Thursday, November 10, 2011

Vermont Yankee on the Web: Opponent Rallies, Fishy Tales Refuted, and Good News

Several news stories and blogs have covered Vermont Yankee issues recently. Here's a quick catch-up from the past few days.

The cartoon above is by Tim Newcomb and originally appeared in Seven Days. I thank Mr. Newcomb for granting permission to use it in this blog.


At ANS Nuclear Cafe, Howard Shaffer covers the background of the opponent rally at the plant gates. The comment stream discusses the rise (and fall?) of the Clamshell Alliance.

Fishy Tales: Entergy Answers Markey's Fish Story By Quoting Shumlin

Senator Markey, a long-time foe of nuclear energy, wrote a letter to the NRC accusing them of letting Entergy get away with a lie about the "strontium fish". Here are two excellent blogs by Victoria Barq of NEI Nuclear Notes about Markey's letter (included in this blog post) and Entergy's response. Yesterday, Barq wrote a follow-up blog post about Entergy's response, including quotes from the Vermont Department of Health (no reason to believe the strontium in the fish came from the plant) and even quotes Governor Shumlin! Entergy has never detected any strontium in liquid releases or required environmental samples of groundwater, etc. Even Shumlin said we could not tell where the strontium came from! A very enjoyable post. It's great to see a solid response to unfounded, publicity-seeking attacks.

In local news, Lochbaum joined in the fray on Markey's side, and my hometown paper, the Valley News, published a very misleading Op-Ed quoting Markey and Lochbaum: Entergy "Doublespeak." Howard and I are collaborating on a letter-to-the-editor in answer.

For some background: I blogged about the facts and the fish in August. This blog also hosted a guest post by Richard Schmidt in September. His post compared mercury in fish (a real problem) with strontium at background levels.

Cartoon, Letters, and Animation in Favor of Vermont Yankee

A letter on What It Means to Be a Nuclear Worker in the Commons, a Brattleboro paper. Any nuclear workers reading this blog might want to comment on it: the one comment so far is a plant opponent.

Evan Twarog's letter (A Teen's View of Vermont Yankee, on this blog yesterday) was also published at True North Reports.

Charles Barton's Nuclear Green Revolution blog ran Robert Hargrave's Vermont Yankee Explained animation. An enjoyable six minute video.

The cartoon, by Tim Newcomb, heads this post!


Kit P said...

So Meredith you think it is ethical to use junk science to refute junk science? Zero is the number of people hurt by making electricity in the US. If people fear monger about "strontium fish' why would think "mercury fish” is not just so much fear mongering?

You can check it too. The CDC has a web site about environmental pollutants. Not one American has level of environmental mercury in their body above the threshold of harm. Since the levels are mercury are not two orders of magnitude below the the threshold of harm, the CDC continues to monitor mercury. We are at risk of being at risk.

If there is a problem, finding a smoking gun should be easy. Washington State found some old fish with mercury. The mercury was not from an old smelting operation not a coal-fired power plant. Even if old fish are good to eat, once you catch them then there are only new fish left.

While you may have to dig down several levels of references to find that claims are carefully fabricated lies, people with any science background should know that is what they will find.

So how about the number killed by fossil fuels? More junk science but how hard is it to finish reading the sentence when it say,

“and motor vehicle transportation”

Again, if you dig down several levels of references you will find that the data was for air pollution 20-30 years ago. That right back when most people smoked and seat belt were a new things that many did not want to use.

I am not saying that we should not have pollution controls on cars and power plants. I am saying we have pollution controls on cars and power plants.

I work in the nuclear field and have responsibilities of protecting the environment. People in the nuclear industry care about the environment. That also applies to everyone I have met in other parts of the power industry.

If you are going to make electricity, you have to protect your workers, your neighbors, and the environment. And we do!

Mike Mulligan said...

The word games you play?

jimwg said...

Wair wait wait! Is this fussed based on ONE fish caught and handled bu unknown persons by unknown means who incidentially was fishing for strontium? A school of fish reading rads is like smoke hinting fire, but if only ONE fishie turns up like this, well it's time to do a little hooking with its handlers!

James Greenidge
Queens NY

Tom Clegg said...

Meredith" I answered back the anti-nuke on the blog for what it means to be a nuclear worker. Now lets see if he has the guts to answer me back.

Meredith Angwin said...

Thank you all for your comments.

Kit P: I am not fear-mongering when I point out that the Vermont Department of Health (and many other health agencies) recommend limits on eating wild fish due to mercury in the fish. And the same Department of Health says the background levels of Sr in the fish are not a problem and the fish is safe to eat. I was making more of a point about relative concerns than bashing other forms of power. If you read my "coal boiler" post of last year, when I led a course about coal, or my Energy Safari course blogs from this year, you will see I have great respect for all power plant operators.

Mike. I am well aware of the VPR study, the Dave Gram article, and the Markey letter to the NRC. Of course, Markey and Gram play word games (okay, they don't tell the whole truth) by saying Vermont Yankee "emitted" radioactive strontium without deigning to tell us how much was emitted. They didn't want to say the truth, which was that the Sr emissions were too small to have fallen into the river and been incorporated into the fish. I have been looking up the actual numbers on the NRC webpages. Gram and Markey undoubtedly saw those numbers also. They didn't want to share the numbers, but I do. I might write another blog post on this!

James and Tom..thank you for the comments.

Jeff Schmidt said...

I think one thing that's important to note, and somewhat unfortunate about this comic. . .

Energy is about far more important things than "toys". If we allow the narrative to be framed as energy for "toys" (I've heard Arnie Gunderson and other anti-nukes try to frame the energy discussion this way), then it promotes the idea that energy is just about being selfish and wanting to entertain yourself.

Energy is far more important than entertainment and toys. It's about growing, preserving, transporting, and marketting enough food to feed everybody, about constructing homes and businesses that protect us from the elements, provide a safe space for ourselves and our family (and, to some extent, our stuff). It's about heating homes and schools, and providing light so students can read and do homework efficiently.

It's about hospitals, police, fire, ambulance, about important communications like TV news, Internet news, etc which might help to save lives by giving people important info during emergencies, and enable democracy.

It's about having clean water to drink, and being able to research, develop and manufacture important chemicals, pharmaceuticals, and other advances of science.

Energy is incredibly, incredibly important and only a fairly small portion goes to entertainment.

Mike Mulligan said...

Hmm, but all the radioactive emission discharging from the VY plant aren't measured. I discovered the VY lube oil vapor extractor plume atop the turbine building and VY wrote a condition report saying it never been measured and we have absolutely no design documents and or any other characterization. Areva has been contract to investigate this caused by me. And we know Entergy and the NRC created a cover-up with not discussing it in my recent 2.206. The told me I had insufficient evidence to support my contention, but they neglected to mention Entergy and NRC had no evidence to say it was safe as seen from the super secret condition report they wrote up driven from my contention. We know the steam comes from the turbine seals that is seen from atop the turbine building. The Vermont state nuclear engineer said it contains some amount of tritium in it. I think all the radioactive components of main steam get discharged through this completely unmonitored pathways.

More troubling on the horizon is the severely radioactive contaminated main condenser at the Columbia nuclear power plant. It implies a lot more radiation has been allowed to go down the main steam lines and not disclosed.

I use to enter the VY main condenser when shutdown with a lab coats, white cotton glove inserts and yellow bootees. Columbia is using full double anti-cs and full face mask. That is a tremendous increase in radiation.

jimwg said...

> Jeff Schmidt said...

That one has to spell out as you have what ought be obvious to most adults is telling of the woeful hard-science ignorance infesting our education system! No wonder pro-nuclear education has such a steep hill of ignorance to climb!

> Mike Mulligan

I'm for whistleblowers like the next man, but I'm not into those with ulterior agendas and axes to grind. If you have the "goods" on something, then lay it out, Man. I'm not into people seeding malicious innuendo of doubt and fear to booster their implacable philosophical beefs and gut qualms about nuclear energy or any other issue. You say it "implies more radiation...". Show it! You make a big scary deal of workers wearing face masks and bunny suit to work in some areas like it's some alien hazard;. Hey hello public, see what they wear taking down asbestos and in Clorox plants! You state that "this is a "tremendous increase in radiation". Specifically how sir? Because someone made a mistake and can only detect two drops of ink in a lake instead of one? It's this word-play nonsense keeping tens of thousands from being allowed home in perfectly safe regions around Fukushima with less background rads than regions in South America and Asia. If you got the beans on something amiss, spill it! No more coy hear-says or "I and Mr X just happen to know..." This blog is for your axe. Cough up the facts on black and white or the rest is B.S. Am I harsh? No. The health/public safety hypocrisy of anti-nukers riles me when I see thousands suffering yearly of overt pollution and industrial accidents yet anti-nukers whine and crap about an industry -- with accidents and all -- is far more benign in reality than others generating electricity or producing most anything -- except perhaps in the bogeymen nightmares of the skittish ignorant.

James Greenidge
Queens NY

Will Davis said...

Radioactive emission from, and effluent from, any nuclear power plant is normal. I cannot understand why an employee of a nuclear plant would be attempting to foster so much fear; as one poster said, write it up and send it up. I've seen nothing in the press (which has been voluminous) or the daily NRC reports (also as we all know fairly voluminous) about this at Vermont Yankee; with the scrutiny this plant has been under, and continues to be under, it's hard to imagine it would have escaped.

Further, again to the person making the report: Is it your desire to fix this problem at Vermont Yankee, or is it your intention to help yourself out of a job if you can contribute to the unfounded mass fear hysteria in that state? NONE of us is for covering up problems, whether mechanical or human, or failures. We all know that. Like I said, write it up, send it up, and roll on.

As to Columbia... what is considered the acceptable level of contamination at that plant for the condenser? Anyone know? And what were the exposure rates around the turbine? I am curious as to why anyone is really curious about finding contamination in the steam system of a BWR. I'm not saying that you should throw the book out the window, but for that plant what was the acceptable fission product release to the coolant, in total? Taking that value, how much would you expect to deposit in the condenser, giving what activity? These are the important questions to ask... and if the answers give a rad level comparable to what is actually found there, then there is no issue since every worker is protected by clothing, by dosimetry, by procedure and by his or her co-workers. Right? After all, that's how we worked in the Navy - I have a reading, now I determine whether that reading is realistic and expected.. if I didn't already know in the first place. (Which frankly we did.) And you'd think the rad surveys would have shown levels around the steam plant that might indicate what they've found inside now that it's open.

Rod Adams said...

@Kit P

Though the number of people hurt or killed by making electricity in the US is quite low, it is certainly not zero. I do not have detailed statistics, but I can think of several fatal accidents caused by fossil fuel explosions in power plants, including one in Tampa in the mid 1990s when I lived there and one in Middletown, CT that occurred in early 2010. There are also occasional examples of CO poisoning by improper venting or leaking exhaust piping.

@Mike Mulligan - pointing to people wearing protective clothing is not evidence of danger. It is evidence of caution. Telling people that having an unmeasured path is the same as dumping dangerous quantities of isotopes is also false. It is not hard to detect radioactive material.

I am certain that the people that you reported your concerns to did some checking to determine that they were baseless before they dismissed them. All they would need to do is to perform a few surveys to find that there was no residual radiation - that would prove that there probably had never been any substantial emissions.

Why are you so disgruntled about nuclear energy?

Mike Mulligan said...

You people just couldn't compete in a open information guys need automatic weapons and multiple ultra high security fences to hide your disclosed half truths...

And, there for us to see, is the problem with the nuclear industry.

It is a disgrace for a nuclear plant to have a potential pathway, an actually pathway according to Entergy and the state nuclear engineer...information about this not in the design bases documents and any testing to prove what the radioactivity is.

Like, what are the failure pathways where it could give you much higher discharges.

If Entergy had any stones they would have called a press conference and had a open discussion about it.

Anyone in the industry knows the radioactive count rate dictates what radioactive protection clothing is necessary...maybe that is why VY doesn't want to change out their main condenser?

Meredith Angwin said...


I have to echo what others have said. If you and you alone know of a pathway that is not monitored and you think the Vermont Nuclear Engineer is participating in a cover-up, bring this contention to the NRC. Be a whistle-blower. That is the right thing to do. In the meantime, don't accuse everybody and their brother of secrecy, not having stones, etc etc etc.

In my earlier note, I pointed out that the AP reporter said VY had "released strontium" and it was in the NRC records. But he did not tell how much strontium, though that is also in the NRC records. I said I would blog about that. I haven't had a chance to blog about it yet, but I looked up the VY Sr release report. Sr releases were at the level of six to the minus eight curies per year in about one out of three years...about 60 billionths of a curie. The other years, there were no releases.

You didn't answer the fact that the reporter left out very significant information about the quantity of the releases. He undoubtedly learned the quantity when he looked into the NRC records. Instead, you wrote a note about a release that only you know about and everyone in the world is covering up.

Report it to the NRC.

Mike Mulligan said...


You are one humorous lady.

Tom Clegg said...

Mike do you know the difference between radiation and contamination? The reason to wear full face respirators and double anti-c's is contamination NOT radiation. This is nuclear worker 101. And just because it has to be worn in a certain part of the plant does not mean it gets out to the general public. It would show up on monitoring equipment outside the plant, and they do monitor outside the plant.

Mike Mulligan said...

So I talked to the Columbia nuclear plant NRC inspector. I asked him why is there so much contamination and radiation in the Main Condenser? Why the double anti-cs?

He says, because they are removing the main condenser and cutting and grinding.

I later come back, so the prior outage, they weren't removing the main condenser? Were they wearing double anti-cs and full mask? He says they weren't wearing double anti-cs and full mask. I asked, so they weren't cutting and grinding. He said they weren't.

I didn't like him first associating the anti-cs and mask with the main condenser removal and cutting and grinding.

The NRC says they are going to get me a answer about the radioactive main condenser. How did it get there? Has there been a change over twenty years with the contamination rates and why? I asked him if they have fuel leakers. He said not more than anyone else. Asked him if the fuel leaker criteria has been weakened over the years?

Mike Mulligan said...


I later come back, so the prior outage, they weren't removing the main condenser? Were they wearing double anti-cs and full mask? He says they ""were"" wearing double anti-cs and full mask. I asked, so they weren't cutting and grinding. He said they weren't.

Meredith Angwin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tom Clegg said...

Mike first you say radiation than when I correct you about the difference between radiation and contamination you change your story. I have a few questions for you! First in what capacity were you asking the NRC about this vapor plume. Did you ask the workers or management about why they were wearing full face respirators and double anti-c's? Did you work there or were you another anti-nuke looking for an agenda or your 15 minuets of fame at a meeting and didn't really want an answer just the spot light. Why would the NRC send you to Areva instead of General Electric the maker of the plant. Did you work at these plants or are you just taking the word of someone. Did you actually see this. What year did this happen. When I first started in the nuclear field back in 1983 it was NOT uncommon for people to wear full face respirators or double anti-c's technology has come a long way since then. Plant have gotten cleaner. There are still times when I have to wear full face respirators and double anti-c's, but it is allot less. Meredith I notice you like movies, and sometimes us them to get a point across. There is an old movie you may not know about because you are to young. But there is a line in this movie that fits the anti-nukes. The movie is the man who shot Liberty Valance. In the movie Ranson Stoddard(Jimmy Steward)is being interviewed by a newspaper reporter. Ranson is a senator. He got fame and got there by shooting Liberty Valance. He tells the reporter the truth it was Tom Doniphn(John Wayne) who really shot Liberty Valance. This happens years later at Tom's funeral. The editor of the newspaper comes in reads the articular and tears it up saying "WHEN THE LEGEND BECOMES TRUTH PRINT THE LEGEND! This fits the anti-nukes when there legends become truth tell the legend!

Mike Mulligan said...

"Mike first you say radiation than when I correct you about the difference between radiation and contamination you change your story. I have a few questions for you!"

Yea, you influenced me, feel better.

"First in what capacity were you asking the NRC about this vapor plume."

As a bum and loser in my community, or a person who lives with 2 miles of the plant .

"Did you ask the workers or management about why they were wearing full face respirators and double anti-c's?"

You are confusing the VY LO vapor extractor issue and the Columbia nuclear plant radioactive main condenser. Generally none of the utilities will discuss internal issues with me.

"Did you work there or were you another anti-nuke looking for an agenda or your 15 minuets of fame at a meeting and didn't really want an answer just the spot light."

I did work there and was a licensed operator for many years. I am one of the most pro nuclear guys you ever met.

"Why would the NRC send you to Areva instead of General Electric the maker of the plant."

Entergy contracted Areva to investigate the plume issue, all licensing issues and to sample the stream of vapor. Most likely the low cost bidder.

"Did you work at these plants or are you just taking the word of someone. Did you actually see this. What year did this happen."

Picked up Columbia plant in the news. Here is my blog and I have talked extensive throughout it about VY in my blog....took a picture of it. Dial down on this page and you can see the plume. You can click on the picture a few times, each times it magnifies it.

"When I first started in the nuclear field back in 1983 it was NOT uncommon for people to wear full face respirators or double anti-c's technology has come a long way since then."

I started the in the field in 1974 and began in Navy nuclear submarines.

"Plant have gotten cleaner."

An object falsehood, in the mid 2000s the US nuclear industry had significant problems and huge increases of fuel failures. The NRC commissioners spent lots of print in complaining about it. We have had many periods of poor fuel cladding performances.


I told you, I am more pro nuclear than anyone captured in the nuclear industry...