Sunday, February 6, 2011

Reliability and Business: Two Reasons Why Vermont Needs Vermont Yankee

Last week was a big week for writing letters about Vermont Yankee. I received (in various ways) two very informative letters about Vermont Yankee, and I want to share them in my blog. The first letter, about Vermont Yankee reliability, was sent by an Entergy Vice President. The second letter was an open letter to Peter Shumlin about the importance of Vermont Yankee to Vermont's economy. The letter about Vermont Yankee economics was signed by two business organizations and a union.

Vermont Yankee and Reliability

The letter about Vermont Yankee reliability was sent by Entergy to an email list, and I don't know who was on the list. (Media? Friends of Vermont Yankee?) At any rate, I was glad to get the letter, because it showed Entergy is reaching out to bloggers. For most companies, including Entergy, us bloggers don't get no respect. For most companies, we're not "real media." ( Areva, on the other hand, has conference calls and even tours for bloggers.)

So I was happy to see the letter come my way, and I sincerely hope that communication with bloggers is a new approach by Entergy. (Rod Adams has already blogged about the letter.)

Vermont Yankee and Reliability

In this letter, Entergy Vice President T. Michael Twomey, based in White Plains, New York, did a fabulous job of refuting the trash-talk about Vermont Yankee and reliability. The person to whom the letter was addressed, James Marc Leas, apparently has described Vermont Yankee as a "piece of machinery that is falling apart" and claimed that it has "extraordinary" reliability issues.

Twomey completely refutes Leas. In the letter, Twomey goes through the plant, practically section by section:
  • Performance Indicators, as assessed by the NRC, show that Vermont Yankee is at the highest levels of performance and lowest levels of required oversight, year after year.
  • Vermont Yankee's capacity factor (time on-line) is fourth highest of its group of sixteen "sister plants" (boiling water reactors that came on-line between 1969 and 1979).
  • Major equipment upgrades ($400 million dollars worth of equipment) have been added by Entergy in the eight years it has operated the plant. Twomey lists the equipment that was added.
Yet, in my opinion, Twomey doesn't go far enough. He doesn't mention that in 2010, VY was awarded an industry-wide prize for their advanced steam-dryer inspection methodology. Well, okay. If Twomey was going to list everything, it would be a long letter.

The letter is pretty impressive as it is.

I have to say, however, that I wish I had had access to this information months ago. For example, when I speak about VY, I have said things like: "It is one of the most reliable plants in the fleet." Saying "fourth out of sixteen in capacity factor" would have been much better. I have said: "They have kept up the plant effectively, as proved by its reliability." Saying "400 million in capital improvements" would have been more convincing.

To quote Rod Adams, Like many of my pronuclear blogging friends, I have been a little disappointed in the lack of quotable responses from the plant owner.

I am pleased that this letter has been written, but I wish it had been written months ago.

Vermont Yankee and Vermont's Economy

The letter about the economic consequences if Vermont Yankee does not get relicensed did not contain any information which will be new to readers of this blog. A quote from the letter:

Vermont will face 1) increased electric rates from more expensive replacement power than Yankee would offer, 2) increased rates from the cost of projects required to shore up the electric grid's reliability, 3)possible periods of reduced reliability if such projects are not completed in time, and 4) the loss of well over 1,000 jobs from Yankee itself, companies doing business with the plant, and other businesses facing higher electric rates.

The new information in this letter is the list of the groups signing it, which includes Associated Industries of Vermont. The other two organizations who signed the letter are IBEW, a union which has long supported Vermont Yankee, and VTEP, another long-time supporter. However, I see the signature of Associated Industries of Vermont, along with IBM's recent press conference, as evidence of a new mobilization of Vermont industries to support Vermont Yankee.

Two letters: one with new information, and one with new supporters. I am happy to share them.

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