Sunday, January 27, 2013

Proudly Made in America: Guest post by Evan Twarog

Proudly Made in America

Evan Twarog
November 7 Public Service Board meeting
America is the greatest nation on the planet. Period. When we’re out shopping and see those three words “Made in America”, there is a small bit of pride that we get out of knowing we are supporting jobs right here at home. Small mom and pop store or multibillion dollar corporation, an American business is still an American business. The Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Plant is run by one of those American businesses, and supports more than 620 jobs right here in our local community.

Many workers who run the facility are veterans who have proudly served our nation in uniform. Some started off in the Coast Guard defending our shores, and saving those who fall into harm’s way. Some started off serving in our nation’s Navy, keeping waters across the world safe from hostile enemies. Some started off protecting the skies in our nation’s Air Force. Still more served in our Army and Marine Corp, defending our freedom both in times of national crisis and war. We must salute these men and women who selflessly defended our nation and are now working in our community.

As the legal battle over Vermont Yankee’s future has played out, there has been a near complete disregard by the State of Vermont to realize the fact that Vermont Yankee supports well-paying AMERICAN jobs, and there is no rational economic reason for shutting down the facility. Governor Shumlin, a long-time critic of the facility, once said “We’re doing all we can so that Vermont can move on from this old plant and move towards an energy future that sends Entergy Louisiana back to Louisiana.” Governor Shumlin, in case you didn’t realize, we are all Americans. We all salute the same flag. We all are part of the same nation. Frankly, I am disgusted by your inability to realize that by shutting down the facility, you will gain nothing but force 620 AMERICANS out of a job.

Vermont Yankee should be a symbol of pride for the community and region. Here, 620 skilled Americans produce clean, cheap, and reliable electricity, while supporting dozens of non-profit organizations with hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations each year. The facility produces power right here in Vermont. Not in Massachusetts. Not in New York. Not in Canada. Vermont. Wouldn’t you rather have your hard-earned money stay local and support local American jobs?

When we buy products with those words “Made in America”, we know we are supporting jobs right here at home in these rough economic times. So why is it that we can’t as a community, as a state, and as Americans, support the Americans who work at Vermont Yankee and are such an integral part of our community?

Evan Twarog, Age 15
112 Ridgewood Ave.
Keene, NH


Evan Twarog has been an articulate and effective supporter of Vermont Yankee for several years.  This letter also appeared in True North Reports, The Commons, the Brattleboro Reformer, and other local newspapers.

Evan Twarog has two other guest posts at this blog:

Evan's mother, Cheryl Twarog, testified at the November 2012 hearing and has a guest post at this blog: When Did Nuclear Become a Four-Letter Word?

I am proud to know the Twarog family!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Cold Weather Winners and Losers on the Vermont Grid

It's cold outside and it is going to stay cold.

It's not unseasonably cold: last night dipped to about fifteen below. On the other hand, the planting guides tell me that I should only buy trees and bushes that are hardy to thirty below.  So it's not that cold, by regional standards.

Still, it is cold.  Partially because of space heaters and so forth in these northern climes, the electricity  price on the ISO-NE grid is soaring.  The usual wholesale price on the New England grid is between $30 and $70 MWh (3 and 7 cents per kWh).  As you can see from the screen capture I took this morning from the front page of the ISO-NE website, the grid is now running more like  $200 MWh, or 20 cents per kWh.

Who wins and who loses (on the grid), when the temperature dips like this?


I would call Hydro Quebec a possible loser at this point. They are selling record amounts of power, as described in this article Hydro Quebec expects to break record for 2nd day in a row.   They are asking people to conserve and reduce consumption.

So, if they are selling so much electricity, why do I call them a loser?  Because they are not exporting as much electricity, and export to the U S is where they make money.  According to a tweet yesterday from Platt's (which I have not been able to verify, but Platt's news service is pretty good):

Hydro-Quebec is seeking voluntary demand cuts during peak hours Wednesday, Thursday; Weds exports to US fall to 800 MW from 1,400-1,500 MW

The lack of HQ power is probably one of the reasons that  the grid price in New England is soaring.

The Vermont contracts with HydroQuebec (HQ) supposedly smooth most of this type of spike in grid prices. Vermont doesn't have to pay top dollar to HQ when grid prices rise suddenly.  Still, HQ expects to make much of its profits from export. If you read the introductions to their annual reports, you can see them apologizing if they don't make enough money on exports.

HQ is exporting about half the usual amount of power right now. So they aren't making as much money as they would like to make. That's why I said HQ is a loser in this situation.

Yes. I know.  I can hear you all reminding me.  HQ did close the Gentilly 2 nuclear station earlier this month,  claiming they had excess power.  Oh well.  To quote Kurt Vonnegut: "So it goes."


Every merchant generator (including Vermont Yankee) is a winner.  Look at those prices compared to their costs.  Wowee!

Losers Again: 

 Most transmission and distribution utilities are losers in this situation   They are paying a lot for power on the grid, but they can't change their price-to-consumers to reflect this.  Months later, in front of their state regulatory boards, the utilities may get some kind of rate increase. For right now, I think they are hurting. They are in the position of losing money on every kWh sold, and trying to make it up on volume.

The more a generator depends on short-term contracts (not committed power) the worse off they are, in terms of the gap between cost of power and what they can charge the end-user for power.  Green Mountain Power boasted that they are able to get good short-term deals on the grid because they don't have too much committed power. That strategy might not look as good today as it does on some other days.

Winners Again:

However, the Vermont utilities are doing well due to the Vermont Yankee Revenue Sharing Agreement.   This agreement requires the plant to pay Vermont utilities half of the amount over 6.1 cents that they receive for power.  So if VY were receiving 18.1 cents/ kWh for power right now, the utilities are getting one half of the difference between 18.1 cents and 6.1 cents.  The difference is 12 cents, and the utilities are getting 6 cents every time VY sells a kWh.

Revenue sharing is a "heads-you-win, tails-I-lose" agreement for VY.  If the price on the grid is low, VY just has to sell the power cheaply.  If the price is high, VY does not get the full benefit: the utilities share the money.

However, it is the agreement that Entergy made when they bought the plant, and they are holding to it.

Irony Time

Kurt Vonnegut
If you listen to the last few minutes of the Federal Appeals Court hearing, you can hear the lawyer for the state say that these Vermont Yankee payments to utilities is a reason that the state needs to close the plant.  The hearing is embedded in my blog post State Claims Economic Reason for Closing Plant,

If Kurt Vonnegut were alive today, he could write something scathingly funny about the Vermont administration's attitude toward Vermont Yankee.  Unfortunately, I do not have his skills as a satirist.


This post has inspired posts on important related topics at other blogs.

At Canadian Energy Issues, Steve Aplin writes: Money down the drain, possibly forever: Hydro Quebec pines for Gentilly 2's revenue generating potential

At Neutron Economy, Steve Skutnik looks at natural gas.  Production price is not the only issue. Pipeline capacity is also crucial, and ultimately, limiting. Where's the real bottleneck for natural gas? Distribution.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Post on Federal Hearing at ANS Nuclear Cafe (and more)

Graph from economic report
March 2010
State Turns Economic Facts Upside Down

Yesterday, ANS Nuclear Cafe published my blog post: In Federal Appeals Court, Vermont Presents Backwards Economic Arguments. In this post I go through the Appeals Court hearing, and especially Vermont's claims of why they say they want to shut down Vermont Yankee. With quotes and examples, I show that Vermont's arguments are..well...bogus.

Yes, "bogus" is the word I used in the post, and I think it's the right word.  Though I am fond of the word meretricious, which Google defines as: "Apparently attractive but having in reality no value or integrity: "meretricious souvenirs for the tourist trade".

Let's look at these meretricious arguments.

First Vermont claimed they were interested in economics, not safety, when the Senate took their famous vote.  I point out that they voted in February. They had ordered an economic report on Vermont Yankee, but it was due to be issued a few weeks after their vote.  They voted anyway, not willing to wait for their own economic report on Vermont Yankee, which was issued in March.  Pretty hard to claim the vote was all about economics, under these circumstances!

Second, I quote their lawyer, who basically says that the state wants Vermont Yankee shut down because the paid-off plant makes it hard for new plants to compete.  The state has an interest in keeping electricity prices high?  That's a new one.

Third, in a last-minute salvo, the state lawyer said the revenue sharing agreement with Vermont Yankee is worth $587 million dollars (to Vermont utilities), and that agreement ties the utilities to Vermont Yankee, and that's a bad thing.  Again, a amazing statement.  True. Entergy may have to pay half a billion dollars to Vermont utilities, allowing them to upgrade infrastructure and/or lower rates to their customers.  How is that any evidence that the state should shut the plant down?

I end my ANS post with a quote from Cheryl Hanna of Vermont Law School   Hanna concludes that if the state loses the case (and she thinks it probably will), it is not going to be because the state was "out-lawyered." It will be because the facts and the law are mostly on the side of Entergy.

Please read my post about the hearing. I worked quite hard on it. I am pleased that it was chosen as Best of the Blogs at Nuclear Townhall yesterday.

Guy Page's Guest Post is Now at Energy Collective

Monday, I posted a guest post by Guy Page about the importance of the nuclear plants to the economy of New England.  He based his post on a New England Council report on energy and economics.  I am proud to say that his post has been picked up by The Energy Collective, a prestigious and widely-read blog about energy issues.  It's getting some good comments there, too. I am happy to see an important post on an important topic get more readership!  Energy Policy is Key to Vermont's Future.

Fun with Fuel Pools

XKCD is a scientist, cartoonist, and essayist.  On Tuesdays, he has a feature called "What  If?  Answering your hypothetical questions with physics, every Tuesday"  Yesterday he addressed the question: "What if I took a swim in a typical spent fuel pool?"   Great fun with beach balls!

For the geeky, I also recommend his comics. I love the one about energy density of uranium versus other fuels: Log scales are for quitters who can't find enough paper to make their point properly

Monday, January 21, 2013

Energy Policy is Key to Vermont's Future: Guest Post by Guy Page

Guy Page

Vermont has excellent prospects for strong and sustained economic growth and a high quality of life if it can fashion a more prudent energy policy.  This is a central conclusion in a recent report released by The New England Council, the nation’s oldest regional business organization.

First, the good news.

The report, Smart Infrastructure in New England: An Investment for Growth and Prosperity, finds that Vermont has an important structural advantage:  a lower cost, high-skill subregion known as the I-91 Corridor.  As a result, this area and two other regional corridors have “acceptable cost structures for industries making complex products and/or offering sophisticated services.”   This can be a catalyst for the creation of new businesses, quality jobs and business relocations, particularly from manufacturers and distribution facilities.

I-91 in context
The I-91 corridor offers production costs, says the report, “only four to five percent higher than that for the same product made in the Southeast. Salaries are relatively comparable, and any cost differences come mainly from higher taxes and energy prices in the Northeast.”

Unfortunately, energy is a glaring competitive weakness.  As the report says, “New England’s infrastructure lacks an energy resource that is both reliable and cost competitive. In fact, prices for energy in the region are double those of some southern U.S. states.”

All six New England states are among the 10 most expensive for electricity rates in America, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.  And recently, with the push to higher-priced, non-competitive, mandated renewable electricity sources, Vermont’s electricity prices have increased considerably.  EIA reports that for the 12 months ending October 31, 2012, Vermont’s electricity prices had risen 6.8 percent, more than any state east of the Mississippi.  In fact, prices have declined or stayed the same in most states.

The New England Council report also makes clear that for economic and environmental reasons it is important to keep New England’s four nuclear plants operating.  New England needs its own sources of affordable, reliable, grid-friendly, low-carbon electricity – an apt description for nuclear power. And because new power plant construction seems unlikely, New England must protect its assets, including Vermont Yankee.

As the report says, “The region’s four nuclear power facilities generate 30 percent of its electric energy. Nuclear energy is the only local fuel source and plays a big role in maintaining fuel diversity. Just as important, low operating costs make nuclear power an economical choice. Nonetheless, it is unlikely that new plants will be built in New England in the future, while prices would likely rise if a current plant were decommissioned. This is the economic rationale for keeping nuclear facilities operating.”

The Council’s report also drives home the downside of closing nuclear power plants as regulation of carbon and other emissions increases.  It says, “In addition to providing cost and reliability advantages, nuclear energy also plays an important role in attaining greenhouse gas reduction goals. Nuclear energy is an emission-free energy source, producing no carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxide, or sulfur dioxide….. If nuclear power plants were closed, new sources of energy would need to be emission-free to continue to meet emissions standards.”

The Council supports energy portfolio diversity, including renewables if shown to be cost-efficient, and recommends investment in transmission and natural gas generation. For Vermont, however, the most important “takeaway” from Smart Infrastructure is this: New England’s future prosperity will benefit from the continued operation of Vermont Yankee.

Policy makers need to take us away from policies that lead to higher energy prices and undermine the region’s competitiveness.  Vermont can and should have a bright future, as the New England Council envisions.  We also owe this to our children, so they can find the jobs, quality of life, and opportunities here in the Green Mountain state.

About the Author:  Guy Page is Communications Director for the Vermont Energy Partnership, a diverse group of more than 90 business, labor, and community leaders committed to finding clean, affordable and reliable electricity solutions.  Entergy, owner of Vermont Yankee, is a member of the Vermont Energy Partnership.  For additional information please visit

Sunday, January 20, 2013

140th Carnival of Nuclear Energy Bloggers at ANS Nuclear Cafe

The 140th Carnival of Nuclear Energy is posted today at ANS Nuclear Cafe.  Will Davis put together a terrific set of blog posts, including more about low-level radiation, fuel cycle news (DOE spent fuel strategy and more), building support for uranium mining in Virginia, nuclear films and video clips, new submarines and the Neutron Express (the way nuclear energy is powering the UK rail system). Plus, a thank-you to Dr. Patrick Moore, Greenpeace founder and pro-nuclear advocate.  Dr. Moore is retiring from CASEnergy Coalition.

Once again, a terrific Carnival. You will enjoy your visit!

The Carnival was here, at Yes Vermont Yankee, last week.  Sigh.  I know I can't always have the Carnival at my place, and every party can't be for my birthday.  Someday, I will be mature enough to accept that.

Meanwhile, let me encourage you to read the latest Carnival.

I also recommend that you read a great letter from Evan Twarog, a teen-ager who has posted at Yes Vermont Yankee on several occasions. Twarog wrote: Proudly Made in America.  Electricity from Vermont Yankee...made in America!

Friday, January 18, 2013

The Short Version: Another View of the Vermont Supreme Court Hearing

Yesterday, I posted about the Vermont Supreme Court hearing about Vermont Yankee. An anti-nuclear group asked the Vermont Supreme Court to shut down the plant though the Public Service Board hearings are on-going.

Yesterday's post is Unique Request: Opponent Wants Vermont Supreme Court to Rule Before PSB Rules.  The post includes links to many articles about the hearing. It's the long version.

Here's the short version.

I think many of the issues are encapsulated in this video clip from WPTZ.  The clip is about a minute and a half long, and worth viewing.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Unique Request: Opponent Wants Vermont Supreme Court to Rule before PSB Rules

Vermont Supreme Court
In Three Vermont Yankee Hearings: The Week of Living Lawyerly, I described the three hearings about Vermont Yankee that are happening in three different courts this week. The second hearing took place yesterday, in front of the Vermont Supreme Court.

Stepping on the Process

An anti-nuclear group, NEC (New England Coalition Against Nuclear Pollution) asked the Supreme Court to shut down Vermont Yankee even while the Public Service Board holds hearings about granting Vermont Yankee a Certificate of Public Good.  Andrew Stein of Vermont Digger wrote about the hearing in Anti-nuclear group petitions the Vermont Supreme Court to shut down Vermont Yankee.  At VPR, John Dillon wrote Entergy Asks Court to Dismiss Attempt to Shut Down Yankee.   That article ends with the comment that It's likely the high court will rule fairly quickly on Entergy's motion to dismiss.

I have blogged about this case extensively, most recently in the post Hot Potato Continued: Federal Court Turns Down Entergy Injunction Request.   I said that I thought the Public Service Board was happy to see you (NEC) and him (Entergy) fight in another venue, and leave them (the Public Service Board) out of the picture and off the hot seat.

An Appeal Before the Ruling?

But the main question is simple: groups usually appeal to the Vermont Supreme Court when a lower court or judicial board (like the Public Service Board) has ruled against them.  I have never before heard of a group jumping the gun and bringing a case to the Supreme Court while the lower court is still deliberating.  It's odd.  Actually, it's unique, as described in the WCAX video clip by Jennifer Reading.

Will the Vermont Supreme Court step in, step on, and step over the Public Service Board process?

If the Supreme Court acts now, it would be a very bad precedent for hearings before all other lower courts and judicial boards. That's my opinion, but only time will tell how the Vermont Supreme Court will rule.

WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-


There are three hearings about Vermont Yankee this week.

The first hearing was Monday in federal court. This was a hearing in the Federal Court of Appeals in New York City. In this hearing, the State of Vermont attempted to convince the court that they were not concerned with nuclear safety, a federally pre-empted subject, but merely with economics.  Vermont claims that it wants to shut the plant down for economic reasons.  Since the plant contributes greatly to the state prosperity (and the state tax coffers), this argument was completely backward.  I blogged about it in Vermont Yankee: State Claims Economic Argument for Closing Plant. 

This post describes the second hearing, before the Vermont Supreme Court. Also, I have posted a few of the documents in the Supreme Court case at the Energy Education Project site.

The third hearing was today, before the Public Service Board, on the question of whether or not Vermont Yankee will be allowed to buy a back-up diesel generator.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Vermont Yankee: State Claims "Economic" Argument for Closing Plant

A few days ago, I described the three court hearings about Vermont Yankee that will occur this week. Three Vermont Yankee Hearings: The Week of Living Lawyerly. The first hearing, in the Federal Court of Appeals, happened yesterday.

In this three-minute clip, Fox News describes the court hearing in New York yesterday. FOX44 - Burlington / Plattsburgh News, Weather

Economics? The State Has Financial Interests? Huh?

In this hearing, the State made a case that it wasn't interested in nuclear safety, no, not at all.  It was interested in money!  Specifically, it had financial interests.

First, it feared that decommissioning of the plant might cost the state money. It is not clear to me what this has to do with when the plant is decommissioned, but still. It's their argument, not mine.

Second, the state claimed that the existence of the nuclear plant would slow down the growth of renewables.  Entergy Lawyer Kathleen Sullivan answered that one. She pointed out that state utilities are buying less than 3% of their power from Entergy. Therefore the existence or non-existence of the plant makes no difference to Vermont power contracts. Vermont utilities will continue to make purchase agreements with renewable or non-renewable power sources, as they do right now.

You can hear the audio of the entire court case, embedded at the bottom of this blog. It's about 40 minutes long.

The State's Argument is Backwards

Economics is the pro-Vermont Yankee argument. At the same time that the legislature was speaking about safety, I spoke to Rotaries and other clubs and groups and schools.  I always explained how Vermont Yankee provided jobs, taxes, economic benefits to the region, and low-cost power that enabled other jobs.

The state is arguing that Vermont Yankee should be closed for economic reasons. That is simply incomprehensible.  I would talk to groups about economics, but the opponents would talk about safety.  As a matter of fact, this was a problem for me.  The opponent's safety arguments were bogus, but they were emotionally compelling.  Talking about economics had far less emotional content.

The Tritium, the Waste Dump, the Fish, and the S-word

I find this whole thing so topsy-turvey!  I sat in those hearings, when the legislators said "We can't use the s-word (safety) but we can use the r-word (reliability)" and then proceeded to discuss safety.  That is what I heard.  I was there.

Opponents (including Governor Shumlin) gave press conferences about strontium attacking the teeth of children. They spoke of how it was a no-brainer to close the aged, leaking plant.  They spoke of the "radioactive waste dump" on the banks of the Connecticut. Shumlin stated that you shouldn't eat the fish in the river--even as the head of the Department of Health publicly disagreed with him.  It was "we really care about safety" all the way with the opponents.

The opponents never effectively countered the economics argument.  They just ignored it.  Now the state claims an economic argument for closing the plant?

Here's a blog post about economics from two years, ago, with links to reports  Economics and Vermont Yankee. The grid price of electricity is temporarily lower now, but the other economic benefits remain exactly as stated.

State's Argument Does Not Work

Any way you cut it, economics is a pro-Vermont Yankee argument. Even the opponent lawyer had to go into elaborate "what-if" scenarios  to try to make an economic argument for the state. IF Entergy goes bankrupt AND the NRC fails to regulate the decommissioning funds etc.

 Expensive lawyers (hired with my tax dollars) can't give the state a credible economic reason to close Vermont Yankee.

References, including an Audio of the Hearing

There are many news stories on this hearing. Most of the viewers conclude that the State did far better this time by hiring an outside attorney.  Cheryl Hanna said she didn't know how the ruling would go, but the state did better this time. WCAX also has a good three-minue video clip.

Cheryl Hanna of Vermont Law School just posted an analysis: the law is still probably on Entergy's side, but the State made a far better case this time.

 The Vermont Digger article by Andrew Stein is complete, and includes a recording of the actual testimony.

Here's the embedding of the recording from the Digger article: about 40 minutes.

Update: I embedded the Vermont Digger audio above, but it is not appearing on some computers. I don't know why it doesn't appear.  If you do not have the audio on your computer, you can hear it at Vermont Digger.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

139th Carnival of Nuclear Energy Bloggers: Right Here at Yes Vermont Yankee

Yes Vermont Yankee is proud to be the host of the 139th Carnival of Nuclear Energy Bloggers.  After a quiet holiday season, the bloggers have roared back with terrific posts!     The three subjects this time are Radiation, Energy, and Politics.  So, let's get started!


Radiation: No Effects on Health 

Perhaps the most important link in this blog is to James Conca's article at Forbes: Like We've Been Saying, Radiation is Not a Big Deal.  

Conca describes the very recent United Nations (UNSCEAR) report on radiation risk, which  paid special attention to the consequences of Fukushima. Here's a quote from the Conca article:   "UNSCEAR also found no observable health effects from last year’s nuclear accident in Fukushima.  No effects."

In short, the Linear No Threshold (LNT) model is simply....wrong.  This is an important post.  I encourage you to read it.

Radiation: Over-Fearing the Food

Meanwhile, Japanese regulators have been trying to reassure people in Japan that their food is safe by setting very low levels for allowed radiation.  As Leslie Corrice describes in Hiroshima Syndrome, this policy has hit an embarrassing snag.   Japan’s Contamination Limits Way Too Low (January 7 post)

Japan's new, too-low standards for radiation in food has hit a snag. Mushrooms from Aomori Prefecture have been banned because of cesium levels slightly above the new limit, but the cesium did not come from the Fukushima accident. Unless the standards are raised to a more-reasonable level, more and more of these disconcerting situations will happen. (Note, the Conca article also has a table about these unrealistic standards. )

Radiation: Using It For Safe Food

Radioisotopes made in nuclear reactors power Mars and deep space probes, and make astronauts' food safe to eat. In two recent posts, Steve Aplin of Canadian Energy Issues urges the fast expansion of radioisotope applications here on earth

Aplin wonders why irradiation makes food safe for astronauts, but we don't use radiation for keeping food safe on earth.  Irradiated food keeps astronauts healthy and productive. Why can’t we earth dwellers have it?  Aplin notes that safe-to-eat beef would be a pleasure. He gets tired of the frequent recalls on beef products.

Radiation: Using It for Heat

Aplin also notes that radioactive isotopes can be used for heat, and have been used that way in the past, in the arctic. Isotopes for heat: an old new idea whose time came, went, and has come again

Radiation: Using It for Poetry

At Atomic Insights, Rod Adams has a guest post from Engineer-Poet.  What's This Stuff Called Radiation. Rod rarely has guest posts, and this is the first open-source poem as a guest post.  Some of the comments are also poetry. Some are limericks.  All are fun!

Nuclear Energy

And on that note, we will turn to the subject of Nuclear Energy, past, present and future.  They are all linked.   For example: Enrico Fermi is the past, right? Well, maybe not so past...some of his reactor designs are part of the future.

Nuclear Energy: Enrico Fermi and the Sodium Fast Reactor

Carl Holder writes 70 Years Ago:- Dr. Enrico Fermi at In Chicago 70 years ago, a team of scientists lead by Nobel Prize winner, Dr. Enrico Fermi, created the first controlled nuclear fission.
Dr. Fermi envisioned a future that needed abundant nuclear energy for the production of energy and isotopes.  He calculated that the uranium resource could be used much more efficiently with a fast reactor.  So he designed a more efficient, sustainable fission system: the sodium fast reactor.

Nuclear Energy: Using the "Waste"

Sodium Cooled reactor schematic
At the Atomic Show, Rod Adams has a podcast from one of the most respected mystery men of the nuclear community.  NNadir is a prolific pro-nuclear blogger at the very liberal blog Daily Kos. On the Atomic Show with Rod Adams, NNadir and Adams discuss: What do you do with the waste?  ( isn't's useful...Rod suggests listening to the talk with a periodic table along for reference...)

Nuclear Energy: The Enrichment Process

Robert Hayes, at Science and Technology Blog, describes Uranium Enrichment at URENCO USA (in southeast New Mexico). 

Nuclear Energy: Using It for Military Energy Sources

At Nuke Power Talk, Gail Marcus makes note of some of the recent proposals to have the military support the development of new energy technologies, such as wind power. In fact, the concept is far from new, as nuclear power owes its early development to military support, not only for weapons development, but also for submarine and ship propulsion.  Energy R and D and the Military: Historic Partners.

Nuclear Energy: A New Fuel for Power Uprates

Brian Wang, at Next Big Future, describes an investor presentation and analysis of LightBridge's annular metal fuel for uprating the power in nuclear reactors. 

The Lightbridge presentation describes the economic case and technical details of their annular metallic fuel for uprating the power in nuclear reactors. They expect regulatory approval for the new fuel by 2018, and commercial use a few years after that.  The post also includes graphs from an economic analysis of future power prices, by Pace Global. Using this fuel, increased power generation will have a levelized cost of 20-30$ per MWH which is less than half the projected cost of coal and natural gas, or of regular nuclear construction

Nuclear Energy: The New Builds are Happening

At Things Worse Than Nuclear Power, one of the first blog posts of 2013 shows that 2012 wasn't the end of the world for nuclear, either. There are 167 proposed nuclear builds world-wide, and 63 under construction.  Vive la nucléaire 2013!


We can't escape it, but we can blog about it. Politics.

Politics: No Holiday from Politics in Vermont

Vermont Public Service Board
at a recent hearing
At ANS Nuclear Cafe, Howard Shaffer's post No Holiday from Politics has the latest from the legal and political fronts concerning the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant -- the courts, the legislature, the grid operator, the river, the year ahead.  While the plant itself continues to operate very well, generating nearly three-fourths of all electricity generated in Vermont without incident -- the year ahead nonetheless looks to feature drama within the courtroom and without.  With many good links.

Politics: The Court Cases of Vermont Yankee

Right here at Yes Vermont Yankee, we cover the three upcoming hearings and court cases (you know, the ones happening next week) at Three Vermont Yankee Hearings: The Week of Living Lawyerly.  There's a hearing at the court of appeals in New York City, another at the Supreme Court in Vermont, and a third at the Public Service Board in Vermont.  Get your background information and scorecard here!

Politics: Pro-Uranium Democrat, Dick Saslaw

In Virginia, the re-opening of a uranium mine has become a rallying point for anti-nuclear activists.  In her "I Dig U Mining" blog, Andrea Jennetta writes about a Virginia senator: Senator Dick Saslaw--Fellow Democrats, Follow His Lead.   As Jennetta writes:  Yesterday Senator Dick Saslaw announced his unequivocal support for lifting Virginia’s moratorium on uranium mining. He says he’s convinced that modern technologies and strict regulations will ensure that it’s done safely and without harming the environment.

It's always great to end the Carnival on an upbeat note!  Have a great week and a future of Nuclear Energy!

Friday, January 11, 2013

Three Vermont Yankee Hearings: The Week of Living Lawyerly

The week of January 14, there are three different hearings about Vermont Yankee in three separate courts and on three separate subjects.  It is the Week of Living Lawyerly.

The hearings are in the Federal Appeals Court, the Vermont Supreme Court, and  the Public Service Board. (The Public Service Board hearing concerns the need for a new diesel generator.)

First Hearing: Federal Court

What: Federal Court of Appeals Hearing on State and Entergy Appeals

Where: 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals (in New York City)

When: January 14, Monday

Why: Judge Murtha ruled in favor of Entergy in the main federal case, and the state appealed the ruling. The state mainly challenged the part about pre-empting nuclear safety issues.  Entergy also placed two appeals before the circuit court.  The first appeal was about spent fuel rods, and the second appeal was about the NEC suit in Vermont Supreme Court.  This second appeal is discussed below, in the Supreme Court section. 

What is at stake: In the main issue, whether the Circuit Court will (or will not) uphold the Murtha ruling.  

What is at stake, part two: Whichever way the Circuit Court rules, both sides say they will appeal the Circuit Court ruling to the United States Supreme Court.  

Comments by the Blogger:

The Circuit Court calendar shows that both side have a full fifteen minutes each to present their cases.  This length of time seems to be standard for arguments before this court.  I am not a lawyer, but to me, this means that the written material in the docket is the important material.

In terms of the Entergy appeals,  Murtha granted the first appeal, and has just recently turned down the second appeal (about NEC and the Vermont Supreme Court).  I blogged about the turn-down of the appeal against the NEC case in  Hot Potato Continued.

I have some, but not all, of the docket material for the federal case (and the Public Service Board case) posted at Dockets for Public Service Board and Courts on the Vermont Energy Education Project website.

The State asked for "expedited oral arguments" in this case, with the arguments to be presented "as soon as November."  Entergy asked for more time.  The court granted the State of Vermont request for expedited oral arguments, but the arguments are being heard in January.  (Don't ask me...I have no idea what this implies.  I just thought I would mention it.)

Vermont Supreme Court
Second Hearing:  Vermont Supreme Court

What:  Hearing on NEC Request to Vermont Supreme Court

Where: Vermont Supreme Court in Montpelier Vermont

When: January 16, Wednesday

What is at stake: A long-time plant opponent, New England Coalition against Nuclear Pollution (NEC) has asked the Vermont Supreme Court to step in and order Vermont Yankee closed. They want the Vermont Supreme Court to issue this order in accordance with a clause in the sale agreement from 2002.  The Public Service Board  and the Department of Public Service have asked the Vermont Supreme Court to deny this request.

What is at stake, part two:  If the Supreme Court were to issue an order to close down Vermont Yankee, everyone expects Vermont Yankee to appeal to federal court.

Comments by the Blogger:

I blogged about this subject extensively in Hot Potato, and Hot Potato Continued. I think that this case is a hot potato that the Public Service Board wants to throw to someone else.

UPDATE: I have put the November 29 Public Service Board statement and the Entergy request for dismissal on a new Vermont Supreme Court filings page at the Energy Education Project site.

Emergency backup diesel generator
At a sewage treatment plant

Third Hearing: Public Service Board 

What: Hearing on Certificate of Public Good for Station Blackout Diesel Generator Docket #7964

Where: Public Service Board Hearing Room, Bank Building, Montpelier

When: January 17, Thursday

What is at stake: Will Vermont Yankee be allowed to install a new back-up diesel generator?   Vernon Dam will no longer be considered a Black Start facility by ISO-NE. (I blogged about this in Black Start, Black Out and Diesels, Some Clarity) Since the dam will not be maintained as a Black Start facility, the NRC will no longer consider it to be qualified as a Station Blackout back-up facility.  (The dam is still there, of course, and Vermont Yankee still has a direct line to the dam.)  So Vermont Yankee needs a new station black-out back-up facility.  In most cases, this would be a stationary diesel generator.

What is at stake, part two:  In most cases, getting a new back-up diesel for a power plant would be a slam dunk.  However, the Public Service Board is concerned that if it grants a permit for this piece of safety equipment,  Vermont Yankee would continue to operate.

Wait! Whoops!  That was snarky of me.

Of course, I meant to say that the Public Service Board is concerned because

Normally, the Board would not consider a petition from a company that is not in compliance with existing Board orders, unless that company also demonstrated an intent to come  into compliance. Entergy VY has not indicated such an intent here.

That's a quote from the order, and you can read the entire Public Service Board order setting up the diesel-docket here.

It is important to note that "non-compliance with Board orders" basically means...the plant is still operating, after March 21, 2012, while hearings are on-going.  The Board has several dockets about the Certificate of Public Good, and the Board claims that, according to one of the dockets, the plant is not in compliance because a new Certificate of Public Good has not been yet been granted by the Public Service Board.

Comments by the Blogger

No comment.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Hot Potato Continued: Federal Court Turns Down Entergy Injunction Request

Plant Opponent Tries a New Court

On November 29, the Public Service Board (PSB) issued a "strongly worded" but "narrow" ruling against Entergy.  In this ruling, the PSB refused to take the "requirement to have a Certificate of Public Good to operate after March 21, 2012" off the original 2002 Sale Order for Vermont Yankee.  The Board also said, however, that it  did not reach any conclusions concerning the merits of modifying or extending Entergy VY's obligations under existing Orders and CPGs.

Yes, it was a confusing ruling. A long-time plant opponent, the New England Coalition against Nuclear Pollution (NEC), looked at this ruling and used it as a basis for a suit filed  in Vermont Supreme Court.  NEC filed in Vermont Supreme Court, although active hearings were on-going at the Public Service Board and in Federal Court. In other words, NEC was trying their luck with suit in a third court.

I blogged about this opponent filing in The Very Latest Lawsuit: Opponents Will Probably Lose. I had some evidence for this.  The Vermont Department of Public Service has joined other NEC lawsuits against the plant, ever since Shumlin was elected. To my surprise, the Department of Public Service asked the Vermont Supreme Court to deny the NEC request for an injunction.  Then the Public Service Board itself asked the Vermont Supreme Court to deny the NEC petition.

One of the issues is that the Public Service Board's November 29 ruling could be read as an endorsement of third-party suits against Vermont Yankee. I wrote about this in Hot Potato and the New Request: Entergy Asks for an Injunction against PSB and Shumlin in Federal Court.   In other words, the November 29 PSB ruling could be interpreted as tossing the hot potato: Let's you (NEC) and him (Entergy) fight, and leave us (the PSB) out of it!

Entergy Tries an Old Court

As I noted in my Hot Potato post, when NEC filed in Vermont Supreme Court, Entergy filed an injunction against NEC in Federal Court. Entergy filed in the same court  that ruled for Entergy in the original case about Vermont's pre-emption of the federal prerogative to regulate nuclear safety.  The same judge (Gavan Murtha) heard the request for the injunction against NEC.  Yesterday, Murtha ruled against Entergy about the injunction.

Basically, Entergy claimed that the NEC Vermont Supreme Court filing was an end-run around the Federal Court ruling that the Public Service Board should not take action to shut down Vermont Yankee during the federal appeals process.  Judge Murtha did not explicitly agree or disagree with this analysis. However, Murtha noted that NEC was not a party to the federal suit, and that the federal court does not take action against those not involved in federal suits.  Also, the federal court usually does not interfere with state court issues.  Bob Audette at the Brattleboro Reformer describes the Judge's reasoning, including the fact that NEC asked to be a party to the original suit, but was not granted standing by the federal court.

Meanwhile, Ray Shadis of NEC issued a press release that was quoted in the Reformer: "We hope this federal rebuff will serve Entergy as an inoculation of anti-arrogance serum, but we suspect that booster shots will be needed before Vermont Yankee is history and we can move to the details of decommissioning."

Other statements by NEC echo the idea that this federal ruling is not the final "shot" in these battles. Lawyer Margolis of NEC told the Reformer that he expects Entergy to "run to the district court" if the Vermont Supreme Court orders a plant shutdown.

Vermont Supreme Court 
Ignoring the rhetoric, I interpret these statements as: "It's not over till it's over."

Indeed, it is not over yet.

The Future

The next event in this saga will be the Vermont Supreme Court hearing on the NEC request.  As noted above, both the Department of Public Service and the Public Service Board have asked the Vermont Supreme Court to dismiss the request.   (UPDATE: Entergy has also asked for the NEC request to be dismissed.  I have put the November 29 PSB statement and the Entergy request to the Vermont Supreme Court on a new page Vermont Supreme Court Filings, at the Energy Education Project.) As far as I can tell, only NEC wants the Supreme Court to take the case, and the two Vermont commissions have asked it to dismiss the case.  The Supreme Court has scheduled at 30-minute hearing on this case on Wednesday, January 16, at 2:30 p.m.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Shaffer at ANS blog: Vermont Yankee in Perspective

Howard Shaffer
March 2012 Rally
I want to recommend Howard Shaffer's excellent post at ANS Nuclear Cafe today: No Holiday from Politics. For Vermont Yankee, Shaffer covers the legal front, the legislature, ISO New England, the river, and the year ahead.  In other words, Shaffer puts many complex situations in context. Lots of good links, too.

Speaking of excellent links, the 138th Carnival of Nuclear Energy Bloggers is posted at Next Big Future.  Links to the best nuclear blogposts in the world, all in one place for your reading pleasure.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Engineering Adventures Course

I am scheduling this to be published while I am leading the first day of the Engineering Adventures with Nevil Shute course.  I will write about the course occasionally in this blog.

Since I announced it in the blog in November, several things have happened.

  • The course has been filled and over-subscribed.  
  • The Nevil Shute Norway Foundation discovered the course and the American librarian will attend the course and probably record it for the Society.  I am very pleased about this!  The Foundation has members all over the world. If you like Nevil Shute, I encourage you to visit the Foundation web page.
  • I set up a page on my personal web page for downloads about the course.  So far, the 2-page course syllabus is at that page, as well as several articles about the R100 and R101 Airships.

Here's the letter I sent to course participants:

Welcome to Engineering Adventures with Nevil Shute.

This study group meets four Monday mornings, 9:30 a.m., at the D.O.C. House.  The first meeting is January 7 and the last meeting is January 28.

Plus, as an extra added attraction: there will be an optional fifth session, Monday February 4 at 9 a.m.  In the optional session, we will watch the movie No Highway in the Sky, starring James Stewart and Marlene Dietrich.

The course is based upon Nevil Shute's books and on our own experiences with big, complex projects.  The two books are Slide Rule and No Highway.

Class participants are expected to read both books. If you can read them before the class begins, that would be terrific.  Otherwise:

  • Read Slide Rule, chapters 1-7, by the second week of class. That is the majority of the book, and it would be good if you finish the rest of the book. 
  • Read No Highway, chapters 1 through 7 by the third week of class
  • Finish No Highway by the fourth week of class.

The format for this course is based on Great Books of Management.  I belonged to this discussion group in California when I worked at Acurex (now part of A.D. Little consulting).  The group members were chemists and engineers.  As our responsibilities grew, we began becoming project managers. One of the senior managers started the group to help people become better managers.   We also were encouraged to take traditional courses in project management.

Great Books of Management had a simple thesis: We can learn about project management by studying fiction and non-fiction books that present typical problems.  We read Plutarch, Halberstrom, Dickens and Shakespeare.  Some of our best discussions were based on Nevil Shute’s books, and I have chosen those books for this course.

For each meeting, we spent one hour discussing the books from a management perspective.  Did people seek the right information?  Did they make appropriate decisions?  The second hour broadened the discussion to include own project histories. Faced with similar issues, did we seek the right information and make the appropriate decisions?

Engineering Adventures with Nevil Shute will follow the same format.  One hour on book discussion, one hour of our own experiences.  One hour book, one hour personal.

Read the books, prepare to share your own war stories, and be ready to have fun! I look forward to meeting you!

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Why the Rush to Industrial Wind Isn't Good for Vermont: The Press Conference

At a press conference Thursday two Vermont senators announced proposed legislation for a three-year moratorium on new industrial wind development on Vermont's ridges. Rob Roper of the Ethan Allen Institute made four-minute video at the conference: it has some amazing graphics of wind development.


Two recent articles also cover this press conference:

Brattleboro Reformer: The Local Ridges

An article by Mike Faher in the Brattleboro Reformer describes the press conference, and connects it to the town of Windham's fight against industrial wind on its local ridges. (The town of Windham is in Windham County, which is also home to the town of Vernon and Vermont Yankee.)

Eight pro-wind groups made a lengthy statement against this proposed legislation. The groups include the local Sierra Club,  Citizens Awareness Network (their website is, and  the Vermont Yankee Decommissioning Alliance. The Reformer article says:  In the groups' press release, Kilian characterized wind-power opposition as "the extreme voices of those who refuse to take responsibility for our energy future."

(Snark warning  I just LOVE it when nuclear-opponents-and-wind-promoters insult people that way. Winning people to your side by name-calling.  Go for it, guys! Do some more of this! End snark.)

Vermont Digger: The Governor's Opinion and the Bill Itself

An article by Andrew Stein in Vermont Digger includes a video of the conference, a link to the draft bill itself, and an interesting correction (the correction, IMO, is not the reporter's fault...)

Here's the correction: Gov. Peter Shumlin said on Friday that he is still vehemently opposed to the idea of a moratorium on utility-scale wind development. VTDigger originally reported that Shumlin indicated earlier this week that he was not completely opposed to the idea.  

The Digger article has a lengthy comment stream, including many comments by my friend Willem Post. Post is a world-wide authority on wind power and its problems. He has many excellent posts on wind power  on The Energy Collective website.  Thousands of people follow his posts there. He is also an occasional guest blogger on this blog.


Rob Roper made the video above. Roper is President of the Ethan Allen Institute, and the Energy Education Project (I am director) is part of the Ethan Allen Institute.

I blogged about this press conference a few days ago: A Wind Moratorium Press Conference in Montpelier. That earlier post includes information about Vermont Electric Cooperative and wind power.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Vermont Yankee is an Asset to Vermont, and the Sky Is Not Falling: Deb Schulze Guest Post

Deb Schulze

My name is Deb Schulze.  I am a Vermont native and live in North Springfield.

I am speaking tonight in favor of granting Vermont Yankee a Certificate of Public Good.

Vermont Yankee provides safe, clean and reliable electric power.

I have observed with increasing skepticism the tactics of VY’s opponents.  These folks are trying to scare everyone into believing this plant is old and broken down, and that just is not true.

VY is like most any business, it is continually maintained and upgraded and it is also carefully monitored by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
Vermont Yankee has saved more than 50 million tons of carbon and other pollutants from being released into the environment.

We now live in a world of big plasma televisions, electric cars and a whole host of electronic gadgets. Our need for electricity is continually increasing.  Closing down Vermont’s largest producer of electricity (two-thirds of the in-state generation) makes absolutely no sense.

Vermont Yankee, along with and its employees and contractors provides more than $100 million per year, into both the local and state economy.  Taxes and payments to the state account for nearly $15 million.

2011, Entergy Vermont Yankee contributed approximately $435 thousand to the community through Entergy open grants, the Entergy Charitable Foundation, site sponsorships, and annual events.  This amount includes Vermont Yankee employee pledges/company match to the tune of $109,000 to the United Way.

The sky is not falling.  Through all of the negativism generated by the anti-nuke activists, Vermont Yankee has been quietly and continuously producing safe, clean, reliable power for over 40 years.

I hope you will grant it a certificate of public good so that it can continue to do so.

Deb Schulze spoke at the Interactive TV hearing about Vermont Yankee on November 19.  Her husband, Bill Schulze, works at Vermont Yankee.  She was kind enough to share her testimony and provide this picture.

I plan to keep posting pro-VY testimony to my blog, as I can do so.  I have about twenty guest posts of testimony so far, but approximately fifty people made public statements in favor of Vermont Yankee at the two hearings.  I think the individual voices are strong, and the sum of the voices is truly powerful.  So I will keep posting them!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

A Wind Moratorium Press Conference Tomorrow in Montpelier

Never a dull moment here in Vermont.  Tomorrow in Montpelier: a press conference on a proposed moratorium for industrial wind.

Cedar Creek Room at State House
Oil Painting of Battle of Cedar Creek
Wind, the Press Conference 

Two Vermont Senators are co-sponsoring a bill calling for a moratorium on Industrial Wind in Vermont.  There may be other co-sponsors also.  Senator Joe Benning (R-Caledonia) and Robert Hartwell (D-Bennington) will introduce the bill at a press conference tomorrow, Thursday, at 2 p.m. in the Cedar Creek Room at the State House in Montpelier.

 If you look at the Senate District map of Vermont, you will see that the Caledonia district is in the northern part of Vermont, on the eastern side of the state, while the Bennington district is in the southern part of the Vermont, on the western side of the state.

In other words, this is more than a bi-partisan press conference. It's practically an all-Vermont press conference. According to a Times Argus article. Vermont Senate President Campbell says there may be 18 votes for the moratorium,  which would be a majority in the 30-person Vermont Senate.  However, the Vermont House is less likely to pass a moratorium. Governor Shumlin's administration is solidly against it.

If you want to learn more about wind in Vermont, it would be fun to attend the press conference.  Here's the official press release about the conference.

Wind, the Reactions

David Hallquist, CEO of Vermont Electric Cooperative (VEC),  is not happy with ever-expanding renewable mandates. He was quoted by WCAXVEC CEO Dave Hallquist says the utility is concerned about finding balance between rising electric rates and the adoption of a greener power portfolio.

"I don't think we've really thought this out entirely. We're kind of looking at this through different perspectives. Our perspective as the boots on the ground utility that has to carry it out says we don't know how it can work even from a physics standpoint," Hallquist said.

The VEC Board of Directors has sent a request to the Vermont legislature, requesting that the legislature not continually increase the requirements for renewables. Vermont Digger's Anne Galloway wrote Vermont Electric Co-op directors ask law-makers to put a hold on new renewable energy mandates.  Her article includes the text of the Board of Directors request to the Legislature.  The director's request for no-new-mandates is not the same as the new-wind-moratorium that the senators propose.  But the director's request is surely in the same direction. The last paragraph of their request states:

The VEC Board of Directors recommends that the Vermont Legislature impose a moratorium for a period of two years effective on January 1, 2013, on further renewable power supply mandates or sooner if the grid instability, human health impacts, and cost issues have been addressed and a transition plan is in place that considers the cost and reliability impacts of moving to higher levels of renewable resources. 

A quote from CEO Hallquist in the same article: “We observed the wind issue splitting our community....We asked ourselves, why are we doing this when it represents only 4 percent of our carbon footprint?”

Specific Wind: Facts and Quotes

The Georgia Mountain Wind Turbines were connected to the grid by December 31, enabling them to receive a 30% federal tax rebate on the project.

In Windham County, home of Vermont Yankee, the Town of Windham has been fighting against wind development. Residents were hopeful when the Vermont Department of Public Service backed the Town of Windham's fight.  However, the Public Service Board (PSB) has overruled the local citizens, at least for now.  In an article in the Bennington Banner (Windham) Selectboard Chairwoman Mary Boyer also said the permitting process has been a valuable experience.

"Although we were hoping that the PSB would support our right to determine our own land use as the governor has suggested, that is not to be at this time," Boyer said in a statement sent to the Reformer.

Rep Tony Klein
In contrast, Tony Klein of the Vermont legislature is all in favor of wind energy. In WCAX's article on the wind moratorium, Klein, chair of the House Natural Resources and Energy committee, was quoted as follows: "I think it's (a wind moratorium) about the most anti-business statement the Legislature could make," said Rep. Tony Klein, D-East Montpelier.

The Press Conference

Stop in at the Cedar Creek Room tomorrow afternoon, if you can make it, and attend the press conference.  It should be an interesting afternoon.