Sunday, February 8, 2015

Opponents Claim That Vermont Yankee is More Dangerous Than Ever

The Claim: It's More Dangerous Than Ever

All the fuel has been removed from the Vermont Yankee reactor, and is now in the fuel pool. Please keep that in mind as you read the rest of this blog post.

Weather Update: I have heard that the opponent's meeting tonight in Brattleboro has been cancelled due to weather.

A Letter About the Increasing Danger

Fuel pool
A recent letter in the Greenfield, MA, Recorder claimed that Vermont Yankee is Still a Public Safety Threat. The first sentence of her letter says: When Vermont Yankee nuclear plant shut down on Dec. 29, 2014, the threat to public safety did not end, in fact it may have increased

Ms. Kosterman is concerned with the spent fuel pool, the fact that Vermont Yankee is downsizing its staff, and the end of some types of planning and notification for the Emergency Planning Zone.  Of course, she mentions the terrible situation of the Fukushima spent fuel pools where...well, actually, nothing happened at the Fukushima fuel pools, but she doesn't mention that.

A quote from Kosterman's letter:

With Vermont Yankee downsizing its staff, is there enough security and oversight to protect citizens from terrorist threats? And, if we lose power due to severe weather or if the grid goes down for any reason, will the backup generators be sufficient to cool the spent fuel pool to ensure public safety? 

She recommends writing the NRC during the decommissioning comment period, and asking them to deny any request by Entergy that lowers the company's expenses for safety-related funding.

The State Says It Needs to Monitor the Fuel Pool

Well, yeah sure. That was a letter from a member of the local anti-nuclear campaign. Surely the state government takes a more realistic view?

Don't bet on it.

As I described in a recent post, the NRC allowed Vermont Yankee to downsize their data systems and staffing, now that the reactor is de-fueled. The state is officially worried about this.  An article by John Herrick in Vermont Digger quotes Chris Recchia, Commissioner of the Vermont Department of Public Service, as follows:

(Recchia) said the state is evaluating an appeal to a decision by a federal panel that approved the elimination of the data system.
He said he has “deep concerns” about the safety of the plant without the state being able to monitor radiological conditions in the spent fuel pool..... Without the data management system, the state will not have real-time access to the conditions in the pool.

Apparently the state feels it needs and deserves real-time data on the fuel pool.

Gearing Up for the NRC Meeting 

On February 19, in Brattleboro, the NRC will hold a meeting on the Vermont Yankee decommissioning report. (I recommend the Entergy's VY Decommissioning web site for access to all reports.)   The opponents are gearing up for this meeting by hosting two preparatory meetings, one in Brattleboro on Monday February 9 (I have heard this meeting has been cancelled due to weather), and one in Montpelier on Wednesday February 11.

The opponents don't seem to know that the reactor is shut down.  A quote from the Montpelier meeting announcement:  With the slow motion Fukushima disaster highlighting the vulnerabilities of Mark 1 reactors, how will the state deal with the increased vulnerability of this aged reactor?

Hey flash!  The reactor doesn't have fuel in it!  The fuel has been removed!  The reactor is  no more vulnerable than any other large inert piece of metal.   Sigh. Sometimes, "respecting your opponents" can be uphill work.

With or without my respect, the opponents are getting ready to confront the NRC again.  Leslie Sullivan Sachs, a leader of an anti-nuclear campaign, wrote this letter to The Commons:  You Don't Need to be a Rocket Scientist. Her letter focuses on being heard at the February 19 NRC meeting on Vermont Yankee decommissioning.

Beyond the NRC Meeting: Gearing up for petitions and contentions

Another nuclear opponent, Clay Turnbull, wrote a comment on Sach's letter. Turnbull felt it was important to say that the February 19 NRC meeting will not be the last chance to take an important part in Vermont Yankee decommissioning.  Here's part of Turnbull's comment on the Sachs letter (I can't seem to link directly to the comment.)

Point of clarification: NRC will be holding a Public Meeting, not a Public Hearing. In a meeting there is no test of truthfulness. In a hearing everything NRC says in under oath and on the record. .....whenever NRC licensing actions involve nuclear reactors, as it the case at Entergy Vermont Yankee, an opportunity to file requests for a hearing and to file a petition to intervene comes with that licensing action. Each time Entergy requests a licence amendment or exemption from regulations is an opportunity for the public to challenge that action with all parties under oath....the public meeting on Feb 19...(should be seen) as the beginning, rather than the end, of opportunities to engage NRC... [Edited to add: The writer is a staff member of the New England Coalition, an antinuclear organization based in Brattleboro.]

Note: Howard Shaffer also has a comment on the Sachs letter.  His comment is excellent and worth reading.

Fear or money? My cynical impression on all of this

I don't think the anti-nuclear groups are equally afraid of a closed plant and an operating plant.  However, I do think they are afraid of losing their funding.  Because, after all, if you successfully "eliminate the danger" by closing the plant,  people may begin to direct their donations and their activism elsewhere.  To maintain funding, you have to say that the plant is still very dangerous.

If a plant being decommissioned is as dangerous as an operating plant, then the fear goes on.  And with  the fear (with any luck), maybe their donations will go on, too.


jim said...

Of course the grave dancers know the ball's over; they're just trying to milk as much fear of decommissioned nuclear plants too so to gin up apprehension and FUD to prevent the building of other plants. And it could royally work if the nuclear community doesn't push back on THEIR playing field.

James Greenidge
Queens NY

Anonymous said...

It's an unbelievable article. All they have is FUD, FUD, and more FUD. It's really starting to wear me down and I know that is their tactic and goal, but I am used to using my time in more important ways. Playing whack-a-FUD gets old fast.

Engineer-Poet said...

Perhaps it's time to get theatrical on those clowns.  Maybe at one meeting, you pass out cards for Buzzword Bingo and winners stand up and shout "BINGO!" when they complete a line.  Maybe at another you re-program some of those "Easy" buttons to say "That's a lie" and press them whenever another canard comes up.

The left has built a protest empire on such tactics, but they work better on their nonsense than their falsehoods do against facts.

Meredith Angwin said...

Thank you all for the notes.
I also get so tired of the endless FUD. I know that physics wins in the end, but that may be a long time away.

trag said...

This is the real answer to Fermi's paradox. At some point a civilization reaches the point at which the FUD is so overwhelming, nothing new can ever get built or maintained, and civilization stops advancing or falls backwards. Hence, the great silence amongst the stars....