- Solar panels are not remotely competitive with Coal, Gas, or Nuclear with regards to efficiency, cost, and materials.
- Because of cloud cover; solar radiation reaching Vermont is 40% less per year (8 MJ/m2) than that reaching Montana, at the same latitude, and 59% less than New Mexico. In other words, we pay the same for solar panels, but unlike other states we get less production per panel.
Monday, January 30, 2012
Sunday, January 29, 2012
In 1998, Peter Shumlin was President Pro Tem of the Vermont Senate, and Vermont Yankee was owned by a consortium of utilities. In 1998, Shumlin sent a letter in support of Vermont Yankee to Mike Empey, a Vermont Yankee supporter. Mike Empey just sent the letter to me and gave me permission to post it. Shumlin writes that he fought an effort to prematurely close Vermont Yankee, "I can assure you that as long as I am one of the people in charge of the leadership of the Vermont Senate, no such provision will become law under our watch. Vermont Yankee contributes tremendously to the economy in Windham County, not to mention our power needs." Yes. Shumlin wrote this and signed it.
- Make Your Smartphone into a Radiation Detector from Nuclear Diner
- Myths and truths of nuclear liability insurance from Atomic Insights
- Reports on the Blue Ribbon Commission Final Report from NEI Nuclear Notes
- TalkNuclear from the Canadian Nuclear Assocation
- i-Nuclear which covers world nuclear, and is based in UK.
Thursday, January 26, 2012
- What kinds of jobs are available in nuclear energy?
- What are the requirements to obtain these jobs?
- Nuclear Science Week website for overviews and activities
- Nuclear Clean Air Energy site for links to presentations about nuclear science and by nuclear engineers, including what it is like to be a young woman working in nuclear energy
- ANS Nuclear Cafe, with a series of posts and picture galleries of some of the Nuclear Science Week activities
- Atomic Power Review, with a Nuclear Science Week post every day this week, including a beautifully illustrated post on Russian nuclear icebreaker ships.
Wednesday, January 25, 2012
Tuesday, January 24, 2012
- A state can't insist a business in the state give good prices in-state and higher prices out-of-state. That violates the Commerce Clause of the Consitution, and even AG Sorrell thinks Entergy could collect legal fees from the state on this subject.
- Nobody can change a contract unilaterally. In this case, a state can't change a contract unilaterally. This is standard contract law AND a clause of the Constitution AND this issue was the basis for one of the first cases decided by the United States Supreme Court. The Georgia state legislature tried to break its own contracts by passing a new law. The Supreme Court did not allow Georgia to do so. As of 1810.
- The NRC has the responsibility of regulating issues of radiological safety. State actions attempted to pre-empt this federal prerogative. Perhaps the State could attempt to gather evidence that it was not considering radiological safety in its Senate vote. However, with the other two legs of the ruling in good shape, weakening the radiological pre-emption leg would not lead to the verdict being overturned.
Monday, January 23, 2012
When it bought Vermont Yankee in 2002, Entergy agreed to apply for Certificates of Public Good from the Public Service Board. It applied for and received certificates for a power up-rate and for used fuel storage in dry casks. It also applied for a certificate for operation after March 21, 2012.
The Public Service Board held hearings on the certificate for continued operation, and these hearings were apparently completed. Thus, the Board is ready to either issue a certificate or refuse one. I expect the Board will not act until the Attorney General reviews the District Court decision and officially advises the Board what actions it may take. Then the Board would either issue a Certificate of Public Good, issue one with conditions, or refuse to issue one.
There are a number of factors the Board may consider while deliberating on whether to issue a certificate. Let us evaluate some of these.
One thing the Board cannot consider is safety!!
The plant has a forty-year record showing no negative effect on its environment, as is required by its license. No basis here for "not in the general good."
The water quality permit
The Public Service Board and plant opponents are suing the Nuclear Regulatory Commission claiming that its extension of Vermont Yankee’s license was invalid because the application did not contain proof of compliance with the Clean Water Act. The plant currently operates under an extension of its water quality permit from the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources.
To us non-lawyers, this is a murky business. If the plant’s current permit is not valid, why does the State let the plant operate? On the other hand, if the plant does have a valid permit, why sue the NRC? Moreover, if the claims in the suit are valid, how come there was no action on this during the five years the NRC was considering the license extension? In the end, it is difficult to see why this is the business of the Public Service Board rather than of the permit issuer, the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources.
If the suit fails, there is no basis for a negative finding because the plant is still required to obey the terms of the permit without any Board intervention. If the suit succeeds, then the status of the water quality permit becomes irrelevant.
Vermont utilities will be buying no power directly from Vermont Yankee after March 21, so the price of its electric power is irrelevant. The price of electricity for Vermont rate payers will be based on the wholesale market rate determined by the grid operator. Part of this grid power will be from Vermont Yankee, and its wholesale price will be higher than the contract price paid before March 21. Vermont utilities have made no new contracts with Vermont Yankee, apparently expecting the plant to close down.
Vermont ratepayers may, however, benefit from the agreement made at the time Entergy purchased the plant. Vermont utilities will get half the profits realized at any wholesale price above 6.5 cents per kilowatt hour.
Vermont Yankee has a large payroll and purchases many services in Vermont. In addition, the plant pays a large part of the cost of the Emergency Plan for the area around it. Brattleboro and neighboring towns are required to have a plan because of the railroad, among other things. It seems the Board could find that the economic impact of Vermont Yankee is positive.
The plant has been very reliable. Reliability affects the price the plant has to charge, and this affects profits. Lack of profits would mean that the revenue expected from the above 6.5 cents sales would not be received. It would seem that possible lack of expected, but not guaranteed, revenue is not a basis for a finding of “not in the general good.”
There have been no complaints of noise or other esthetic problems. The plant erected a fence to hide the Dry Casks from being seen from the river, the far shore, or the field north of the plant. It does not seem there is a basis for finding negative esthetic effects.
The history of actions and legal obstructions by plant opponents may cause the Board to require improved communication with the public as a condition of granting a Certificate of Public Good.
Examining the Court’s Decision
The news has carried stories since the District Court decision reporting that State agencies are researching ways to prevent plant operation. It remains to be seen what “rabbits will be pulled out of what hats.”
Thursday, January 19, 2012
Wednesday, January 18, 2012
Monday, January 16, 2012
Sunday, January 15, 2012
Saturday, January 14, 2012
Image of dry cask storage from NRC student information area.
Thursday, January 12, 2012
Tuesday, January 10, 2012
- sell power at the market price when the price is high enough
- sell power at a fixed price, and have to reimburse the utility when they have promised power but can't deliver
- sell power at a fixed price, and don't have to reimburse anybody if their power isn't available
- don't want to tell us the terms of their contracts
- Dan Yurman at Idaho Samizdat reviews a book on the Integral Fast Reactor. This program included the whole fuel cycle for the reactors, including waste management.
- At ANS Nuclear Cafe, Yurman delved into the recently-passed Energy and Water Appropriations bill of 2012. Nuclear energy research was largely spared from major cuts.
- At Yes Vermont Yankee, I described five, count'em, five current or recently-resolved lawsuits about Vermont Yankee.
- At Nuclear Diner, Cheryl Rofer summarized Japan's interim report on the Fukushima accident. There is more known about the communication failures than about the physical failure sequence.
- At Atomic Power Review, Will Davis describes an upcoming symposium about reporting on Fukushima. The reporting was pretty terrible, and there's hope it will be recognized at this symposium.
- At Atomic Insights, Rod Adams looks into energy density and fuel availability. If we want a future of more than 100 years of abundant energy, the answer is New and Clear. (My pun, not Rod's.)
- At NEI Nuclear Notes, Mark Flanagan reviews how France and the U.S. are upgrading reactors in response to Fukushima.
- Brian Wang describes Toshiba's new system for cleaning soil of radioactive cesium.
Monday, January 9, 2012
Thursday, January 5, 2012
- State pre-emption of Federal regulatory prerogatives of nuclear safety.
- State breach of contract by one-sided changes in a contract.
- The plant's position in interstate commerce and the commerce clause of the Constitution.
Picture of the Brattleboro District Courthouse on June 23, 2011. It is the morning of the injunction hearing. Robbie Leppzer is interviewing me, and Vermont Yankee opponents are in front of the courthouse. Howard Shaffer took this picture.