Sunday, April 29, 2012

102nd Carnival of Nuclear Energy At Next Big Future

The 102nd Blog Carnival is posted at Next Big Future.  Once again, Brian Wang has done a splendid job of putting together a great Carnival.  Rod Adams on an Australian project on climate change, Stephen Aplin on how PBS story on water in Africa manages to omit the fact that the new purification methods require electricity, me about San Onofre at Atomic Power Review blog, and me about KI pills at this blog.  And there's more: Gail Marcus and Brian Wang on world-wide events, Steve Skutnik on how nuclear proponents have a "tin ear" for what might persuade their audiences, and a provocative post from Charles Barton on Uranium as a Renewable Resource (think sea-water!)  And more, too!

It's a great Carnival.  Stop by and visit.  Enjoyable reading for a spring evening!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

AP Retraction: No Iodine Pills, No Radiation Poisoning at Brattleboro High School

"Iodine Pills" at Brattleboro High School
On Saturday April 14, there was a rally against Vermont Yankee in downtown Brattleboro.  AP had a story about it which was widely reprinted. Among other places, the story appeared in the Burlington Free Press.  The article was titled Vermont Yankee protest draws quadruple-digit crowd.

The AP story included this astounding statement:
Putney resident Nancy Olsen, 65, a teacher, said she stumbled upon the rally and stopped to see what people had to say. Overall, she said, she has mixed feelings about the plant remaining open.

“When the school distributed iodine pills to the teachers it was a little bit of a shock, because I hadn’t really thought about it that much,” she said, referring to the pills that were handed out at Brattleboro Union High School during last year’s tritium leak to counteract the radiation poisoning. 

What-what-what-what?? ( That was my reaction.)  Pills were handed out at Brattleboro High School?  Only to the teachers?  KI for tritium? "The radiation poisoning?" And the tritium leak was 2010, not last year, though that seems a rather trivial point, considering everything else.

Calling the High School

After I read this, I called Brattleboro Union High School to find out more about it.  Olsen is a teacher at the high school, and they offered to connect me to her.  However, I figured I already knew what she had said, and did not ask to be connected.  I wanted to know if and when such pills were distributed: therefore, I wanted to speak to the principal.

I spoke to people, but I didn't do a very good investigation. I am not blaming anyone for not resolving the issue.  Everybody was very nice. Everybody also seemed very eager to refer me to someone else to talk to. Before I was done, I had spoken with someone in the prinicipal's office, someone in the school district office, and one of the school nurses. I was also encouraged to speak to the Vermont Department of Health, but I didn't follow up.  In general, the people I spoke to didn't know about any KI distribution, but nobody said: "It certainly did NOT happen."

I folded my mini-investigation. Before I folded, I spoke to some Brattleboro friends about my adventures. I have no idea if my friends followed up the investigation.


Something happened.  I don't know who did what, but something happened that encouraged the AP to write a correction, which is now running in various papers. Here's the correction:

BRATTLEBORO, Vt. (AP) — In a story about the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant, The Associated Press erroneously reported several details about a tritium leak from the plant. The tritium did not cause radiation poisoning and posed no harm to the public, according to state health officials. The leak took place over a couple of months in late 2009 and early 2010, not last year. Also, the Vermont Health Department distributes potassium iodide — not iodine— pills in case of a leak of a different type of radiation and did not distribute pills for the tritium leak.

It was good to see this correction.


My own coverage of the rally is in two parts: Three Views of the April 14 Rally, and We start with Vermont Yankee.  Later, we shut down capitalism.

Radio Days: Podcast from Massachusetts and on the air in Vermont

On Tuesday Morning, Richard Schmidt and I debated Vermont Yankee's future against Michael J. Daley and Jeff Napolitano.  The debate was on WHMP radio, broadcasting from Northampton, Massachusetts.

Today, the podcast of the debate is on-line.  Also, there's a nice photo gallery of the debate.  I will write about this debate more in the future, but right now, I wanted to put up the links and thank WHMP for hosting it.

I can't write more now because I am going to be on the radio again later this morning, this time broadcasting from Waterbury, Vermont. From 11 a..m. to 12 noon, I will be on WDEV(AM 550, FM 96.1).  I will be on the Rob Roper Common Sense Radio Show.  This show is sponsored by the Ethan Allen Institute, which also sponsors the Energy Education Project that I direct.  Rob Roper is also the editor and force behind the web site True North Reports, which is always worth reading.  

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

San Onofre Steam Generators: My Post at Atomic Power Review

Introducing my post, San Onofre and Steam Generator Design at Atomic Power Review.


An excellent post by Dan Yurman, Debunking Some Nuclear Nonsense, introduced me to the controversies about the new steam generators at San Onofre.  The steam generators are newly installed, and having unexpected problems.  His post also introduced me to Arnie Gundersen's critiques of the San Onofre steam generators, how they were made, how they were designed, etc.  These critiques were  funded by Friends of the Earth.

I try to stick to energy issues in my own region, the Northeast, but this situation got under my skin.  You see, I actually know a great deal about steam generators and their issues.  I was a project manager in the Steam Generator Owner's Group at EPRI.  When I left EPRI to start my own company, I had contracts to help utilities with steam generator chemistry decisions. My contracts were in the U.S. and abroad. My expertise was in demand.

So, of course I fired off a geeky letter to the ANS mailing list about steam generators.  Will Davis of Atomic Power Review asked me to de-geek the letter a bit. He said he would put it on his blog, Atomic Power Review.

My post is up at Atomic Power review today.  I'm proud of it, and I very pleased that Will Davis encouraged me to write it.  It's getting a lot of hits...

Update: I was going to put in a series of links to other SG articles, but the NEI blog post today has done it for me.  A Reader's Guide to the San Onofre Steam Generator Situation.  Great guide to SG posts by Barq, Davis, Yurman, and people at Southern California Edison.  Thanks for the comprehensive guide to steam generator issues at SONGS.

Graphic of steam generator support plates courtesy of AREVA.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

We start with Vermont Yankee. Later, we shut down capitalism

In my recent post Three Views of the April 14 Opponent Rally,  I quoted a friend's email to me:

This one sign, held high and very visible at the rally, says it all, or very nearly:
Shut down VT Yankee 
Shut down all nukes 
Shut down capitalism

The first comment  on my post asked if I had a picture of the sign.  Of course I didn't, but I found one!  You can see the gazebo in this picture, too.  The speakers addressed the crowd from that gazebo.

If you go back to my blog post and watch the video, or if you follow its links to other coverage of the rally, you will not see this sign. Regular media did not take pictures of it, as far as I can tell.


Sunday, April 22, 2012

Guest Post by Kit P: EPA, NRC and Coal Environmental Studies

In my blog post Vermont Yankee is Not Fukushima, I compared the health effects of Vermont Yankee with the more serious health effects from coal, quoting an EPA paper. Kit P made incisive comments  on that post, stating that the EPA link did not show the cause-and-effect relationships that I thought it showed.

 I felt his comments were too important to be hidden in a long (17 comment) stream of responses to a blog post. I invited Kit to write a guest post. He was good enough to write one, and here it is.

The Purpose of Environmental Studies

One reason to read environmental studies is to learn information to make informed decisions about solving environment problems. One reason to cite environmental studies is to promote an agenda.

I worked at a nuke plant in California called Rancho Seco when it closed. Studies have cited how infant mortality improved after the plant closed. I have not read the study. One way to improve infant mortality is to provide free prenatal care for the poor which is just what happened about the same time as the closing of the plant.

My point here is to recognize the difference between improving the quality of life and fear mongering.

So on one hand I am an advocate of VY and on the other hand fear mongering about other sources of power is unnecessary. If VY closes it will be an economic loss for those who work at VY and the state that has to import power most likely by burning fossil fuel someplace else.

Is the EPA fear-mongering?

The question that this essay attempts to raise is the Obama EPA fear mongering? If so Meredith has jointed the ranks of an Obama sock puppet. She should not feel too bad being in the company of a Nobel Prize winner in Physics. (Meredith comments: "Sock puppet", "shill", whatever. No problem!)

Meredith writes:

“On the other hand, some of the worst air quality in their models is Ohio and Pennsylvania. ”

From the map, “Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR) RIA, Table 1-1 and -2; mortality impacts estimated using Laden et al. (2006), Levy et al. (2006), Pope et al. (2002) and Bell et al. (2004); monetized benefits discounted at 3%.”

The following are listed references and quotes:

  • Laden et al. (2006): “Reduction in Fine Particulate Air Pollution and Mortality Extended Follow-up of the Harvard Six Cities Study”  
    • “Annual city-specific PM2.5 concentrations were measured between 1979 and 1988, and estimated for later years from publicly available data.”
  • Levy et al. (2006), “Ozone exposure and mortality: an empiric bayes metaregression analysis."zxs 
    • "We gathered 71 time-series studies relating ozone to all-cause mortality, ”
  • Pope et al. (2002). “Lung cancer, cardiopulmonary mortality, and long-term exposure to fine particulate air pollution.”
    • “The risk factor data for approximately 500 000 adults were linked with air pollution data for metropolitan areas throughout the United States and combined with vital status and cause of death data through December 31, 1998.”
  • Bell et al. (2004). “Ozone and Short-term Mortality in 95 US Urban Communities, 1987-2000” 
    • "we estimated a national average relative rate of mortality associated with short-term exposure to ambient ozone for 95 large US urban communities from 1987-2000.” “Deaths for people aged 75 years and older comprised approximately half of total deaths in these 95 communities. ” “Ozone pollution is now widespread in urban areas in the United States and many other countries. Its rise reflects primarily increased numbers of motor vehicles and miles traveled; vehicle emissions are a major source of precursor hydrocarbons and nitrogen oxides. ”
Nice Try, EPA, But Those References Are Not About Coal

Nice try EPA but if you want to make claims about 'mortality impacts' of coal don't you think that coal should be the source of the pollution? The second problem with these studies is 'cause and effect' is not studied. The third problem is that 'mortality impacts' are not defined.

So what do all the studies say for those who are worried about air pollution cutting short their life?

  • Do not smoke. 
  • Do not heat your house with coal, wood, or dried manure. 
  • If you do not want your children to breathe mercury, do not break things with mercury in your house bigger than a thermometer.

For the US there are just no studies that provide a 'smoking' gun for 'mortality impacts' related to coal plants, Yes there are chronically ill people and yes they die. We all die but I am skeptical that our good air quality is the cause.

NRC and EPA Regulatory Approaches

Let me approach the question from a different angle. The NRC and the EPA regulate differently.

The NRC is very site specific. Each nuke plant must show that annual offsite exposure is less than 5 mrem/year compared to 300 mrem/year average background. Each plant provides an annual report. For example, I used to live 12 miles from a nuke plant. One year I checked the annual report and the offsite exposure was below detectable. A calculation estimated the annual offsite exposure is less than 0.004 mrem/year.

Downwind of the nuke plant about 90 miles, background is 1800 mrem/year because of elevation and radon. If Downwinders are concerned about radiation, they should more closer to the nuke. This downwind location sometimes has air quality issues. The same conditions that trap radon also trap pollution from cars/trucks. However, there are not coal-based generation impacting air quality.

The US EPA looks at air quality based on regional measuring stations and can be found at and the Weather Channel will also provide a local report. I frequently monitor this site looking for places where the air quality is above a threshold of harm.

At the moment, Cleveland/Akron has just reached that threshold.

The EPA provides this warning, “Health Message: Unusually sensitive people should consider reducing prolonged or heavy exertion.”

The Third Approach

The '"Ain't It Awful" group hates good news. Zero is the number of people who check and tell me I am wrong. Air quality is very good in the US. Air pollution has no 'mortality impacts' any more.

A third approach is the correct approach. The benefits of power generation far out weighs the risks.

 Closing Vermont Yankee requires that the power be replaced as discussed in the Vermont Yankee renewal EIS:

Already know what it will say:

Table 8-2
Air Emissions from Coal-Fired Alternative

As such, Entergy concludes that the coal-fired alternative would have MODERATE impacts on air quality; the impacts would be clearly noticeable, but would not destabilize air quality in the area. (Page 8-8)

However, in the absence of more quantitative data, human health impacts from radiological doses and inhaling toxins and particulates generated by a coal-fired plant at an alternate site are considered to be SMALL. (Page 8-9)

Therefore, it is official the environmental impact of nukes is less than a coal-based power plant, but this does not justify saying that coal is causing 'mortality impacts'.

Evidence for Impacts?

Is there any evidence?

“The NRC stated in the GEIS that there could be human health impacts (cancer and emphysema)
from inhalation of toxins and particulates from a coal-fired plant, but the GEIS does not identify the significance of these impacts [Reference 8-11].”

As far as I know, lung cancer and emphysema are strongly associated with smoking and nothing else. So I went to NUREG-1437 looking for the reference. No reference was listed.

While I think WIKI is a place to start, it is a source to be skeptical about. What could be some of the other causes of emphysema?

“This could include exposure to air pollution, second-hand smoke, and/or other chemicals and toxins.[citation needed]”

Here is the deal with a smoking gun, the absence of evidence is not actually evidence. However, if coal-based power is causing 'mortality impacts' or mercury poisoning there should be lots of smoking guns.

We Can and Have Solved Environmental and Safety Issues

There is lots of evidence that systematic approaches to solving environmental and safety issues work. Measured levels of air quality have shown huge improvements over the last 50 years in the US so that it no longer has 'mortality impacts'.

Air quality is poor for billions of poor because of cooking and heating using coal and biomass. Industrial societies show that air quality improves by electrification with affordable power if coal is the source.

Blog Carnival at ANS, and a New Blog with Attitude

The 101st Blog Carnival of Nuclear Energy is posted today at ANS Nuclear Cafe.  Once again, Dan Yurman has put together a great, wide-ranging Carnival, including:

  • a book review (Superfuel about thorium molten salt reactors) reviewed by Rick Maltese at Thorium MSR,  
  • why ExxonMobil is betting on higher natural gas prices in the future, by Rod Adams at Atomic Insights,
  • projections of world nuclear power, and nuclear power in Turkey, but Brian Wang at Next Big Future,
  • debunking nuclear energy nonsense (especially about Fukushima and San Onofre) by Dan Yurman at Idaho Samizdat
  • important early history of nuclear power by Will Davis at Atomic Power Review
  • the launch of the Nuclear Literacy Project at ANS Nuclear Cafe by Suzy Hobbs Baker
  • competition for Small Modular Reactors at ANS Nuclear Cafe by Dan Yurman
  • update on unit 2 of Fukushima by Leslie Corrice of HiroshimaSyndrome.
I ended with the Hiroshima Syndrome blog because there's a great new blog by MIT grad students, and it is called Things Worse Than Nuclear Power.  This is a blog with attitude, and I love it.  Some sample posts:

I ended with Les Corrice's Hiroshima Syndrome blog because I think that name also shows some attitude. Corrice believes much of the fear of nuclear energy is due to confusion between reactors and bombs, and he names his blog to reflect that. Similarly, a blog named Things Worse Than Nuclear Power shows a willingness to tackle misconceptions and make comparisons to other technologies.

Gosh, I would never have named my blog anything so provocative as Hiroshima Syndrome or Things Worse Than Nuclear Power. I think the names are great.

Of course, around some parts of Vermont, the statement Yes Vermont Yankee is pretty provocative in its own way!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Three Events, Three Opportunities to Attend, and A Little More

Three upcoming events need your attention and support.  The local grid depends on nuclear power, but national anti-nuclear groups are bringing their campaigns to our doorsteps.
Remember:  A charge unanswered is a charge believed!  We must stand together against these prophets of gloom, doom and misinformation—your help is needed.

1) Radio Panel about Vermont Yankee

WHEN:  Tuesday, April 24, 8-10 AM
WHAT: Vermont Yankee Power Struggle: Radio Panel, Northhampton, MA
WHERE:  WHMP Radio with frequencies at AM1400/1240/1600 and FM96.9, broadcasting from Sylvester's Restaurant in Northhampton, MA.
WHO:  The Energy Education Project is sending Meredith Angwin and Richard Schmidt to defend nuclear energy and provide factual information about Vermont Yankee.  Two people will speak against nuclear: Michael Daley, a long-time activist,  and Jeff Napolitano, a civil disobedience trainer with the American Friends Service Committee
Listen, call in, attend in person!  It will not stream on the web but will be podcast later.
Call-in number is 413-586-7140.  Questions can also be posted in advance on the station's Facebook page.
My blog post on this: YES VERMONT YANKEE

 2) Freeze Pilgrim Forum about Pilgrim Relicensing

WHEN:  Wednesday, April 25, 7-9 PM
WHAT:  Freeze Pilgrim Forum. Plymouth, MA
WHERE: Plymouth South Middle School, Plymouth, MA
WHO:  Russell Gocht, PhD student at UMASS Lowell and ANS student member, will be opposite David Lochbaum of UCS.  Expect Mr. Lochbaum to discuss his report on the NRC's post Fukushima actions (on the UCS website).
Attend or Watch:

3) Union of Concerned Scientists Townhall Meeting

WHEN:  Thursday, April 26, 6-9 PM
WHAT:  Union of Concerned Scientists Town Hall Meeting—Nuclear Safety & Security in New England
WHERE:   Massachusetts Institute of Technology,  Wong Auditorium, Tang Center,  70 Memorial Dr  Cambridge, MA 02142
WHO: Dave Lochbaum, Director, UCS Nuclear Safety Project ; U.S. Representative Edward Markey (D-Malden); Ray Shadis, Consultant, New England Coalition; Mary Lampert, Director, Pilgrim Watch; Debbie Grinnell, Research Manager, C-10 Foundation
Attend this event!   Snacks and beverages will be provided. The organizers have requested that people RSVP through the website below.
Event announcement: Safe and Green Energy Alliance website


The information above was sent to Energy Education Project supporters yesterday, and was published today on Rod Adam's blog, Atomic Insights.  Thank you, Rod!

And A Little More, that I did not send out in the main note:

Common Sense Radio:

Thursday, April 26, 11 to 12 o'clock. AM 550 and FM 96.1, I will be Rob Roper's guest for an hour on Common Sense Radio, WDEV, .1 from Montpelier to Burlington (more or less). You can call in with questions at 802-244-1777 or 1-877-291-8255 (toll free).

Friday, April 20, 2012

Three Views of the April 14 Opponent Rally

On Saturday April 14, opponents of Vermont Yankee held a rally on Brattleboro Green.  Here are three views of the rally: Before, during and after.

First: Before the Rally
Opponent leaders were quite optimistic about attendance at the rally.  State Bigwigs were expected.  Governor Shumlin, Attorney General Sorrell, and Senator Sanders were all scheduled to speak at the rally. As a Rutland Herald article stated: "'We are expecting well over 1,000 people,' said DeWalt, while other activists sent out emails Thursday urging people to 'pack the Commons' with upwards of 5,000 people."  (Article by Susan Smallheer of the Rutland Herald, published on April 13 and unfortunately behind a paywall),

Rally organizers said that the Saturday date, the peaceful plans (no arrests), the important speakers, the better weather (than the March 22 rally) and the band--all would lead to a very full and successful rally.

Second: The Rally Itself
About a thousand people came, and this short video by WCAX gives a good view of the rally, including parts of Shumlin, Sanders and Sorrell's speeches.

In one memorable moment, Sanders said that the people who work at Yankee will still have jobs, tearing it down.  (The comments on this video clip run heavily against the statements that these politicians made.)  If you want to hear all the speeches, you can follow the audio links at this Vermont Digger article.

First Hand Report: A friend of mine went to the rally, and she wrote me an email. She said I could excerpt the email for my blog, but she did not want her name used. Here's an excerpt.

Lovely sunny day and the crowd grew to perhaps 1000 by 1PM. At one point, a State Representative from Massachusetts spoke and asked for a show of hands from those who were from Massachusetts. I would say a good third of the crowd raised their hands... The sound system was of very good quality....which makes or breaks these events... (I think) the best way to describe the event, its feel and texture, is ..(to describe some bumper stickers and signs I saw) Bumper stickers: Childhood is a journey not a race. Animal rights are not special rights. Invest in weapons of mass instruction. We the people not we the corporations. All soil is sacred...another sign. This one sign, held high and very visible at the rally, says it all, or very nearly:
Shut down VT Yankee 
Shut down all nukes 
Shut down capitalism.

Third: After the Rally
The politicians made speeches, and they said things that may have been impolitic.

In the Commons, a not-for-profit newspaper in Brattleboro, an editorial encouraged Bernie Sanders to fact-check before he spoke.

Meanwhile, as Governor Shumlin is encouraging Green Mountain Power (owned by a Canadian company) to buy Central Vermont Public Service.  The legislature does not like the terms of the proposed deal, but Shumlin says the legislature should not interfere.

Since Shumlin led the charge on the legislature interfering with Vermont Yankee, Shumlin's recent statements on the subject have led to a bit of snickering, as in this Seven Days article: Populist Governor Peter Shumlin Changes His Mind on Out-of-State Energy.

My Comment: Adoring Crowds

The local politicians, all running for re-election this year, took this opportunity to speak with an adoring crowd. Later press pointed out that their statements were inaccurate and inconsistent.  It was a smaller adoring-crowd than they had hoped for, but perhaps the fervent anti-capitalist tone made up for the few numbers.

Judging by the later press, politicians should note that adoring crowds are dangerous.  You may be tempted to say things you will later regret.    It can happen.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Video of October Rally

I was trying to find a reference for a blog post I am writing, and I looked at my April 12 Vermont Yankee Google alert. (My Google alerts contain many useful links.) To my surprise, I encountered this video. I guess I didn't notice it when I reviewed the April 12 alert on April 12.

I have no idea who took the video, but they must be a supporter, because the video is titled "Yes Vermont Yankee!" Apparently it was posted about a week ago.

I decided to use the video as a post while I continue writing the other blog post. I honor this supporter, watchguy53, whoever he (or she) might be! Thanks for the video.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Welcome to the Nuclear Literacy Project

The Nuclear Literacy Project (NLP) launched yesterday. Quoting Rod Adams great post about NLP:

The site is designed to appeal to curious people who do not have preconceived notions, but really want to learn more about nuclear energy and radiation.

When you visit the site, please make sure that you read about the NLP History, watch a few of the posted videos, scroll through the fast facts and take a quiz to test your own nuclear knowledge.

If you are already a nuclear professional and know everything you need to know about the topic, you should instead consider making a tax deductible contribution to the project.

Why This Project Is Important

I am on the Board of Directors of the organization of which this project is a part: PopAtomic Studios. In my opinion, this project is important because it will tell the story of nuclear energy in blog posts and in apps and in quizzes and in art. The founder of the project, Suzy Hobbs Baker, is a hero of mine.

She's a YOUNG hero of mine! And that is another reason this project is important. It is written in the voice and diction of youth. It is a project built by people who want a better world in the future, and will be hanging around in the future long enough to enjoy it.

I meet many anti-nuclear activists, who were "arrested at Shoreham" or have been "against nuclear power since the 70s." This is the older generation, with the older prejudices. Hey, I am a grandma myself, nothing against older people in general! But we are not the future. We can't be.

Instead of thinking about people with long gray hair and getting all depressed, I prefer to think of the nuclear literacy project with its youthful mix of programming and art and fun and facts. This Nuclear Literacy Project is exactly what the nuclear industry needs.

My Favorite Things on the Website

Kaille Metzger describing a meeting where honest questioning completely discombobulated Helen Caldicott.

Any of the videos (except maybe Bill Gates)

Vermont Yankee Power Struggle: Radio Forum on April 24th

Richard Schmidt and I will be on a radio show about Vermont Yankee on Tuesday morning next week. There will be two people in favor of the plant (Richard and I) and two who are opposed to its continued operation. The two opponents are a long-time opponent, Michael Daley, and a trainer with the American Friends Service Committee, Jeff Napolitano. I have met neither of them. A slightly edited version of the announcement is below. We will be broadcasting from Northampton, MA.

A link to a guest post by Richard Schmidt about strontium in fish.

The goal of the radio program is to focus on the issues surrounding the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant, including the current court battle regarding licensing between VT Yankee and the State of Vermont, safety issues, environmental concerns, economic/employment issues, as well as energy supply matters.

The program will be live, and also recorded for a podcast at, which you can feel free to link to. Excerpts from the program will also be used in WHMP newscasts. Questions from callers and/or those in attendance at Sylvester’s will be entertained.

The forum will be a live, two hour broadcast on WHMP Radio with frequencies at AM1400/1240/1600 and FM96.9, covering the Northampton, Greenfield, and Springfield radio markets. The broadcast will take place from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. on Tuesday, April 24th from Sylvester’s Restaurant at 111 Pleasant St. in downtown Northampton.

The hosts of the program will be WHMP staffers:
  • Bob Flaherty, Morning Show host
  • Denise Vozella, News Director
  • Bill Newman, Host of the Bill Newman Show (9 a.m. talk show)
  • Mary Serreze, Reporter for WHMP and
Panelists for this program will be:

  • Meredith Angwin, Member of the American Nuclear Society, Nuclear energy expert, Blogger for Yes Vermont Yankee.
  • Richard Schmidt, Chemical and Nuclear Engineer, resident of Westmoreland, NH
  • Michael Daley, lifelong opponent of the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant and a clean energy advocate. He lives in a solar-powered home in Westminster West, Vt.
  • Jeff Napolitano, Director of the American Friends Service Committee in Western Mass, which hosts the Nuclear Free Coalition, and trainer for the anti-nuclear SAGE Alliance.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

100th Carnival of Nuclear Energy at Atomic Power Review

The 100th Carnival of Nuclear Energy Bloggers is up at Atomic Power Review. This 100th edition is a big event for the nuclear blogosphere, and many of us saved important announcements and new launches for this Carnival.

For weeks now, Will Davis at Atomic Power Review has been asking bloggers: "Do you have something good? Do you have something new?" I saved my "All of Vermont Wins" post for this Carnival, because I am very proud of it. The quality of the other people's posts is even better! This is truly a carnival to read.

Three New Launches

There are three important new launches in this Carnival.

First, the Nuclear Literacy Project (NLP) launch was announced in this Carnival, and its website went live for the Carnival! The NLP site includes fun facts, quizzes, information, art (PopAtomic Studios) and a blog. The first blog post is an eye-witness account of a Helen Caldicott lecture. Faced with actual questions, Caldicott grew upset, refused to answer, and left the stage suddenly. After she left, the audience members had mutually informative conversations about nuclear energy! Welcome, Nuclear Literacy Project and its blog!

Second, Leslie Corrice of Hiroshima Syndrome blog wrote an excellent short book on what happened, reactor by reactor, at Fukushima at the beginning of the accident: Fukushima, the First Five Days. You can buy the book from him very inexpensively...this is an operator's look at Fukushima, and very valuable. Here's the link to the book description and purchase page. This hour by hour review from operator notes is something you will not see anywhere else.

Third, a new blog, Entreprenuclear, about nuclear energy and the entrepreneurial spirit. Those of you who know that Rod Adams once started his own company, Adams Atomic Engines, will recognize this attitude.

The Regular Blogs

All the other entries are very high quality. Gail Marcus on Japan. Brian Wang on the five-year future for energy use world-wide. Cheryl Rofer's eyewitness account of a visit to the Trinity Site, which is open for visitors twice a year. Dan Yurman reviews the "stretch goals" of new nuclear companies like FLIBE.

And more, of course.

This is a Carnival to remember. Read the 100th Carnival of Nuclear Energy!


By the way, the president of the American Nuclear Society and a leader at the Nuclear Energy Institute wrote tributes to the bloggers and the Carnival. You can read these tributes in the Carnival. They look at the blogosphere from a broader perspective. Also, they praise the bloggers, and everyone likes being praised. At least, I do.

Friday, April 13, 2012

All of Vermont Wins When Vermont Yankee Operates

Vermont Yankee in March, 2012

When Vermont Yankee was built, its 40-year Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) license was standard for new plants at that time. Although a new 20-year license was granted last year, the original license expires March 21. That day has become a rallying cry for plant opponents, who insist the plant must "shut down safely."

Many opponents speak as if it will be a personal defeat if the plant operates for a day past the 21st. They don't actually claim that on the 22nd, the plant will have safety problems that it didn't have on the 21st. Instead, whether the plant operates past the 21st has become a matter of "who or them?"

Safety is essential. To discredit Vermont Yankee, opponents make three standard safety-related claims. This article will answer these claims with facts, not win-lose rhetorical statements. The claims are:

1) Vermont Yankee is an old plant.

2) It could have an accident like Fukushima.

3) It puts nuclear waste on the banks of the Connecticut River.

1) Age and Vermont Yankee

Vermont Yankee is a steam-electric plant. It heats water to raise steam to turn turbines and make electricity. Coal plants are also steam-electric plants. Requirements for maintaining plant integrity are similar for nuclear and for coal. The median age of operating coal plants in this country is 46 years, and thirty coal plants have been running for more than 60 years.

I was a corrosion specialist in my working life. There are corrosion issues special to nuclear plants, and there are corrosion issues special to coal plants. These problems are different, but one is not worse than the other. If anything, coal plants have the harder time with corrosion, scaling, and other operating problems because they have to move so much material (coal) through the plant.

The power uprate made several years ago helps contribute to Vermont Yankee's reliability and safety. Opponents imagine that the power uprate is merely a matter of pushing an old plant too hard. Actually, the NRC only grants uprates when significant improvements have been made to the plant. At Vermont Yankee, Entergy in the last decade has installed $400 million dollars worth of new equipment. Much of this equipment was required for the power uprate.

In the nuclear industry, it is conventional wisdom that a power uprate is a good way to prepare for a license extension review. The plant replaces key equipment for the uprate, and the new equipment helps the plant achieve its license extension.

2) It could have an accident like Fukushima

On March 11, 2011, a massive earthquake and tsunami struck Japan. Schools collapsed, villages were swept out to sea, and an estimated 20,000 people died.

Five nuclear stations containing fifteen reactors were affected by the tsunami. All the reactors survived the earthquake, but transmission lines failed and diesel generators were flooded. At one site, three reactors lost power for too long, resulting in fuel damage, hydrogen explosions and radiation release. In accordance with emergency plans, population evacuations began almost immediately.

Japan is an industrial powerhouse and technically astute country. The question arises: Could it happen here? Shortly after Fukushima, a prominent anti-nuclear activist worried that a meltdown could happen to Vermont Yankee if a big hurricane came to the Connecticut River Valley.

A few months later, Hurricane Irene flooded whole towns and washed out roads in Vermont. Vermont Yankee still made power at full capacity. Nuclear plants are among the sturdiest structures on the planet. Vermont Yankee is designed for a 500-year-flood, 360 mph tornado winds, and severe earthquakes. Worldwide, plants have operated through hurricanes, floods and tornados, as well as earthquakes.

To operate safely, a nuclear plant needs adequate cooling water and electricity. Vermont Yankee has resilient cooling systems, appropriate for its site. The plant draws water from Vernon Pond and also stores millions of gallons on-site. It has several types of electrical backup. Its diesel generators are above the 500-year-flood level, and it also has a direct power line to Vernon Dam. River water can be pumped directly into the reactor, if necessary. Vermont Yankee is well-engineered for its location.

3) Nuclear Waste on the Banks of the Connecticut River

The storage of spent nuclear fuel is another hot-button for nuclear opponents. They delight in saying how some of this material has a half life of thousands, millions, or billions of years. They speak of the half-life in terms that imply it is terrifying that something will be radioactive for so long.

Actually, as a general rule, the longer the half-life, the less dangerous the material.

Let's look at what a "long half-life" means. Say I had a hundred atoms of an isotope with a ten-minute half-life. By the definition of “half-life”, fifty of those atoms would release radioactivity in a ten-minute period. That would be a comparatively high radioactivity release in a short time.

Now imagine I have a hundred atoms of an isotope with a ten year half life. Again by the definition of half-life, fifty atoms would release radioactivity over a period of ten years. In other words, every few months, one atom would release some radioactivity, and a few months later, another atom would. The isotope with a ten-year half-life is far less radioactive than the isotope with the ten-minute half-life.

The low radiation level of long-half-life elements is the reason we can walk in the hills, despite the presence of radioactive elements in the native rocks. These elements have long half-lives. An isotope with a million year half-life is not a very radioactive isotope!

In the near term, the dry casks can hold the fuel in great safety for hundreds of years. In the long term, "radioactive for millions of years" is a scary sound-byte does not indicate high levels of danger, now or in the future.

On March 22

When the plant operates on March 22, some plant opponents will feel they have "lost.” The plant, however, will operate as safely as it had on March 21. Plant opponents may feel that they have “lost” but Vermont will have won a future of abundant power and jobs in the southern part of the state. Safely.


This article was one of a group published by the Burlington Free Press on March 18, shortly before the Vermont Yankee "license-expiration" date of March 21, 2012. You can read the article in the Free Press here. If you do, be sure to read the comments! The article was also reprinted in other local newspapers, such at The Commons.

Photos include the Capitol Power Plant in Washington D.C, a coal-burning plant that was built in 1910 and continued to burn all coal until 2009, when environmental protests caused a switch to partial natural-gas firing. It is there as an example of how long power plants can operate, if people want them to operate.

Another picture is Hurricane Irene, from Wikipedia, and an image of happy people at Granite Gorge. Granite contains elements that are radioactive, with very long half-lives. Despite this radioactivity, New Hampshire has nick-named itself the Granite State and promotes tourism to the mountains. As it should! If you don't get a chance to visit Vermont, visit New Hampshire!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

James Lovelock Video

A short pro-nuclear video by James Lovelock.

Lovelock is the originator of the Gaia Hypothesis. Wikipedia defines this hypothesis as: all organisms and their inorganic surroundings on Earth are closely integrated to form a single and self-regulating complex system, maintaining the conditions for life on the planet.

James Lovelock is a noted environmentalist and scientist. He developed the Gaia hypothesis while designing scientific instruments for NASA.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

A Gaz Metro Catch-Up: Whose Money Is It?

A Modest Proposal Updated

I wrote a blog post called A Modest Proposal suggesting that perhaps the utility merger in Vermont could use shareholder money as a weatherization account from which Vermonters can borrow. Then, they could give ratepayer money back to the ratepayers.

You see, CVPS was supposed to give $21 million back to the ratepayers if the company were acquired, but both CVPS and Gaz Metro think it would be more fun to have the money themselves.

A lot of people are upset about Gaz Metro keeping Vermont ratepayer money. The Department of Public Service (DPS) is not upset. DPS is supposed to be the consumer watchdog for Vermont, but they aren't watching very hard.

A series of comments about the merger.

Looks like GMP decides when they've given enough money back, and then GMP takes the rest.

Vermont Representative Oliver Olsen on Have We Got a Deal for You in Vermont Tiger:

....Try following the pea in this shell game. Instead of providing a direct cash refund or using the windfall to reduce rates, the utility plans to invest in a variety of projects that will produce broad societal "benefits", which include intangibles like "reduced supply risk" and "emission reductions".... Gaz Metro will declare "mission accomplished" when $25 million of "benefits" have been tallied, and will quietly slip out the back door with $21 million in cash.

From balance sheet liability to balance sheet asset for GMP. So easy!

Patty Komline, Vermont Representative, in Vermont Tiger Give the Money Back:

...Last Friday I was a guest on VPR’s Vermont Edition with [Mary Powell] the CEO of Green Mountain Power. The people who called in overwhelming supported a simple payback. Ms. Powell was asked if the proposed merger deal turned the $21 million from a liability to an asset on their balance sheets. While reluctant to answer, Ms. Powell was clear; yes.

However, the Public Service Board May Still Do the Right Thing

Happily, it looks like the Public Service Board isn't convinced by the utility arguments on how the utilities themselves
should be keeping the money.

by Alan Panebaker
at Vermont Digger.

....The Vermont Public Service Board has never before allowed a utility to recover an acquisition “premium” from merger savings that would ordinarily be passed on to consumers. If the three-member panel approves the arrangement, it would set new precedent, according to documents from the proceeding...[but] This deal is different, company [Green Mountain Power] officials say: It is historic in nature because of its size and the potential benefits it offers for customers. (Blogger comment: Really? It's different? Because the merger is bigger and there's more money on the table? The laws and precedents change if there's more money at stake?)

Maybe The Money Will Come Back to the Ratepayers

Despite the lack of interest of the Department of Public Service in protecting the ratepayers, the Public Service Board may do the right thing. They may insist that the ratepayer money returns to the ratepayers. I surely hope so.

I conclude with another quote from Have We Got a Deal for You, by Oliver Oleson

Governor Shumlin has done a good job advocating for the utilities. But under Vermont law, the Governor’s administration is charged with representing the interests of Vermont ratepayers before the PSB. They should start doing that.

Howard Shaffer's post on his debate with Gundersen about the Pilgrim plant is posted today at ANS Nuclear Cafe. You can view it here: The Nuclear Debate on the Road.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Two Carnivals and an Update Link on the Pilgrim Debate


Howard Shaffer's post on his debate with Gundersen about the Pilgrim plant is posted today at ANS Nuclear Cafe. You can view it here: The Nuclear Debate on the Road.

The 98th Carnival

I was in Arizona last week, and I didn't link to the 98th Carnival of Nuclear Energy, compiled by Dan Yurman at Idaho Samizdat. Do visit the Carnival for links to NEI's review of Arnie Gundersen's claims about radioactivity in Japan (Gundersen won't show anyone the data), the NRC granting licenses to V C Summers reactors, a new nuclear plant coming on-line in China, and Steve Skutnik looking at the EPA rules about coal pollution and carbon caps. Steve asks if this is a step forward in pollution control, or a give-away to the natural gas industry? Will Davis at Atomic Power Review begins a new series on nuclear energy history.

Gail Marcus, of Nuke Power Talk wrote the book on nuclear energy history (Nuclear Firsts). In her blog post, she describes today's nuclear power as two steps forward and one step back. She includes an inspiring excerpt from a recent speech by President Obama on nuclear technology. Oh heck, I'm going to quote some of his speech from her blog:

...let’s never forget the astonishing benefits that nuclear technology has brought to our lives. Nuclear technology helps make our food safe. It prevents disease in the developing world. It’s the high-tech medicine that treats cancer and finds new cures. And, of course, it’s the energy—the clean energy—that helps cut the carbon pollution that contributes to climate change.

And also, a big welcome back to Charles Barton and Nuclear Green, with the history of power development at Oak Ridge.

99th Carnival of Nuclear Energy Bloggers

This week's Carnival went up today at NEI Nuclear notes. Nuclear Green looks at the Clinch River reactor, and Gail Marcus takes a hard look at the latest Mark Cooper claims about nuclear energy economics. (Cooper is a member of the Vermont Law School adjunct faculty who himself claims to be an economist.) Idaho Samizdat looks at the conditions set for restarting San Onofre, and Brian Wang of Next Big Future and Will Davis of Atomic Power Review catch up on recent developments. A Carnival with many controversial posts and thought-provoking ideas!


We had a family celebration in Arizona last week, and I wanted to share some pictures of desert flowers that I took at Hassayampa River Preserve, near Wickenburg, Arizona. Hey, it's my blog, and I'll include some pretty pictures if I want to!

Have a great spring!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

When Did "Nuclear" Become a Four Letter Word? A guest post by Cheryl Twarog

Cheryl Twarog is the wife of a Vermont Yankee employee. She's holding the THNX VY sign in the picture above, taken at the St. Patrick's Day rally. Twarog wrote this guest post about her recent experiences in energy education.

At the St. Patrick's Day rally for Vermont Yankee I had a conversation with another mother, who happens to live near the plant. We talked about our firm belief that children should be taught HOW to think, not WHAT to think. We spoke of how we encourage our own children to learn the facts supporting all sides of an issue (yes, even nuclear power) before forming an opinion. It turns out that this was a timely discussion.

Last week an educator from a local utility company made the rounds in the elementary school where I work. She pays a visit each year for the purpose of educating the children about electricity. Topics include energy safety, consumption, conservation, and production. I have a lot of respect for her, as she is always kind, professional, and generous with her time. Every year I listen intently, waiting for her to at least acknowledge the existence of nuclear power. This seems to be one of those inconvenient facts that is conveniently left out of every lesson.

This year I inquired about the percentage of power that the company obtains from Seabrook. She politely directed me to the company's website. Well, after years of listening to her tout the benefits of wind and solar power, as well as the wonders of a Portsmouth plant that burns cocoa bean pods instead of wood, I decided to do a little more fact checking: "But you do have a contract with Seabrook?" She answered "Yes", then she continued on to say, "But we don't talk about 'that'. We only discuss the sources that are in the area."

Hmmm... First I was surprised that she referred to nuclear power as "that." Who knew that "nuclear" is a 4-letter word! Then I wondered how Portsmouth could be considered to be local, while Seabrook is not. I would have liked to see all of the facts given. It would have been appropriate to give a complete list of the types energy sources the company uses without cherry picking which ones to include or exclude.

As parents, we rightfully spend so much time and thought educating our children to be fair and analytical thinkers, so they can separate fact from fiction, rational thought from emotion, and science from politics. Maybe we should expect the same from the educators.

Notes about the illustrations.

The photo at the top was downloaded (with permission) from the Vermont Yankee Facebook page album of the St. Patrick's Day Rally. I thank Vermont Yankee for letting me use the picture. It shows Cheryl Twarog and one of her sons and her husband (both with green hats). The man at the forefront of the picture is Bill Schulze. (I didn't know that man's name, but Michael Empey told me. Thanks to Michael! )

The map shows the Schiller biomass and coal plant at Portsmouth (orange balloon, above) and the Seabrook station (red balloon, below). Schiller Station is 150 MW, of which 50 MW is biomass. Seabrook Nuclear Station is 1,200 MW. The Vermont Yankee plant is near Brattleboro, at the left of the map (not marked with a balloon, sorry!) Many VY employees live in nearby towns in New Hampshire and Massachusetts. Clicking on the map will give you a clearer image.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Vermont Yankee is Not Fukushima

Vermont Yankee is not Fukushima

On March 11, 2011, a massive earthquake and tsunami struck Japan. Schools collapsed, villages were swept out to sea, and an estimated 20,000 people died.

Five nuclear stations containing fifteen reactors were affected by the tsunami. All the reactors survived the earthquake, but transmission lines failed and diesel generators were flooded. At one site, three reactors lost power for too long, resulting in fuel damage, hydrogen explosions and radiation release. In accordance with emergency plans, population evacuations began almost immediately.

Japan is an industrial powerhouse and technically astute country. The question arises: Could it happen here? Specifically, could this happen at Vermont Yankee, a sister reactor to those in Fukushima?

Vermont Yankee Safeguards

Worldwide, plants have operated through hurricanes, floods and tornados, as well as earthquakes. Shortly after Fukushima, a prominent anti-nuclear activist worried that a meltdown could happen to Vermont Yankee if a big hurricane came to the Connecticut River Valley. A few months later, Hurricane Irene arrived. During the storm, roads washed away and neighboring towns were flooded. Vermont Yankee still made power at full capacity. Nuclear plants are among the sturdiest structures on the planet. Vermont Yankee is designed for a 500-year-flood, 360 mph tornado winds, and severe earthquakes.

To operate safely, a nuclear plant needs adequate cooling water and electricity. Vermont Yankee draws water from Vernon Pond and also stores millions of gallons on-site. It has several types of electrical backup. Its diesel generators are above the 500-year-flood level. The plant also has a direct power line to Vernon Dam. River water can be pumped directly into the reactor, if necessary. Vermont Yankee is well-engineered for its location.

Vermont Yankee is a Mark 1-Reactor, a design that has worked well in floods, earthquakes, hurricanes and typhoons worldwide. Its reliability is well-tested.

What if it did happen here?

No matter how low the chances of an accident, people wonder what would happen if it DID happen here. In Japan, three reactors failed, but no workers died of direct radiation exposure (unlike Chernobyl). About fifty workers sustained exposures that may increase their risk of eventual cancer by 5% or less. There were no civilian deaths from direct radiation. Civilian radiation exposures are far below the level (100 millisieverts a year) at which epidemiologists can detect measurable increases in eventual cancer. Still, the radiation in the area is higher than before the accident, and a twelve-mile radius has been evacuated. Anxiety and fear have been major effects of the accident.

The facts are clear - there have been no radiation-related deaths to date from the accident at Fukushima, and few (if any) excess cancer deaths can be expected among civilians. Other sources of electricity cause far more illness and death. In America, 50% of our electricity comes from coal. According to the EPA, 32,000 Americans die annually due to pollution from coal plants. When politicians say “We can close Vermont Yankee because there is plenty of excess power available on the grid,” they mean "The fossil plants upwind of us will run more.”

The anniversary of Fukushima will bring outcries, demonstrations, and imaginative scenarios of nuclear doom. But for asthmatics and their families, doom is upwind of us, right now. It’s fossil-fired.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I wrote this op-ed and submitted it to several local papers. It was printed in the Keene Sentinel, the Barre-Montpelier Times Argus, and others.

Photo of Fukushima tsunami waves from The Telegraph

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

A Modest Proposal for GMP and Gaz Metro: Use the Shareholder Money

Gaz Metro

Gaz Metro of Quebec, sole owner of Vermont's Green Mountain Power (GMP), wants to acquire Vermont's other electric utility, Central Vermont Public Service (CVPS). This is generally referred to as the GMP-CVPS merger, though I see it as the GazMetro take-over of most of the utility infrastructure in Vermont. (I've got a few links about that at the bottom of this blog post.)

However, there is a problem with the merger. It's the CVPS balance sheet. It turns out that about ten years ago, CVPS made a bad choice buying power from Hydro-Quebec. That power was too expensive for the amount CVPS was allowed to charge its customers so CVPS was about to go broke. It asked for rate relief from the Vermont Public Service Board (PSB). CVPS got that rate relief, but the PSB sternly said that, if anyone ever bought CVPS, CVPS would have to return that rate-relief money: half to the rate-payers, and half to the shareholders.

Half and Half

Opinion from the blogger:

Whoa baby...hold it right there. Why did the PSB decide this? Why was half the money to be returned to the shareholders? It was the ratepayers' money that was keeping their shares from being totally worthless. So couldn't the shareholders simply thank the ratepayers and not expect any "money back" in the future?

Also, people who own stock are used to the idea that some stock prices go up, and other stock prices go down. The shareholders could have sold their CVPS stock and bought something else. They were not locked in to owning CVPS. Ratepayers, poor souls, can't switch utility companies. They just have to sit there and pay the rates.

Well, back to the story as it is evolving now. Back to the present day, when the shareholders will be paid real money, but the ratepayers will be paid in promises.

The AARP Looks at the Merger

In the original plan for the merger, GMP planned to give the money back to the shareholders as cash, but the ratepayers money would be returned as savings in their bills, due to the merger. (You can read the sordid story, including the quick rate raise that CVPS received, in preparation for these supposed savings, at my post Consumers Are Not Protected.) The AARP objected vigorously.

At that point, even the Department of Public Service (DPS) decided it had to do something. It didn't want to do anything too drastic, like insist on giving money back to the ratepayers. However, with great fanfare, DPS announced that CVPS would put the ratepayer money into a fund which would be used to make weatherization loans to some consumers. You can read about this in the Vermont Digger article: Shumlin Administration, Gaz Metro seal merger deal.

A Loan is Proposed, but a Loan is not a Refund

Speaking as an older person myself, I would say that most older people know the difference between
  • receiving money that is owed to them
  • borrowing more money.

The AARP was not happy with this weatherization loan plan. Greg Marchildon, Vermont State Director of the AARP, wrote in a Brattleboro Reformer op-ed

"The Vermont Public Service Board made very clear in 2001 that the ratepayers who bailed out CVPS with an emergency rate increase had to be repaid. This windfall protection provision that AARP fought for 11 years ago in front of the Public Service Board, is clearly triggered by the merger. The regulators ordered that should the company ever be sold or merged, it needed to pay back ratepayers -- before executives or shareholders profited from the sale. The bailout actually amounted to $98 million, but the Board capped it at $21 million...This is a simple matter of making good on a debt. A matter of fairness.

Instead of refunding the money back to the Vermonters who paid it, the utilities have now proposed creating an efficiency and weatherization program, which satisfies neither the debt, nor the regulator's ruling. GMP actually proposes to set up an efficiency loan fund through a third party that some ratepayers could borrow from to weatherize or make efficiency improvements. Then they would pay the utility back through their bills. Where's the refund in that?"

Emphasis added by blogger

GMP looks at that Pesky Balance Sheet, Apparently for the First Time

Well, GMP/Gaz Metro had never seen the CVPS balance sheet. They were shocked, shocked to find they might have a legal liability to ratepayers. Dottie Schnure, spokesperson for GMP, pretty much admitted this. Returning the money would be a deal-killer.

(Okay, GMP would deny this. GMP would say that of course they looked at the balance sheet. My comments are just my interpretation of Schnure's words.)

According to GMP, having to pay the money back to ratepayers puts the whole deal at risk. Here's a quote from Schnure on VPR:

"The practical outcome of the Legislature getting involved and making a decision on one aspect of a very complex case means that it does put at risk the transaction and potentially the loss of $144 million in savings to consumers."

The Legislature Looks at the Merger

Everything in Vermont gets complicated. Why does Schnure mention the legislature in the quote above?

Quite a few people in the legislature are trying to pass a bill making sure the money goes back to the ratepayer. Perhaps these legislators are concerned with the expenses of ordinary citizens, or perhaps they are concerned with what can happen to them in the next election if they are labelled as going against AARP. At any rate, they are trying to pass a bill to force GMP to refund the money.

However, other legislators and commentators object that the merger is an open docket at the Public Service Board, and the legislature should not get involved in open cases before the Board. That's what the legislature did with Vermont Yankee, and they ended up losing a court case about it.

You can see links to both sides of this question in the Vermont Tiger article: Interesting Debate.

A Modest Proposal

I have a different proposal. A very modest one. All the current excitement is centered on how the ratepayer money gets handled. Sending cold cash to the shareholders is treated as a given. I don't see why that should be the case. After all, it was ratepayer money that bailed out the shareholders when CVPS was on the verge of bankruptcy, and got emergency rate relief.

My proposal is simple.
  • Start the loan fund with the shareholder half of the money, so the shareholders will contribute to weatherization in a positive way...the same way the Shumlin administration thinks the ratepayers should contribute. This should make the shareholders happy. After all, this plan was supposed to make the ratepayers happy.
  • Next, send the ratepayer money right back to the ratepayers, as cold cash. These actions will keep the same money outflow rate as the current scheme, which should make Green Mountain Power happy. It's not a deal-killer. Some money (the shareholder money) will fund weatherization, which should make the DPS happy. The ratepayers will get their money as money, not loans, which will make AARP happy.
In other words, this scheme will spread happiness all around!


Portrait of Jonathan Swift, of Modest Proposal fame, from Wikipedia

Monday, April 2, 2012

Green Jobs and Taxes: A Guest Post by Guy Page of VTEP

Though the plant helps make Vermont first in the nation in “green jobs,” the state government is still trying to punish Vermont Yankee.

A guest post by Guy Page of Vermont Energy Partnership: VTEP.

By Guy Page

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) recently released a study showing that nearly 3.1 million Americans now hold “green” jobs, a nearly one percent increase since 2010. But the state of Vermont could set a dangerous precedent that would affect these jobs across the country.

The BLS report found that nuclear power generation topped the list of energy industries in terms of “green goods and services (GGS)” employment, with 35,800 jobs. A well-run nuclear plant is an environmentally low-impact power producer; instead of emitting spent fuel into the atmosphere, as occurs in the production of fossil-fuel power, nuclear plants' emissions are safely stored, and the public is protected from contamination.

The BLS report ranks the Green Mountain State first among U.S. states for “green jobs” per capita, with just under 13,000. Vermont’s top ranking is in part due to the approximately 600 jobs at the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant. Located in Vernon, it is the state’s largest producer of clean, green energy. Also, about 500 contractors or other workers derive most or all of their income from the plant.

The Legislature and Vermont Yankee

Unfortunately, the state legislature and the administration of Gov. Peter Shumlin are doing everything in their power to prevent Vermont from continuing this positive trend in green jobs. The State has spent most of the last year trying to shut down Vermont Yankee. Having lost in federal court, the state is moving forward with an expensive, and probably fruitless, appeal. The administration and well-entrenched "environmental" groups - many of whom also seem to prefer gas and coal power over green nuclear - are now pushing hard for the plant’s closure before the Vermont Public Service Board.

Meanwhile, the Vermont Legislature is moving forward with a measure that would increase the plant's generation tax from $5 million to about $11 million. That's how much Vermont Yankee would be required to pay the State of Vermont just to continue operating and creating green jobs in state. Generation taxes are nothing new – almost every power generating industry has them, but a 120% increase is steep, to say the least.

Business and Government

When any industry is targeted for punishment by state government, other industries notice. Across the country, and indeed across the globe, boards of directors are deciding where they want to do business. By making a public spectacle of itself as ferociously anti-business, the State of Vermont is doing itself no favors.

If legislators succeed in their attempt to shut down this generator of clean power and green jobs, it could have a cascading effect throughout the country. It would send a message to legislators in other states that they can put their political and personal agendas ahead of what’s best for the people who live and pay taxes there.

The number of green jobs would undoubtedly decline and the U.S. would have less to boast about regarding increases in what is considered the workforce of the future.


(To view the BLS study, go to The information about nuclear power's inclusion as "green" is on page 11 of the study.)

This post is by Guy Page, of Cambridge Vermont. He is communications director of the Vermont Energy Partnership (, a 90-member not-for-profit organization based in Montpelier and advocating for a clean, safe, reliable, affordable Vermont energy future. Entergy, owner of Vermont Yankee, is a VTEP member.