not! A "snapshot" of Vermont would not look much different than Vermont today. Don't get me wrong. It would be a terrible thing to have to evacuate an area. But the idea of "what Vermont would look like" is misleading.

In the worst case, like Chernobyl, much of area has become a de-facto wildlife park, because people have left, but animals are thriving. Please read "Wormwood Forest" if you can. it is NOT a pro-nuclear book, believe me, but it gives a great description of Chernobyl as it is, not as people's Sci-Fi imaginations think it is. Also, most of Chernobyl has been resettled, 25 years later. I'm not underestimating the hardship, but the Sci-Fi version of a land dead and uninhabitable forever is just that--Sci-Fi.

Benjamin Ray Griffin said...

I think it would be great if a wildlife park replaced Vermont Yankee! The facts are that Chernobyl resulted in cancer rates of over 90% for most of the surrounding wonder animals moved into the area! 90% capacity rate with a chance for 90% cancer rate...I'll take my chances on a wind turbine. If a turbine breaks, it can be repaired with no effects on the surrounding community. If a nuclear reactor breaks, effects on the surrounding community can be devastating.

I agree with you Meredith that wind turbines are not dispatchable. They are not a one-size-fits-all solution. In fact, such a solution that is safe and renewable does not exist. The truth is that we need a variety of safe, clean, and renewable energy technologies, in combination with energy efficiency and conservation measures, in order to sustainably meet our power needs. It is clear to me, however, that coal, nuclear, and fossil fuel generation does not fit this bill.

While these non-renewable technologies are certainly a huge part of our current energy mix, it is vital that we move away from them going forward.

Meredith Angwin said...

Thank you for following up on this, Mr. Griffin. I understand that you don't want to see nuclear, coal or gas generation. However, those and hydro and biomass are the only dispatchable sources. Perhaps you believe hydro and biomass can take up the slack? They can't. The numbers just aren't there.

There were not 90% cancer rates around Chernobyl. That just is not true. I recommend you to read the multi-year, multi-country UNSCEAR report, sponsored through the United Nations.

Clean-up workers, and children who did not get KI and drank the local milk, are at increased risk for cancer. For the general population, cancer due to exposure from Chernobyl cannot be detected: it does not change the cancer percentages. 90% cancer in the surrounding population is just a made-up number. I don't know who made it up: I am not accusing you.

Perhaps you will write back and say that UNSCEAR is an evil conspiracy of countries who are in bed with the nuclear industry and you can't trust them. The only people you can trust are (fill in the blanks). You may not notice that donations to the people who spread fear of nuclear...those donations will dry up if we are not terrified of nuclear power! It is the fear-mongers best interest, financially, to encourage fear and doubt.

Do look up the UNSCEAR report. I have been following their reports for years, and think highly of them.