Thursday, November 4, 2010

Shumlin Won. Scott Won. Referendum on Vermont Yankee? I Don't Think So.

Election is Over! Thank Heavens!

And I think I can speak for many when I say I thought the campaign would never end. It's been negative. Very negative.

Shumlin Won.

Oh yeah. It's over and Peter Shumlin won the race for governor. Did I mention that?

Peter Shumlin stated, over and over, that he was against Vermont Yankee being relicensed. He won the election. On the other hand, in the early days, when he talked almost exclusively about the Radioactive Peril and how he would Shut It Down, he was losing. As I noted in an earlier post, when he changed his tune to women's reproductive rights, jobs, and single-payer health care, he pulled ahead. I find these New York Times charts of election projections over time fascinating. Dubie was ahead while Shumlin ran against Vermont Yankee. When Shumlin finally noticed and began running on the Democratic agenda, he pulled ahead.

Also, the most recent vote count is Shumlin 115,222 (49%) and Dubie 111,728 (48%) Not exactly a Shumlin landslide. A squeaker. And if Shumlin hadn't gotten off the "Vermont Yankee and only Vermont Yankee" rhetoric sometime in September, he would have lost.

Phil Scott Won

If the people of Vermont hate Vermont Yankee, they should have handed Mr. Phil Scott a resounding defeat. He's a Republican during a year of the Democrats sweeping Vermont. He was running for Lieutenant Governor; the Democratic candidate for Governor won. Most importantly, Scott was one of the four honorable Vermont Senators who voted FOR relicensing Vermont Yankee in February. Remember that 26 to 4 business? Scott was one of the four.

Poor guy. Everything was against Mr. Scott, if you are one of the people who believes that Shumlin's attack on Vermont Yankee was the source of Shumlin's squeak to success.

Phil Scott won by a far bigger margin, about 10 percent. Scott credits his success to his experience in the Senate, and to running a positive race. Clearly, supporting Yankee didn't defeat Scott. A little more about Scott at this article in Vermont Digger. Among other things, he's a serious race-car driver.

(Hint for future candidates: Scott talked about jobs and the economy and being bi-partisan. As the Clinton campaign said, ever so long ago: "It's the economy, stupid.")

Referendum? No.

I don't think this election was a referendum about Vermont Yankee. However, if it was a referendum, the clear supporter of the plant won by a far greater margin than the plant's chief detractor.


The plant is up for sale, legislators are commenting on it, and is the Secret Garage Meeting one of the issues?

Last I looked, there was only one of me, and I have to give a talk about reprocessing in France at a class this afternoon. So...for now, a quote from the Entergy Press Release:

Entergy Corporation (NYSE: ETR) announced today a process is under way to explore the potential sale of Vermont Yankee, its 605-megawatt nuclear plant in Vernon, Vt.

The sale process is being conducted on a confidential basis and no additional details will be released at this time. While no decision has been made to sell the plant, the company expects interest from multiple parties. The plant has an outstanding operational record. It completed 532 days of continuous operation in April 2010, the second breaker-to-breaker run in the last five years. The record run for the plant is 547 days, which ended in 2007.

"Our motivation for exploring the sale of the plant is simple - we want to do whatever is in the best interest of our stakeholders, including the approximately 650 men and women who work at the plant," said J. Wayne Leonard, Entergy's chairman and chief executive officer.

The Secret Garage Meeting and the Implausible Denial

This is worth a couple of posts, really, but I have to get ready for class...

There was a meeting in a garage (really) with Democratic Movers and Shakers, including Peter Shumlin. Supposedly, Mr. Shumlin said that..yeah, with some other company owning the plant, and a good power deal for Vermont...he might give the matter some more thought. Someone leaked this to the press.

Shumlin was asked about it, and said he "couldn't remember saying that." (Really? Have we elected a man in early stages of memory loss? Or is there another explanation?)

Later Shumlin compared Vermont Yankee to a junker car that would not run better because it had a different owner. However, Shumlin never stated: "I never said that, in that garage. Whoever said I said anything like that, that person is a liar." Since Shumlin calls a person a liar at the drop of a hat, this means...they weren't lying. Shumlin said it, in that garage. That's my opinion.

As I said. More later.


Kit P said...

In Virginia, our incumbent congressmen was running adds saying that uranium mining would cause your hair to fall out. He is toast!

I changed the headline on a Vermont story (Green Mountain Power Completes Three Major Solar Installations” to a more accurate one one:
Solar Vermont mountain top removal

Watch this video and what do you notice.

The use of heavy equipment and concrete. Following some of the links on the page, look at some of the other pictures. The PV project is next to a WWTP, transmission lines, and the railroad. I would have to say that this solar project is no worse than coal unless you happen to need electricity at night.

“The power rating per module is 210 watts (DC)

the Project’s capacity factor will be 13.7%. ....

“The entire Project is estimated to cost $1.3 million, ...

As proposed, the Company estimates that the Project will operate for $0.17/kWh.”

From the press release:

“exceeding its goal of installing and helping its customers install 10,000 solar panels in 1,000 days.”

Let's do some math

210 W/panel x 10,000 panels = 2.1 MWe

Ignoring the time that it takes to do the paper work:

1,000 days/365 days/year = 2.7

but taking into account the CF

2.1 MWe x 0.13 / 2.7 years = 0.1 Mwe/yr

So how long will it take to replace 600 MW of nuclear capacity in Vermont? 6,000 years!

I bring this up because Vermont has a 38 year old nuke plant making electricity at $0.02/kWh. The operators of the nuke plant want to run the nuke for 20 more years but the governor and some elected officials want to replace the nuke plant with renewable energy.

Anonymous said...

"Junker Car"? While I don't know that such a comparison is fair, in a way, that's not a completely bad analogy.

Let's say for the sake of argument, that Vermont Yankee *is* a junker car - well, cars can be fixed. So can nuclear plants. Anything built by man, can be repaired by man.

Ever go to one of those classic car drive-ins, where people have taken40 year old cars, and put in a lot of work and skill, and have restored the car to be as beautiful and running as good (or better) than the day it left Detroit?

I don't know enough about nuclear engineering or the specifics of Vermont Yankee's state of (dis)repair to be able to comment on whether it needs to be 'restored' or not - but if it needs to be, it should be perfectly possible to rehabilitate VY - and the 'right' owner could make that happen, if it needs to happen.

Meredith Angwin said...

Kit, thank you for the comments, and for the news about the candidate in Virginia. Perhaps running a campaign on "be afraid, be very afraid" isn't working so well in this downturn. That would be a silver lining to a very dark economic cloud. And yes, "let's replace VY with solar" is complete nonsense. Thank you for the links.

Jeff. The plant is far from a junker. It is very well run. It's been "all green" (highest NRC rating) for years. For those who don't believe the NRC, there's also the fact that it has had amazing power runs, over 500 days at a time at full power. That is a true measure of a plant's capabilities.

Also, I find Shumlin's comments about cars unbelievable. Most people who work on cars will tell you that keeping the car up--changing fluids, aligning tires, etc--makes a huge difference to how long the car is likely to last and how well it runs. In other words, "who owns the car" matters. I don't think Shumlin has ever worked on cars. He's just saying that sort of thing in the hopes of sounding like a good ol' Vermonter.

Kit P said...

I drive a 22 year old pick up truck to work everyday. I paid $1200 for it more that 10 years but the original owner took very good care of it. I have had to replace water pump, starter, battery, tires and so forth. It has 260k miles and does not use oil. It does not have a payment however.

Every 18 -24 months a nuclear reactor gets new fuel. Each new fuel bundle is a result 30 years of improvements. Aside from that nukes plants are similar to any steam plant. Every 20-30 a new turbine rotor (or overhauled) is installed. This generally results in 5-10% improvement in efficiency because 30 years of improvement are also incorporated.

The best evidence of well maintained power plants is 'amazing power runs, over 500 days'. I can recall the first time I saw the concept of key performance indicators. Yea right! I am a believer now. Concept of reliability work for coal plants, air planes, and used cars. Of course the concept was just a quantification of know good practices.

Being able to find a good used car is not accident, you just have to know what to look for.

The environmental term is product life extension. Making a nuke plant last 60 years instead of 40 years is an environmental no brainier.

Meredith Angwin said...

Kit. I totally agree with you. First of all, I drive a 1996 Subaru with 230,000 miles on it. It also does not use oil. I am very proud of how my car operates. I take care of it. I am no great shakes at choosing a used car (and neither is my husband, though he used to maintain our cars himself). However, buying a new car and taking care of it means we have more than ten years at a time with reliable cars and no car payments.

Also, about power runs. When I met my husband, he was recently out of the Navy. He is older than me, and he had been on one of the last WWII vintage destroyers still in service in the early 60s. I gather that everyone on board was very proud of that ship.

He told me the ship's finest hour, in his opinion. "So, a bunch of ships in the fleet, headed out to Japan, had a power run test in the mid-Pacific. Close to top speed, full out for three-four days. (I can't remember how long he said it was. Somewhere around three days.) Our ship left them all in the dust. They were breaking down all over the place, but not us. And we had the oldest ship!"

To him, and to me, that proves it was a well-maintained ship.It also proves that Shumlin doesn't know what he is talking about when he talks about cars or power plants. But I knew that before...

Kit P said...

My first ship was WWII vintage destroyer and the worse day was getting towed back to Long Beach. It was exhausting to be on that ship but it was a great learning experience. Hot bunking and water hours the entire time out to see. My last ship was a new nuke. One of my SLJO was being a member of committee that listen to complains like 'the color TV could be located better'.

Between my navy nuke experience and first commercial nuke, I assumed everyone knew the importance of good maintenance and the responsibility of everyone to protect the public and fellow employees. However, I worked at six nukes that were on the watch list. They all suffered from criminal lack of maintenance and no understand of operational excellence. Working at the nuke plant was just a job. Any sense of pride was a false one.

Let me point out that being on the watch list is not a safety issue. The NRC would not let plants operate until safety could be demonstrated.

I was at Rancho Seco when it closed. Because SMUD was a public utility the board allowed the voters to decide. When I got to got to Rancho Seco, safety related pipes were literally about to fall off. As a result of my observations, we declared a unusual event. Two weeks on the job and the board of directors wanted to know my name because I was embarrassing the utility. Rancho Seco was junker.

The irony is that after $250 million and three years of fixing things the plant was closed by the voters. Rancho Seco was doing a good job of making electricity. Unfortunately, the voters expected us to do an excellent job of running the nuke plant. In the months before the election, twice the plant was off line because of gross incompetence.

I agree that excellence should be the standard at nuke plants. It not like it can not be done either. The new norm is 'amazing power runs, over 500 days'. Furthermore, excellence should be the standard at coal plants, chemical plants, refiners, oil rigs, and the schools are kids go to. There is not reason to have a lower standard and many reasons to have high standards.

Meredith Angwin said...

Kit. As far as I know, the U.S.S. Wedderburn never needed a tow. At least, not while George was on it! Now you understand, the guys insulted the ship all the time. Weedburner was the mildest insult. But they sure ran it well, from what George tells me.

Vermont Yankee has a solid corporate culture and has never been on the NRC watch list. It's well-run plant.