Sunday, February 1, 2015

Two Recent NRC Decisions in Favor of Vermont Yankee

We Move Forward With Lessons Learned (First decision)

The Great Wave Off Kanagawa 
Well, the first question might be...why is this even a decision?  Of course, we always move forward with lessons learned.  We learn lessons when problems occur (like tsunamis at nuclear plants). We implement fixes. How else would technology advance?

Various groups are attempting to accelerate the increase of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.  (Yes, these groups call  themselves "nuclear watchdogs" and environmental groups, but I calls them as I sees them.) These accelerator groups wanted all GE Mark 1 reactors shut as a response to Fukushima.

In April 2011, one of these groups filed an "emergency enforcement petition" to the NRC to shut all such reactors immediately.  As reported by NucNet, on January 23, 2015, the NRC rejected this petition.  It stated that lessons-learned were being implemented, including a huge FLEX program of backup power equipment.

This first pro-Vermont Yankee decision can be restated: We fix problems, we don't throw away technologies.
  • Yes, this does seem obvious.  
  • No, I don't know why it took the NRC over three years to make this ruling.

If It's Not Dangerous, You Don't Need a Warning System (Second Decision)

Entergy has removed all fuel from the reactor, and it is now in the fuel pool, cooling.  According to Entergy and NRC calculations, after fuel has been out of the reactor for about a year, the fuel pool is no longer in danger of having a fuel pool fire (not that there was very much danger in the first place).

However, the state of Vermont requested a hearing asking the NRC to  make Entergy "either keep its ERDS (Emergency Response Data System) operational or provide a new, equally effective monitoring and warning system" as long as fuel remains in the fuel pool. (Quote from article by Nuclear Street.)  On January 28, the NRC ruled against the state. The NRC ruled that Entergy can stop staffing and supplying an emergency warning systems after fuel has been in the fuel pool for a year and three months. MassLive has an article which links directly to the ruling itself.  As a matter of fact, I have embedded the ruling at the end of this post.
Areva Central
Fuel Pool

Yes, once again, this seems obvious. When there is no danger, you don't need a warning system. Still, if  you go to the Vermont Yankee Decommissioning web site and then go to the Document Library for NDCAP (the local decommissioning panel), you can see a summary of the comments that have been filed with the Vermont Public Service Board.   As the summary states: By far, the most common request in the received comment sets was the retention of the current 10-mile Emergency Planning Zone (EPZ) beyond the planned “hot wet” spent fuel storage period (i.e. beyond April 2016). In a total of 41 public comment sets, 32 sets requested retaining the current EPZ at least until all spent fuel is moved to dry cask storage.

Accelerator groups and fear

Meditation Room Kyoto
Many people in carbon dioxide accelerator groups apparently still feel endangered by Vermont Yankee.    This is true even though there was very little danger when the plant was operating, and negligible danger now.

I understand fear.  I am myself a cowardly person.  So I have some advice.  I have used this advice on many occasion--- for myself.

When I have an exaggerated and unreasonable fear, there is one person in charge of reassuring me and handling my emotions. That person is me. 


jimwg said...

1. Yes, this does seem obvious.
2. No, I don't know why it took the NRC over three years to make this ruling.

It's like a cruel tease helping to kick you out the door.

James Greenidge
Queens NY

Meredith Angwin said...


The first ruling will not help Vermont Yankee, of course, but may be a help to other power plants.

The second ruling will be good for all nuclear power plants, and for building nuclear plants in the future. This ruling affirms that the requirement to fund an emergency response system is time-limited. However, it is a 2 to 1 ruling, with a lengthy dissent (which is why I set it up to download easily). Not as strong as I would like, but at least it came out on the right side of the issue.

Thank you for your comment.