Sunday, February 28, 2010

Follow the Money

The Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) is the group that is always trying to get the PSB to find Vermont Yankee in violation of SOMETHING. My previous post described two of their attempts to get the Public Service Board to find against Vermont Yankee. One attempt was successful (investigate tritium) and one attempt was a dud (declare the docket tainted). The CLF keeps trying.

I just realized that they are not just doing this for their health. There's money on the table, too. CLF Ventures is "the non-profit affiliate of Conservation Law Foundation."
CLF Ventures gives CLF the chance to say "YES" to ground-breaking, market-based efforts to protect the environment.

And what, perchance, are they saying "YES" to? Their prime featured project is a 700 megawatt combined cycle gas-fired generating plant in New Hampshire. This plant came on-line in 2002, and I suspect it would make much more money if it didn't have to compete with cheap power from Vermont Yankee. Also, having done one successful project, CLF would probably like some more natural gas clients. Their description of this project seems to imply it is as green as grass, a "Super Clean Power Plant in New Hampshire." They don't describe it like something that involves a fossil fuel.

When a group goes to a lot of trouble to bring legal action, it's worth figuring out what they gain if they win. In this case, it's clear. By helping close Vermont Yankee, CLF would knock out a competitor and provide itself with future clients.

Update: October 7, 2010. CLF Ventures has moved its website, and I redid the link. My quotes on this blog post are from their former website.

The graphic of a natural gas processing plant is in the public domain (Wikimedia). Information about natural gas and radiation is posted today at Atomic Insights blog.


DV8 2XL said...

That's a great find. It's not easy to follow the money in these cases, I know I have been at it for years.

The thing is that this has to get shoved in peoples faces as much as possible. It may not have a profound effect by itself, but it will begin the process of opening the public's mind to the idea that not all antinuclear efforts are altruistic or indeed green.

It may not have a huge impact on the VY debate, but it is important to the larger pronuclear effort that there things get aired to as large and audience as possible.

CogsBlog said...

Nuclear cheaper than natural gas? I'm sure it has happened, but on pure economics, with gas at or below $5 a therm not even coal competes well for power. This week Georgia's MEAG is raising capital for the 1st two new towers in a long time. The costs, as estimated by optimists, have risen to $7.40 per watt. That's much more than <$2 for coal gas construction. Fuel may be more expensive for the latter, but these up front costs are usually what drives nuclear to being -more expensive.

m-nrc-ret said...

What difference the motive? ENVY is continuing operation in violation of its state NPDES discharge permits. The tritium concentrations in some of the test wells exceed EPA recommended site release/residual radiation levels by two orders of magnitude. And other radionuclides are showing up. It remains to be seen if they are reactor-derived and in significant concentrations, but there is a very real possibility that, at Entergy's estimated remediation cost of $66. per cubic foot, this spill will add greatly to a decommissioning bill which Entergy cannot pay.
At to competition, the gas plant at Newington is only about 10 miles from Seabrook Station, which offers some of the region's highest priced electricity, so it may not be the best example to prove your point about CLF's suspected perfidy.

Meredith Angwin said...


Thank you for your comment. However, VY is not violating any discharge limits, because discharge limits are know...discharges. Discharges are effluent streams that leave the plant boundaries. That's how they are defined and regulated, as you should know if you worked in NRC or EPA. You imply you worked in NRC at one point, which is why I have added the preceding sentence.

All the test wells are within the plant boundaries. Though they are testing nearby wells and the river frequently, (outside the plant boundaries) no tritium has been discovered in either place.

Tritium is unlikely to leave the plant boundaries. I state this on the basis of plant experience. More than 20 plants have had tritium leaks, and only one, the first one, Braidwood, contaminated an aquifer. This happened because they weren't looking for this type of leak, this was the first plant with this kind of problem, and it got away from them. Since then, all the other plants have caught leaks and done remediation before anything outside the boundary was affected.

J Wheeler said...

Thank you for your insightful article. Your research led me to the CLF Ventures website where I noticed something else you did not mention: their business includes nuclear decommissioning services.

From their web site "CLF Ventures conceptualized, designed, and launched the environmental site closure effort for the Yankee Nuclear Power Plant, including a comprehensive Site Closure Plan."

Interesting, don't you think? Perhaps they plan to make money on the decommissioning of VY AND selling gas-powered replacement energy for the lost nuclear generation.

Meredith Angwin said...

John, thanks for finding this! CLF is definitely planning to get their hands deeper in the cookie jar, if they can just close down that pesky plant!

David said...

It seems that several people stand to gain from the shut down of Vermont Yankee. That is people other than the consumers of Vermont.

Good research Meredith, and John, way to go uncovering that link to decommissioning.

Howard Shaffer said...

How can Seabrook's power be "expensive" when what it is sold for is the bid price in the auction? Every supplier gets the same price, don't they?

Howard Shaffer

Jack Gamble said...

Am I too beleive that the companies supporting the closure of Vermont Yankee are......unethical??

But didn't the antinukes tell us that WE are the unethical ones because we're paid of by industry fat cats to lie and damage the environment?

Are they now advocating the burning of fossil fuels?

Perhaps ethical inquiries are more suited to their side in this debate.

DunnJH4 said...

I learn something from every one of your posts. Thanks for the ammo!