Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Vermont Yankee to close in 2014

Today, Entergy announced plans to close Vermont Yankee in 2014.

Here's a link to their press release:, sent this morning.

I decided to copy their FAQs directly to this blog post.  The FAQs include assessments of their other plants (none in immediate danger of closing) and the fact Vermont Yankee will be put in SafeStore.

I have also boldfaced a very important part of the FAQ, for easy reading.

I will comment on this of course, but not today....


Entergy to Close, Decommission Vermont Yankee

Frequently Asked Questions

When will Vermont Yankee close?

The company anticipates shutting down the Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Station in fourth quarter 2014, with the exact date still to be determined.

Why was this decision made?

Vermont Yankee has an immensely talented, dedicated, and loyal workforce (about 630 employees) and a solid base of support in the community. We recognize that closing the plant on this schedule was certainly not the outcome they had hoped for, but we have reluctantly concluded that it is the appropriate action for us to take under the circumstances.

The decision to close Vermont Yankee in 2014 was based on a number of financial factors, including:

(Bloggers bold-face and bullets below, not in the original FAQ)

  • A natural gas market that has undergone a transformational shift in supply due to the impacts of shale gas, resulting in sustained low natural gas prices and wholesale energy prices.
  • A high cost structure for this single unit plant. Since 2002, the company has invested more than $400 million in the safe and reliable operation of the plant. In addition, the financial impact of cumulative regulation is especially challenging to a small plant in these market conditions.
  • Wholesale market design flaws that continue to result in artificially low energy and capacity prices in the region, and do not provide adequate compensation to merchant nuclear plants for the fuel diversity benefits they provide.

Couldn't Vermont Yankee be sold to another company?

We are constantly evaluating our portfolio of assets and businesses to determine if it makes sense to hold and optimize, to sell, or to shut down. As a matter of policy, we cannot comment on any specific efforts, however, we did consider all options before making this decision. Closing the plant on this schedule was certainly not the option we hoped for, but we have reluctantly concluded that it is the appropriate action for us to take under the circumstances.

What will happen to employees?

We expect to continue operations with current staffing levels through to shut down, at which time we will transition into decommissioning. Staffing levels will change and be reduced as the plant moves through the various stages of decommissioning. The company will treat employees at the station fairly and assist them through this transition.

Beyond the financial aspect, what's the reasoning behind closing the plant?

We looked at the impact of this decision through the lenses of all our stakeholders, and while extremely tough for many, we believe the decision was ultimately the right one:

Owners -- It is consistent with our disciplined approach of constantly evaluating our portfolio of assets and businesses to determine if it makes sense to hold and optimize, to sell, or to shut down. This shutdown decision was made because this asset is not financially viable.
Employees -- It provides employees the best opportunity to properly plan their future, whether at the plant, other Entergy-owned facilities or in the broader industry. We will treat our employees fairly throughout this entire process.
Customers -- It provides more certainty to our wholesale customers and to the broader markets in which we participate.
Communities -- It allows us to move forward and constructively engage with the impacted communities as we transition from an operating nuclear facility into and through the decommissioning process. We will continue to be a key part of the communities in which we do business as that moves forward.

What has to be done to decommission a nuclear plant?

The decommissioning process is clearly defined by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in Title 10 of the Code of Federal Regulations, Section 50.2 (10 CFR 50.2). The initial activities involve extensive planning to safely and efficiently decommission the station and terminate the station license. Activities include removing the plant from service, transferring used fuel to safe storage, removing any residual radioactivity and restoring the site which includes the removal of structures and, if appropriate, re-grading and reseeding the land.  

How can we be assured that decommissioning will be handled properly?

The safety of our operations will continue to be a top priority. In addition, the NRC will provide oversight during the decommissioning process.

How long will the entire decommissioning process take?

The complete decommissioning process is likely to take decades. We plan to follow the NRC-approved SAFSTOR methodology of decommissioning, where the facility is maintained and monitored in a safe condition and the decontamination and dismantling of the station occurs later. There are a number of advantages to SAFSTOR methodology, including lower potential radiation exposure for workers doing the decommissioning work and the need for fewer shipments of radioactive material to the low-level waste site.

Entergy expects to decommission using the SAFSTOR method. What is SAFSTOR?

SAFSTOR places and maintains a nuclear facility in a condition that allows it to be safely stored until the removal of radioactive materials and components, eventually permitting unrestricted use of the area. During SAFSTOR, the facility is left intact, with structures maintained in a sound condition. Systems that are not required to support the spent fuel pool or site surveillance and security are drained, de-energized and secured.

What will happen to the Vermont Yankee site after decommissioning?

Once Vermont Yankee's license has been terminated and the NRC has released the site for unrestricted use, the area can be used in any way permissible by federal, state and local laws. Entergy retains ownership of the property on which Vermont Yankee operates. Entergy has committed eventually to restoring the site by removing structures and, if appropriate, re-grading and reseeding the land.

What happens to the used fuel?

The used fuel will remain secured on site, under guard, monitored during shutdown and decommissioning activities, and subject to the NRC's oversight. Removal of the fuel from the reactor vessel to the spent fuel pool is expected to begin as soon as the reactor has cooled sufficiently, in a matter of days after shutdown. This is similar to what happens in a refueling outage. From the spent fuel pool, fuel will be moved to NRC-licensed casks. The fuel will remain onsite in dry casks until it is removed by the federal government in accordance with its legal obligations.

How many U.S. nuclear power stations/units have been decommissioned?

Since 1960, more than 70 test, demonstration and power reactors have been retired throughout the United States.

Vermont Yankee contributes about $435,000 annually to the community through open grants, site sponsorships, annual events and other charitable giving. What will happen to that support?

We will continue to be a good corporate citizen. We recognize that this is a significant event for the local economy and for surrounding communities. We will have future discussions to talk about transition plans, as it is too soon to know the specifics.

How can the public be assured of radiological safety during the decommissioning process?

The environmental monitoring program in place now will continue after the plant is shut down. The program will be modified to monitor the types of releases that may occur during decommissioning. Again, the NRC will provide oversight during the decommissioning process.

Will the closing cause electric reliability supply issues in the state or elsewhere in the region?

ISO New England will conduct a grid reliability review before Vermont Yankee's closure.

What about other Entergy plants in the region?

Each of our merchant plants has unique characteristics, some operating in different market environments, some of which are more favorable than others.

For example, Vermont Yankee and Indian Point are on two opposite ends of the spectrum. Vermont Yankee is a small, single-unit plant in a very challenging economic market. Indian Point is a large, two-unit station in a more favorable market. Indian Point continues to be a vital component of the region's power supply and we are committed to its continued and safe operation.

Regarding FitzPatrick, while in a difficult market environment, we currently expect to refuel in the fall of 2014.

While Palisades' market environment is certainly difficult, it has a power purchase agreement.

Although Pilgrim's market environment is the same as Vermont Yankee's, Pilgrim's higher power output provides greater economies of scale.

Does Entergy have the required decommissioning funds in place?

Regarding decommissioning, assuming end of operations in fourth quarter 2014, the amount required to meet the NRC minimum for decommissioning financial assurance for license termination is $566 million. The Vermont Yankee decommissioning trust had a balance of approximately $582 million as of July 31, 2013, excluding the $40 million guarantee by Entergy Corporation to satisfy NRC requirements following the 2009 review of financial assurance levels. Filings with the NRC for planned shutdown activities will determine whether any other financial assurance may be required and will specifically address funding for spent fuel management, which will be required until the federal government takes possession of the fuel and removes it from the site, per its current obligations.

How does Vermont Yankee's closing change Entergy's viewpoint on nuclear energy?

Entergy remains committed to nuclear as an important long-term component of its generating portfolio, and for meeting the nation's energy needs. Nuclear energy's benefits are numerous and important. Nuclear provides reliable and cost-effective power over the long term, it contributes to supply diversity and energy security as part of a balanced portfolio, and it provides almost two-thirds of America's clean-air electricity. Nuclear is an important part of Entergy's portfolio.

Tell me more about Vermont Yankee. How many employees are there? What type of reactor does the plant have?

Vermont Yankee is a boiling water reactor manufactured by General Electric. The plant uses the Connecticut River as a cooling source, with once-through cooling towers. It began commercial operation on Nov. 30, 1972, and it is currently licensed to operate through 2032. It has a maximum dependable capacity of 605 megawatts and employs approximately 630 people.

Where can I get more information on decommissioning nuclear plants?

The NRC maintains frequently asked questions on nuclear plant decommissioning at this site: http://www.nrc.gov/about-nrc/regulatory/decommissioning/faq.html


Anonymous said...

Another one bites the dust. So that makes five in total this year. I am sensing a sunset in progress. Very, very discouraging.

Mike Mulligan said...

So now you are seeing the real world.

It is still sad seeing a grand old lady fade away...

Joffan said...

A sad decision, but one only the operator is in a position to make.

Cheap gas, regulatory imbalance and no reward for grid support. The regulatory side is not new. The electricity prices are skewed by wind and solar subsidies and natural gas is - temporarily - in surplus.

Perhaps this closure and the reaction from the grid operator will start to attach some value to baseload plants.

Watch for panicky attempts by the state to screw additional funding out of Vermont Yankee.

Sean McKinnon said...

Boy am I glad engergy appreciates all the hard work people like you did fighting for their plant. Jesus 2 perfectly good plants with 20 year license extensions in 6 months. This sucks. I hope Vermont is happy with what it wanted soooo bad.

Anonymous said...

A total of five have bit the dust this year alone. That doesn't bode well for the future. Even if the work in progress on the new units is completed, we're still losing ground.

jimwg said...

Re Entergy: “Closing Vermont Yankee was agonizing decision & extremely tough call for us.”

I wonder how tough that call would’ve been without all that massive (media fed) community and political pressure and sheer ignorance. Meredith & Howard, God bless you for waging reason and fact back against a tidal wave of otherwise unchallenged FUD and nuclear bigotry. The fearmongers will be moving on to Indian Point now after their celebration ends and Vermont’s scenic historic vistas, earth's climate and ratepayers lose.

James Greenidge
Queens NY

Engineer-Poet said...

I wonder if the legal fee ruling from the appeals court had anything to do with this.  If VY could not force its harassers to pay its legal costs, barratry became another way to make the plant uneconomic... and it was obvious that they would do just that.

At least a plant in SAFESTOR is technically able to restart if an emergency requires it, no?

Anonymous said...

Technically, I guess a plant could be resurrected from SAFSTOR. But that is grasping at straws. This is a goner. I don't think there has ever been a case of a plant coming back to life once the owner gives up the operating license. SONGS just crossed that threshold and is on the way to the scrap heap.

Meredith Angwin said...

Engineer-Poet. No. It can't restart without a new license from NRC, which would mean endless inspections and upgrades to whatever the new standards might be at the time it wanted to restart. This might well be cheaper than building a new plant of the same size, but no plant that was decommissioned has ever restarted.

Closed is closed forever for a nuclear plant. Not true for a coal plant in general, but true for a nuclear plant.

Unknown said...

Unbelievable. I've been following the ups and downs of this mighty power plant and her valiant crew for a while now. Its almost been like reading a long novel with a disappointing ending. I tip my hat to all the fine people of VY and Meredith.

David said...

This is the result of a strong campaign by the fossil fuel industry over a long period to regain the market share it lost to Nuclear power in the electricity generation market. When Nuclear replaced diesel during the 70's and 80's we begin to get a "global warming" campaign in which "renewables" were featured that by golly just happen to need Natural Gas as a backup. Enter green Feed in tariffs that drive the whole sale cost to below zero when wind turbines kick in and a refusal to label Nuclear as "green" and the plan is in place. The government pays us to regain our market share!!!

What a scam!!!

Anonymous said...

The sad thing is, like Kewaunee, there is absolutely nothing wrong with this plant. The structure is intact and sound. All of the machinery is in good shape and has been well-maintained through the years. All of the human capital is in place. The license has been renewed. It can run another 20 years and provide a valuable product with a high level of safety, reliability, and very little if any environmental impact. It is an intact, functional, valuable piece of infrastructure that is being rendered useless only because of the declining powers of men themselves.

jimwg said...

RE: David said...

David, you hit the nail! Can you please post this mention of yours on the U.S. NRC blog on the VY closing?

James Greenidge
Queens NY

Engineer-Poet said...

"It can't restart without a new license from NRC, which would mean endless inspections and upgrades to whatever the new standards might be at the time it wanted to restart."

That's not a technical reason, that's policy.  Policy can be changed, especially in an emergency.  The biggest problem might be getting personnel back to the plant once they've moved on.

"there is absolutely nothing wrong with this plant. The structure is intact and sound. All of the machinery is in good shape and has been well-maintained through the years."

Exactly.  Discarding VY, like SONGS and Kewaunee, should be regarded as a criminal act of vandalism.  Those people who forced it (pols and pressure groups) should be paying for it.

Anonymous said...

I am a student of history and I have seen this pattern repeated, which precedes the decline and eventual fall of most civilized societies. We hold in faltering hands the keys to immense treasures, yet lack the will and foresight to see that and understand it and the implications of throwing it away. We have within our grasp a source of energy that will supply our needs into the foreseeable future, with very little environmental degradation, and a very high level of safety, security, and reliability, yet we turn our backs on it and drive it from these shores. Instead we retreat to 18th century power sources (fossil fuel combustion), or even more ancient and unreliable technologies (wind power and solar). We are throwing away the future in favor of the past, and the inevitable result will be a regression in technological level and a concurrent retreat in standard of living and personal well-being.

Anonymous said...

So, I am left wondering, what about the human cost of this? Over 600 hard-working and professional people out of work. They have families to support, kids in school, lives to lead. Does anyone give a crap about them? I hear the usual platitudes about "helping with the transition", but transition to what, the unemployment line? Where does a fuel cycle analyst look for work in rural Vermont? The company says they will be "treated fairly", but what the heck does that mean? One of my friends at Shoreham who was "treated fairly" got a one way ticket to Palookaville, being railroaded out of a C&HP job and into driving a forklift on the loading dock. Thanks for nothing, chumps. That kind of "fairness" we don't need.