This morning, the Brattleboro Reformer had an interesting and controversial op-ed about Vermont Yankee. Since Howard Shaffer and I had visited the Reformer offices recently to have a background-style talk, I was interested in the editorial.
The op-ed claimed that Vermont Yankee is unlikely to close "on schedule." It pointed out that Entergy could bring several types of lawsuits against the state-ordered closing. Any of these lawsuits could extend the plant license for twenty years (if Entergy wins) or for a couple of years (while the lawsuits wend their way through the courts) even if Entergy doesn't win. The potential suits fall into three categories:
- Federal pre-emption. What were all those Vermont Senators doing when they inveighed against the dangers of tritium and insisted the plant must close down? Weren't they aware that radiation safety is an NRC issue, and cannot be decided by a state? The Senators were giving grounds for a lawsuit on pre-emption of the NRC.
- Contract violation. Entergy signed a Memorandum of Understanding that said it agreed that it would abide by a Public Service Board issuing (or not issuing) a Certificate of Public Good. After the contract was signed, the Legislature voted itself the privilege of telling the Public Service Board whether or not it could issue that Certificate. This legislative veto power was not in the original contract.
- What is an MOU? A Memorandum of Understanding is a contract. On the other hand, with some lawyers getting into the act, an MOU could also be considered non-binding, or it could be considered more binding than the usual contract. Fun for all, I suppose.
There's still time in the future for a lawsuit. At this point, these lawsuit ideas are simply speculation.
A local blog, Vermont Tiger, discussed the Reformer op-ed in a post Drop Dead Date for Yankee? Vermont Tiger compared the fierce opposition to Vermont Yankee with the general acceptance of the license extension recently granted to Vermont Yankee's sister plant, Duane Arnold in Iowa. Duane Arnold is a 615 megawatt BWR: it even has a low bank of cooling towers, just like Vermont Yankee. (picture above). The Iowa paper describes Duane Arnold as an employer, a provider of taxes, a provider of energy, and a "valuable corporate neighbor."
I appreciate Vermont Tiger for widening my view of how people look at nuclear plants. Too many people in Vermont declare: "We are Vermont and we are very very special. Nothing is quite good enough for us." These people give Vermont a smug problem. Without Vermont Yankee, Vermont will have gas-fired generation, and we will also have a smog problem. Nice to know that Iowa has a different view of nuclear!
And now, looking across the seas, Centrica, a UK gas company, moved into the nuclear market in 2009. They made this video to educate their employees about their investment in the UK nuclear program. This video shows why Britain needs nuclear energy. It also shows why Iowa and Vermont need nuclear energy. Or basically, why the whole world needs nuclear energy.
Images from Wikipedia and NRC.