Sunday, September 29, 2013

Challenging Those Who Celebrate Vermont Yankee's Closing

Nuclear Opponents Celebrate Plant Closing

Vermont Yankee opponents are celebrating the announcement that the plant will close in 2014. Their celebrations make it appear that everyone is happy with this outcome.  In my opinion, nuclear supporters must be honest, visible and upfront with our feelings:  We are not happy that the plant is closing. We know that Vermont Yankee's closing is a bad thing for the state of Vermont.

Here comes the party

The day that Entegy announced the plant shutdown, my local newspaper called me for a quote. They interviewed me and Howard Shaffer, and they interviewed plant opponents.

The Valley News put the article on the front page: Vermont Yankee Opponents Cheer, Supporters Lament.  The article started with an opponent's reaction: When Sharon resident Nina Swaim heard the news Tuesday morning, she was so excited that she screamed. The article ended with more of the opponent's reaction:  First, though, Swaim said, “I just think we all should party for a while.”

Howard and I are well-represented in that article: as a matter of fact, the pull-quote on the front page was from me. But the article started and ended with the opponents' celebrations.

Count me out of the party

Jack Gamble and his wife work at Oyster Creek in New Jersey.  Opponents have tried hard to shut that plant down, and they have partially succeeded.  Oyster Creek is scheduled to close in less than ten years, despite having a NRC license good through 2029.

Jack saw the Valley News article (I had linked to it on Facebook) and he wrote a letter to Valley News: Count Me Out of the Party. His letter starts: About 600 people will lose their jobs, and Nina Swaim is throwing a party...The entire town of Vernon is about to be devastated. Restaurants, retailers and every other local business just lost 600 customers. The same is going to happen to our town of Forked River. But Swaim is going to party... I urge you to link to Gamble's letter and read it.

A few days later, the Valley News published a letter by Brian Cain: Where the Blame Belongs.   Cain started by listing Three Mile Island, Fukushima, etc.  He referred to Gamble's letter, and he finished his own letter with comments that I consider snarky: The world is moving toward safe, clean, sustainable energy, and nukes are not part of that equation. Good luck to you (Gamble) in your job hunt. I don’t have a job either, but I am going to the party.

(Actually, of course, Gamble has a job now, but will lose it when the plant closes. Cain equates "will lose our jobs" with "don't have a job."  Oh, I am SUCH a nit-picker!)

The party expands by adding quotation marks

Chad Simmons volunteers with an anti-Vermont-Yankee  activist campaign.  He was offended that some people have said that activists are insensitive when they gloat over Vermont Yankee closing. In The Commons, Simmons wrote a letter titled On Joy and Justice. To give him credit, he tackles the jobs question straight up:
Chicken Dance

THE “JOBS” ARGUMENT is, in my opinion, a fear-mongering ploy by the wealthy to scare communities into submission......Do Entergy “jobs” make our lives better and its “charitable giving” add to the sustainability and happiness of our communities?

Well, maybe not straight-up.  There are those quotation marks...

Cheryl Twarog, a Vermont Yankee supporter and wife of a long-term employee, wrote several good comments at the end of Simmon's letter.  I urge you to read them.

Answering the Gloaters and Party-Goers

In politics: "A Charge Un-Answered is a Charge Believed."  If  someone is accused and doesn't answer, then people think the accusation is true.

In my opinion, it is the same with the party-goers. If people are celebrating and we don't say anything about it, we are implying their celebrations are appropriate.

We should point out that the people-who-party are enjoying the misfortunes of others. Yes, these people are under the impression that they, personally, will be far safer if these others suffer misfortune (Chernobyl! Fukushima!). They are still enjoying the misfortune of others.


Two people have written very effective rebuttals to the gloaters.

Cheryl Twarog wrote two excellent letters.  In No High Fives, she answered Simmons directly, in The Commons:  The reality of impending job losses is anything but fear-mongering in any VY household at the moment. Perhaps it is Simmons’ sense of reality that is skewed.

In The Sentinel and other newspapers, she wrote: Vermont Yankee Workers are Great.
Thank you for remembering what is important, even at a time like this, when so many are jubilantly celebrating the impending job losses.

You continue to go to work each day with the safe operation of the plant as your top priority, shutting out the ignorance of others. You are a highly skilled, dedicated and caring group of people, and you deserve all of the good that can come your way.Wishing each one of you the best. 

At Canadian Energy Issues, Steve Aplin described the situation: Jobs and livelihoods destroyed, lives disrupted, increasing carbon emissions: an anti-nuke's life's work.  Aplin writes about the difficulties of being unemployed in this economy. Aplin references Gamble's letter, and adds about his own experience attempting to protect union jobs against a government policy that would eliminate them:

In my initial discussions with the new union clients I sensed a quiet, very restrained, but palpable anger about the policy they had asked for advice opposing...I put everything I had into that case, and my client succeeded in at least delaying the implementation of the policy. What struck me throughout...was the callousness, on the part of those who supported and continue to support that policy, toward the thousands of people who will lose their jobs because of it.  I am supposed to be a brass-balled consultant, providing objective advice...But...I found it difficult to be detached about people who would soon be dealing with unemployment.

Party-Time Rhetoric

In my opinion, we must combat the "party time" rhetoric just as we have combated the "huge-dangers" rhetoric.

In the case of party-time, the opponents can give the impression that everyone is dancing in the streets about the Entergy announcement. There's no street-dancing and no high-fives, except among the dedicated opponents.  Nuclear supporters must continue to express our sadness that Vermont Yankee is closing.  We must continue to express our knowledge that Vermont Yankee and its employees were a great asset to the southern Vermont communities, and indeed, to the whole state.

The Sin of Envy
I cannot know the motivations of the people who oppose Vermont Yankee.  However, I do know that the median income in Windham County is $41K, and in Vermont as a whole it is $53K  (see my previous post on A Poor Area Will Become Poorer.)  In contrast, the average salary at Vermont Yankee is usually stated as "around $90K."

Envy is one of the motivations of some (many?) of the opponents.  I know my evidence for this is anecdotal evidence, but the stories are also true. I think some (but not all) plant opponents are at least partially motivated by envy.

In Dante's Purgatory, the punishment for the envious is to have their eyes sewn shut with wire because they have gained sinful pleasure from seeing others brought low (from Wikipedia). If you prefer a more modern word than envy, Schadenfreude means basically the same thing.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Safety of Nuclear vs. Gas: Guest Post by N Nadir

The Prisoner's Dilemma

My blog post The Prisoner's Dilemma and New Types of Nuclear Energy Reactors was posted at The Energy Collective.  (The post originally appeared at ANS Nuclear Cafe.) In this post, I compared the types of support given to current and advanced reactors.

N Nadir wrote a comment on the post, and he has generously allowed me to use his comment as a guest post.  (I posted another one of his comments as a guest post in August: Vermont is Part of the World. )

The Best in Terms of Risk

Yes, it (nuclear) is the very best form of energy in terms of risk.

Nuclear energy need not be perfect; it need not be risk free to be better than everything else, it merely needs to be better than everything else, which it is.

There is no form of energy ever invented by humanity that has ever, at any time, produced as much energy as nuclear energy has produced with as small a loss of life.   Zero.   None.

The problem that nuclear has, and no other form of energy has, is that all other disasters - and there are too many to mention - go down the memory hole rapidly, whereas any problem with nuclear plants is rehashed over and over and over ad absurdum.

Gas Explosions and Oil Wars

Memorial Window
The Piper Alpha oil platform explosion took place around the same time as the Three Mile Island meltdown.    Quick, without Google, how many people were killed at Piper Alpha?    How many at Three Mile Island?   How much oil gas and coal has been burned to run websites where people carry on about Three Mile Island?   How much oil, gas and coal has been burned to discuss Piper Alpha?

How many major gas explosions took place this year?    How much attention did they get compared to say, Fukushima?    How many gas explosions took place in the same year as Fukushima?    How did they compare in direct injury and death to Fukushima?   How long will any of these gas explosions be remembered or discussed?

We can go further:

How many oil wars have there been?    How many nuclear wars?

How many people die each year from oil, coal and gas waste?   How many people have died from the storage of so called "nuclear waste" in the more than half a century of commercial nuclear reactions?

The Impossible Standard for Nuclear

Nuclear's problem is not technical, nor is it even rational.    Nuclear energy suffers from being held to a standard that no other form of energy can meet, with the result that we continue to cause huge losses of life, property, and the ecosphere because of our irrational fears of it.

Quite frankly, the pressurized water reactor has unquestionably been the greatest and safest large scale energy device ever invented.    As reported by Jim Hansen in Environmental Science and Technology nuclear energy, dominated by this kind of reactor, is responsible for saving 1.8 million lives.    It might have saved more, were it not for fear and ignorance.

One might build different kinds of reactors with different advantages (and disadvantages) when compared to the LWR but the great engineering success of the LWR is nothing to be ashamed of.    What people should be ashamed of is their picayune objections to this fine technology that limited its expansion and use.

N Nadir is a well-known blogger about energy: for a long time, he blogged at Daily Kos.  A few years ago, Charles Barton of Nuclear Green described and listed many of his posts.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

After Vermont Yankee: A Poor Area Will Become Poorer

Last week, The Commons newspaper held a forum on the future of the area around Vermont Yankee.  The forum was titled: Toward a Post-Nuclear Economy.  Life after Vermont Yankee: What is Next? My previous blog post on this subject is Yankee Rowe and the Soul of a Nuclear Worker. 

A friend of mine attended the panel, and told me that the panelists were divided between two sets of people:
  • Opponents of Vermont Yankee wanted to talk about how to force Entergy to do prompt decommissioning, how to force Entergy to greenfield the plant site. Their main topic was: “Let’s get Entergy!”
  • Local people and groups know that Entergy is a major employer, tax-payer, and source of funds and volunteers for local not-for-profits. This employer is about to leave. For local groups, the main topic was: "How will this area cope with VY's departure?"
How can the area move forward?  How can it even begin to replace Vermont Yankee? That is the big question for most people in Vermont.

Economics 101: We Are All Part of A Community

When the community becomes poorer, most of the people in the community become poorer in one way or another.   “Too bad about the plant workers but I’ll be okay” isn't really going to work for the neighboring area.  Other communities have faced these types of problems when a major employer leaves the area:
  • Hospitals, doctors and nurses are affected by the sudden local loss of hundreds of people with high-paying private health insurance. 
  • Schools will see tax revenues decline: they may drop some of their sports teams, some teachers may be laid off, others may teach bigger classes. 
  • Restaurants may keep shorter hours and some may fold.  
  • Auto dealerships may sell fewer cars.  
The local community will become poorer.

And Southern Vermont is not that rich right now.  The median annual income for workers in Brattleboro is around $41,000 while the state-wide median is $53,000.  (From the recent Olga Peters article in The Commons.)  According to the United Way report (page 21) between 22% and 60% of Windham County children get free or reduced-price lunches.  The reduced-price-lunch percentage can be considered a proxy for estimating child poverty.

Windham county is not rich now, and it is about to get poorer.  How could the county turn this around?

Economics 102: Creating Prosperity

A community becomes prosperous by making a product or providing a service that other people will spend money to buy.  No community can stand on its own, importing nothing.  Every community has to “export” something, at least to neighboring areas, to get money to buy what it needs.  What can the Brattleboro area export?

I thought of two ways that the Brattleboro area can attempt to revitalize itself after the plant leaves.  Unfortunately, I don’t think either of these two ways will work.

The Tourist Magnet

Brattleboro can attempt to become a tourist magnet. This would not be strictly export, but it is a way of attracting money from outside the area.

While all of Vermont is a tourist magnet of some type, Brattleboro will have a hard time moving up the ladder of “destinations.” Brattleboro is trying to revitalize its downtown, and is very aware of where its downtown visitors come from. (Commons article: Brattleboro's Potential for Greatness)

In my opinion, though, Brattleboro is going to be a hard sell as a tourist destination.  The area is pretty, but doesn't have the high local income and interesting history (Privateers! Clipper ships!) that helped a place like Newburyport re-invent itself.   Brattleboro can’t start a music festival--it’s only twenty miles from the famous Marlboro Music Festival, and could hardly compete.  The area could try to be a theater or film mecca, but that would be a slow build-up.  The places that succeed at that sort of thing (Ashland Oregon for example) generally have multiple stages and have been growing their influence for many years.  The successful arts center of Santa Fe New Mexico has been an artistic center for over a century, and was near the home of the very famous artist Georgia O’Keefe.

“We don’t need Vermont Yankee, we will be an arts center” doesn’t seem to me to be a winning solution.

The Industrial Hub

The Brattleboro area can attempt to get another manufacturing facility into the town, either at the Vermont Yankee site or elsewhere.

Frankly, I think they have shot themselves in the foot about this one.  Given the “protesting” spirit of Brattleboro, most manufacturers would be hesitant to locate there.  Every factory has raw materials: many raw materials are poisonous if spilled.  If I were a manufacturer, I wouldn’t locate in a place where people are likely to begin tying themselves to the gate of  my plant if they heard I had a spill of toxic paints within the plant premises.

The people of Brattleboro might think....oh no, we ONLY protest nuclear plants! We'd love other types of factories!  However,  most manufacturers will NOT want to locate in an area where protesting so-called "environmental issues" at factory gates is a way of life.

In short, I think Brattleboro has messed itself up big-time by its attitude to Vermont Yankee.  In this WPTZ video, you can see Arnie Gundersen suggesting that a new power plant be built on the Vermont Yankee site. He doesn’t say what kind of plant, however!  Can you imagine the local protests if they attempted to run a gas pipeline to the site, build a coal plant, or build a biomass plant? Heavens!

Not an easy future

I wish the Southern Vermont area the very best, if only because many Vermont Yankee workers would like to stay in the area. However,  I don't think it is going to be a very upbeat future around there.  At least, not for many years.

I include a video from WCAX on the future of the area.

 WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Yankee Rowe and the Soul of a Nuclear Worker

An Invitation

About two weeks ago, I was invited to participate in a panel discussion. This panel is happening tonight in Brattleboro. The Commons of Brattleboro is sponsoring the panel, which is titled:

The path toward a post-nuclear economy.  Life After Vermont Yankee: What's next?

I was unable to be  on the panel, because I had a conflict tonight.  I write more about the panel, near the end of this post.

A Panel Member: Dr. John R. Mullin

Of course, I was curious about the panel, though I couldn't attend.  I studied the short descriptions of the panel members. (Double-click on the announcement to do the same.)

One name on the panel was new to me: John R. Mullin.   He is a professor at University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and has an impressive Curriculum Vitae. On the panel description, he was listed as: a co-author of the 1997 paper “The Closing of the Yankee Rowe Nuclear Power Plant: The Impact on a New England Community.”  With a short search, I easily found both his paper  and a recent interview with him on Radio Boston: Lessons From the Closing of Mass. Nuclear Plant.

Economics and Property Values

I agreed with many of the statements that Mullin made on the radio program. He acknowledged that closing the plant has a  huge economic impact, and similar jobs do not exist in the areas near the plant.  On the other hand, he claims that property values fall because people are living "in the shadow of a (decommissioned) nuke."

Hmm...everybody was living in the "shadow of" a working nuke before!  It is clear to me, despite my lack of a Ph.D. in urban planning, that when a plant is decommissioned, property values fall because high-paying jobs go away. Property values don't fall because the dry casks are still at the site.  If the casks were at the site but the plant was operating and lots of workers were values wouldn't fall.  Well, that is my opinion anyway.  In Mullin's opinion, the big question is: "Would you want to be living within the shadow of a nuke?" (From the Boston Radio interview.)

The Soul of the Nuclear Workers

Near the end of the 1997 paper on the Closing of Yankee Rowe is a section called Future Prospects for Dismissed Employees.  This section notes that  "There are simply no jobs in Rowe that match their skills, nor any local plants where pride of work is so high." Employees that remain in the town can expect jobs with less pay and less status.  That is all true, and it is sad.

However, some of section seems to reflect some schadenfreude on the part of the authors of the paper. It seems to have a little sneaking joy in other people's misfortunes.  Here's the quote that annoys me:
What is especially different at Rowe, however, is the degree of alienation likely for those who stay. Rowe and its neighboring communities were dominated by YAEC, and most employees seemed to think the plant would last forever. From this lofty situation to "just a job" is a real comedown. The decline in status will be particularly difficult because for years the Yankee employees often were regarded with some jealousy.
"Just a job," huh?  Working at a nuclear power plant is "just a job" and the workers just recently found that out?   When I read about the "real comedown" for the workers, it seemed to me to be mean-spirited.  But worse; it  missed the point!

The Motivations of the Soul

Firefighters from Wikipedia
This quote shows a fundamental misunderstanding of the motivations of certain types of workers: nuclear workers, utility workers, fire-fighters, police, doctors, nurses, paramedics.  From my own knowledge of such workers,  they don't see it as "just a job."  These types of jobs all have requirements above and beyond the nine-to-five jobs in offices and factories.  This work keeps the lights on (day and night), keeps people safe (day and night), saves lives (day and night).

In most places, work of this type is accorded high status because people acknowledge the necessity of this work to keep the community safe.  People also acknowledge the sacrifice that such work can demand. (Hail to those who carry pagers!)

Of course, these jobs are also a way to earn a living.  Everybody has to earn a living.  But many people who hold these jobs think of them as a calling. For example, my husband's family includes three generations  of fire-fighters.

Man's Search for Meaning.  Working in a nuclear plant is a "job" with the gift of meaning.

Vermont Yankee Workers by Cheryl Twarog

Let's end on a high note here, with a more upbeat quote! Cheryl Twarog, wife of a long-time Vermont Yankee employee, wrote this letter to the editor, which is appearing in several local newspapers: Vermont Yankee Workers are Great.  Quotes from her letter are below:

Thank you for being the greatest group of people John has ever worked with.....
Thank you for remembering what is important, even at a time like this, when so many are jubilantly celebrating the impending job losses...You continue to go to work each day with the safe operation of the plant as your top priority, shutting out the ignorance of others. You are a highly skilled, dedicated and caring group of people, and you deserve all of the good that can come your way.Wishing each one of you the best.

More about the Panel

When the panel organizers  asked me to be on the panel, my first question was: "Can you hold it a night OTHER than Wednesday night?"  Well, they couldn't. I have a conflict tonight and cannot attend.  It is important to me to share that I was asked, however. When I put the panel announcement on the Save Vermont Yankee Facebook page, there were comments to the effect that most of the people on the panel had never supported continued operation of the plant.  So I need to state for the record that I am not on the panel because I had a conflict today, not because they didn't want me.

Here's the announcement of the panel in The Commons. The event is coordinated by journalist and Commons contributor Leah McGrath Goodman and her associate, Morgan Milazzo.  I am grateful for the invitation.

Alas, I know that Guy Page of VTEP (a frequent guest blogger on this blog) also had a conflict.  I know this because he emailed me and the organizers, and the organizers immediately asked me if I could try to manage to attend. I couldn't.  I am disappointed that Guy won't be on the panel, but since I can't be there, there is nothing I can do about it.   

Friday, September 13, 2013

Looking Forward for Nuclear, Vermont and Australia

Looking Forward, in Vermont

In recent days, some of my friends have asked me: "What are you going to do with yourself, Meredith, now that Vermont Yankee will close?"

I don't have a complete answer to that question.  There are still a lot of issues about nuclear energy in Vermont, and I will be involved in these issues and controversies.  On the other hand, resolving all these issues in the best possible way--will still not keep the plant open. Whatever I do, Vermont Yankee will still close.  Therefore, some of my motivation is definitely gone.  I am still looking for the best way forward.

For a more positive view of how we will keep working in favor of nuclear energy, please read Howard Shaffer's excellent post at ANS Nuclear Cafe.  Vermont Yankee closure announced-- There is work yet to be done. The opponents are still active, and they are still hurting nuclear energy as it goes forward. We must answer them. (Shaffer's post is also at The Energy Collective.)

Meanwhile, Andrew Stein at Vermont Digger has an article on the four, count'em, FOUR, legal issues about Vermont Yankee that are still active. As Stein writes:  Entergy may be closing Vermont Yankee, but litigation goes on.

Howard Shaffer is correct. There is still a lot to do.

Looking Forward, In Australia

For a cheerful Friday, I want to share a video from Australia about nuclear advocacy.  This video is by Ben Heard of ThinkClimate Consulting and DecarboniseSA (De-Carbonize South Australia).

This video truly shows a way to move forward.  I am happy to share it with you.

A little about the video: 

In late August, Ben Heard and I took part in one of Rod Adams excellent Atomic Show podcasts: Stomping Scare Stories. A few weeks before the podcast, Heard had made a presentation at a conference called Nuclear Power for Australia? His presentation was Gaining Community Support for the Nuclear Option.  As Heard describes in his blog-post, Andy Jaremko of Calgary made this excellent video of his presentation. 

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Tweet, Tweet about Expensive German Energy

German States from Wikipedia
Spiegel and Me

Some people in Vermont have been opposed to the continued operation of Vermont Yankee. These same people are often opposed to fossil power sources.  How do they plan to obtain electricity? They often say that Vermont should "follow the lead of Germany in using renewables."

I don't want to follow that lead, because I don't think the German program is leading anywhere happy. A few days ago, a three-part article in Spiegel Online confirmed my opinion of the German experience.  The Spiegel story about renewable energy is in three parts:

Facebook, Twitter, and Me

I am an administrator on the Save Vermont Yankee Facebook Page and I thought that this Spiegel story would be of interest to Vermonters.  So I posted it on that page. The Facebook page tweets a link to its posts.  On Twitter, I am  yes_VY.  Here's my Spiegel tweet as it appeared on Twitter.
Energiewende Germany, Twitter, and a Complete Rebuttal

Who knew?  Energiewende Germany found this tweet and a similar one from NEI.   Here's their answer:
At then...@NuclearEnforcer came on the Twitter scene.  His twitter illustration shows a cartoon superhero (complete with cape). The description of his tweet stream is "Battling the anti-nuclear dis-information campaign one tweet at a time."  He answered the Energiewende tweet:

EIA and real data

Enough tweets.  Let's look at some real data: the data @NuclearEnforcer referenced.

He (or she) linked to the International Energy Agency (IEA) 2012 report on world-wide energy use and prices.  Here's a link to that 2012 IEA report. (Warning, it's a big pdf and slow to download.)  To save time for my readers, I have copied page 43 of the report below.

Electricity for households in Germany is about 35 cents per kWh, the second-highest in Europe.  The equivalent price in the U S is about 12 cents per kWh.

Who is trying to scare whom?

It's been mighty quiet from Energiewende recently.

Further reading:

I encourage you to follow the Spiegel links in this blog post, and that is certainly enough reading.

Still, I need to link to one more article.  My friend Guy Page had a guest post at this blog: As Germany Goes, So Goes Vermont?  In May of this year, he covered much of the same information Spiegel covered, but in a more succinct fashion.

However, to get the German view on this subject, you should read Spiegel (the links above).

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Governor Shumlin's Unlikely Olive Branch to Entergy: Guest Post by John McClaughry

Just over a year from now Vermont Yankee will go offline, putting an end to 42 years of safe, reliable, competitively priced baseload electricity delivered to the New England power market.  The anti-nuclear forces that have ceaselessly agitated against Vermont Yankee for decades have jubilantly declared victory. And in truth, they are entitled to congratulate themselves for the plant’s final closure, since it was they who created the poisonous anti-nuclear atmosphere in Montpelier that contributed in some measure to Entergy’s decision to shutter the plant.

 In his remarks about Entergy’s announcement, Gov. Shumlin went out of his way to say that he would “use this opportunity to build better relations with Entergy.”  Anyone who has watched the Shumlin mode of operation should take this olive branch with a boulder of salt.

Peter Shumlin founded his political career on opposition to Vermont Yankee, and accelerated it when
Governor Shumlin
Vermont’s utilities sold the plant to what he calls “Entergy Louisiana” in 2002. He ardently supported, though he did not initiate, the extortion of $28 million from Entergy in return for allowing an unexceptional uprate of the plant’s power output in 2003.

He supported the continued extortion of Entergy to extract another $28 million in 2005 in return for allowing Entergy to store spent fuel rods in concrete casks at Entergy’s expense on its own property.

He strongly supported the two judicially overturned acts of the legislature that put 180 politicians – the great majority of them anti-nuclear Shumlin supporters - in charge of whether Entergy could be allowed to continue operation of the plant beyond its scheduled closing date of March 22, 2012.

 When Entergy applied for Public Service Board authority to extend the plant’s operation, Shumlin notoriously tried to extort it again to sell power to Vermont utilities at below market prices. This is not rumor. This was found to be fact by the Federal District Court in its 2012 ruling against the state.

 He rarely if ever passed up the opportunity to advise us that “Entergy can’t be trusted” – when it was the legislature, not Entergy, that broke the 2002 Memorandum of Understanding. And of course he strongly supported attorney general William Sorrell’s costly but futile efforts to persuade a court to allow the legislature to have total control – with no appeal – over Vermont Yankee’s future.

With this long, outspoken, and unbroken record of opposition to the nuclear plant and its corporate owner, can we expect Peter Shumlin to now seek “better relations” with Entergy? It’s far more likely that he, his regulators and lawyers, and his legislative friends will spend the rest of his time in the Governor’s office extorting every last dime out of Entergy to fund their own pet projects, and when that is pushed as far as it can go, forcing Entergy to spend as much as possible through more of the “cumulative regulation” that Entergy says contributed to its decision to close the plant.

In return for agreeing to allow Entergy to operate one more year, look for Shumlin’s Public Service Department to side with the anti-nuclear advocates to insist that the site be “greenfielded” by digging down forty feet to remove ordinary (non-radioactive) concrete foundations, instead of just covering them over with a few feet of dirt. This pointless digging, trucking and burying would require millions more in decommissioning dollars and possibly, along with other cost-inflating demands, force Energy to contribute tens of millions of dollars more into the Decommissioning Fund.

Look for the Department to push for Entergy to begin decommissioning immediately, instead of the more sensible practice of “Safstoring” the plant for twenty years, when it will be a lot easier and safer to dismantle. (Shumlin has emphatically but wrongly denied that the state ever agreed to allow Entergy to choose to Safstor.)

John McClaughry
at a dinner in his honor
The only reason for such a foolish demand is to pander to the anti-nukies’ desire to return the defiled Vernon site to the way it was when the Abenakis roamed it, so that aging demonstrators can assemble each year to celebrate the triumph of  their glorious crusade. (Let’s hope they aren’t unnerved by the concrete spent fuel cask farm, which will remain until the Federal government provides a permanent storage facility.)

There are many more issues that will be raised in the coming year, not the least of which is Shumlin’s extraordinary claim that “decommissioning is a job creator”. That is the governor’s desperate effort to convert into some kind of “jobs program” his  now-successful decades-long campaign to shut down Vermont Yankee, lay off most of its 630 well-paid employees, and kiss off their income tax payments. Stay tuned.


John McClaughry is vice president of the Ethan Allen Institute ( The Energy Education Project (directed by Meredith Angwin) is part of the Ethan Allen Institute.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Looking Back Toward Decommissioning

Picture of Dry Casks at Maine Yankee
From 3Yankees website
Let me start with a fact:

Entergy can use SAFSTOR or Prompt Decommissioning, their choice.  With either type of decommissioning, the current workers lose their jobs.

Meanwhile---Current Posturing about SAFSTOR

Currently, a great deal of posturing is being published about decommissioning Vermont Yankee.

Here's an example.

The Windham Regional Commission published a position paper in The Commons newspaper: What's in our best interests when VY closes?  The author, Chris Campany, answers his own question in the paper's subheading: "Now more than ever, our region needs to attach conditions to Entergy’s CPG."

A quote from this article above:

"We asked that whether or not a Certificate of Public Good is granted, the Public Service Board consider the following.....Require the prompt and complete decommissioning and site restoration of the VY station after shutdown (whenever that occurs) and prohibit the use of SAFSTOR."

This request is pretty much nonsense on the face of it.  As Tim McQuiston wrote in Vermont Business Magazine: Vermont Yankee, the Decommissioning Dilemma:

"The new battle will be over SAFSTOR, or Entergy's plan to postpone dismantling the plant right away, and take up to 60 years to do so. Furthermore, since this is a federal issue, the state may have little to say about it."  (emphasis added by blogger)

McQuiston also noted that Vermont might have achieved prompt dismantling  of Vermont Yankee if they had bargained for it as part of a new 20-year Certificate of Public Good. But they didn't.

 In my own opinion, once Entergy announced it was closing Vermont Yankee, Vermont lost almost all its bargaining power with Entergy.  "We're going to shut you down three months sooner than you planned to shut down anyway" is not a very credible threat.  Entergy has little to lose in its bargains with the state, once it decided to shut down the plant.

Looking Back at My Blog Posts about Decommissioning

I have three blog posts about decommissioning, and I will reference and summarize them here.

Entergy can use SAFSTOR or Prompt Decommissioning, their choice.  With either type of decommissioning, the current workers lose their jobs.

1) SAFSTOR is in the contract, whether Governor Shumlin likes it or not

The first post is In Vermont, Our Word is Our Bond, so We Don't Honor Contracts.  In this post, you can see Governor Shumlin accuse reporter Terri Hallenbeck of "working for Entergy." This is his answer when Hallenbeck reminds him that the state signed a purchase agreement, and the purchase agreement allows Entergy to use Safstor.

Here's the link to the purchase agreement itself, the Memorandum of Understanding.   The use of SAFSTOR is explicitly allowed in item 9, page 5 of this document, which is a total of eight pages long (plus some signature pages).

2) SAFSTOR and Prompt Decommissioning are both jobs cliffs. They do not protect current workers.

In Decommissioning, Facts Versus Fantasy, I show that 80% of the workers are gone within one year with SAFSTOR.  With prompt decommissioning,  50% are gone in one year, 80% in two years.  Both methods are a jobs cliff.

Most decommissioning work is done by teams of contractors. Wayne Norton, who was president of the Three Yankees during decommissioning, wrote the following in a paper he presented to industry.

Another advantage to early and aggressive downsizing is that it opens up opportunities to bring in workers with skill sets that are more suited to a decommissioning environment. Also, if these workers are contractors, they tend to be more accustomed to completing a given scope of work and moving on to another job.

3) There's no local jobs bonus.  Long-distance truckers and waste disposal sites get most of the money.

In my post, There is no Jobs Bonus.  Decommissioning Helps Long-Haul Truckers and Destroys Communities,  I try to follow-the-decommissioning money very closely.  Let's just say I don't like what I see.

Only Someone Like Our Governor Could Love Decommissioning

I will undoubtedly be posting more on this in the future, but I thought I would start with a summary of my older posts on this subject.

Decommissioning is a miserable situation for the workers and the local people.  It's the kind of situation that only our current governor could love.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

A good and sweet year

Today is Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year.

May we all have a good and sweet year.

Shana Tova (A good year)

This is the time of repentance and rethinking.

I found this short video very moving.

Who is "other"after all?  We are all "other" to somebody.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Nuclear Blog Carnival 172 at Yes Vermont Yankee Today

The News About Vermont Yankee

This was the week of the shocker. On Tuesday morning Entergy announced that Vermont Yankee would not refuel in October 2014.  Instead, it will shut down at that time.

I know many people at Vermont Yankee, and they were all as surprised as I was.  Entergy had just won a major federal court decision. We all thought we had every reason to believe Vermont Yankee would remain open for many more years.

Entergy management said it was shutting down because it was no longer economically viable.

There is more news and better news in other parts of the nuclear world, but this is the Yes Vermont Yankee blog, and I will start with reactions to Vermont Yankee closing.

My first blog post, Vermont Yankee to Close in 2014, was merely a posting of the FAQs from Entergy about the closing. However, it has an interesting comment stream so I have linked to it.  My second blog post was my own FAQs: Questions I Frequently Ask Myself About Vermont Yankee Closing.

Entergy listed three main reasons that they needed to close Vermont Yankee:
  • The low price on the grid, due to natural gas 
  • The unfavorable economics of a small nuclear plant
  • Design flaws in the local wholesale electricity market
My post contains a lot about the low price on the grid (I don't think this would have been enough of a reason, without other reasons) and the design flaws of the pricing on the New England Grid (a fair number of links, too.  The grid operator is paying an extra $78 million to oil-fired plants, for energy reliability in winter.  No such payments are going to nuclear.)

Fervent anti-nuclear bike riders
refuel themselves on bananas
Jim Conca at Forbes Geopolitics of Energy

Meanwhile, Jim Conca posted at Forbes. His post is clear and direct:  Who Told Vermont to Be Stupid?

The Great State of Vermont threw away cheap clean energy this week out of ignorance and fear. By closing the Vermont Yankee nuclear power station, Vermont chose to be stupid, and will hurt the environment as a sidebar.

That is probably the question I should have asked myself: Who Told Vermont to Be Stupid?

The Wider View

Looking outside of Vermont (and I am very glad to do so, right now) we have news about nuclear builds and the importance of nuclear energy in energy diversity.

Brian Wang of Next Big Future:

(So true.  Every now and again I think of leaving Vermont. Perhaps my thoughts don't take me far enough.) 
Commercial antimatter production could enable antimatter catalyzed fission and fusion
A new state of high pressure matter can efficiently generate soft xrays and could make explosives 100 times more powerful than chemical.  This is a table-top experiment (really) with carbon bucky-balls.  Amazing. They call the little explosions "nanostars."   

Gail Marcus of Nuke Power Talk 

In the Yosemite Fires and Energy Supply, Another Vulnerability,  Gail Marcus considers the situation on the West Coast, where the Rim Fire is still blazing near Yosemite.  She notes a Wall Street Journal editorial that points out the the vulnerability of our energy supply in areas prone to wildfire.  Some types of facilities (particularly large-scale solar and wind) are sited in wildfire-prone areas, and they have long transmission lines, also vulnerable to fire..  She suggests that the solution is more diversity.  We think of diversity in terms of types of fuel, but we should also consider diversity in terms of  terms of size and location of power plants.

Dr. Robert Hayes at NewsOK Science and Technology Blog

Dr. Robert Hayes at NewsOK describes how irradiation of food is a safe method of preservation.  We heat food (cook it) and that often makes it safer. Similarly, irradiation to kill pathogens makes food safer.

The FUD Fighters!  Starting with Snopes

In the nuclear industry, there's always some FUD (fear uncertainty and doubt) being spread. Our two FUD Fighters for this blog post are Rod Adams and Les Corrice.  They are both fighting the FUD of "radiation from water leaks at Fukushima is a terrible problem and it is going to kill us all (after it kills all the fish in the Pacific)".

Before I go to their blog posts, however, I want to give a hat tip to Snopes. Snopes has pointed out that the "radiation is spreading through the Pacific" graphic that has gone viral on the really a graphic of wave height from the Tohoku earthquake.  Snopes Fukushima Emergency. The graphic has nothing to do with radiation.

The FUD Fighters!  Our own bloggers

Our own FUD fighters on those same leaks: Adams and Corrice.

Rod Adams at Atomic Insights

Rod Adams describes the Fear Mongering over the Water Leaks at Fukushima Dai Ichi. Bottom line, despite all word to the contrary, there is no reason for anyone to be concerned that “contaminated” water from the damaged Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power station is going to cause them any physical harm, now or in the future. The only way my bottom line statement could possibly be wrong is if some really nutty activists decide to occupy the site and drink directly from the water tanks that have been assumed to be leaking. Those nutty activists would have to be very patient people, because they would have to drink that water for many years before any negative effects might show up.

And a companion piece:

Update on Fukushima water leaks – unrepresentative sample used to support fear mongering

Les Corrice at Hiroshima Syndrome

From The Hiroshima Syndrome/Fukushima Commentary

1) Is Fukushima Daiichi’s Wastewater Really Toxic?
First, just how toxic is strontium? Second, is the level of contaminated water that may have reached the sea worthy of being labeled “toxic”? Strontium itself is not worthy of being called “toxic”. The label can only be applied because of Sr-90's radiation. Is that enough?

2) New INES Rating at Fukushima Demands Clear Public Communication
It is imperative that Tepco and the IAEA make clear and decisive public communication about today's upgrade to INES level-3. The upgrade is entirely due to the leak from a wastewater storage tank, and has nothing to do with the other groundwater contamination issues at F. Daiichi. This must be stressed and any Press outlet that connects the upgrade to the groundwater issues must be publically admonished.

 Over and Out for Now

This has been a tough week for people who care about Vermont Yankee.  But there's good news other places in the nuclear world.

Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, takes place next week.

May it be a good and sweet year for everyone.

Update: ANS Nuclear Cafe always announces the latest nuclear energy Blog Carnival.  Today's Carnival announcement at ANS  says some very nice things about me.  Thank you, Will Davis and the others at ANS!