Sunday, December 29, 2013

The Agreement between Vermont Yankee and Some State Agencies

The Agreement

The Department of Public Service (PSD), the Agency of Natural Resources, and the Vermont Department of Health signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Entergy on December 23.

The link is below (13 page pdf).

The Missing Link

Christopher Recchia
Dept of Public Service
Understanding this agreement and commenting upon it will take some time. Right now, however, I want to point out that one important agency has not signed off on this yet--the Public Service Board.  For this agreement to take effect, the Public Service Board must grant Vermont Yankee a Certificate of Public Good (CPG) in accordance with the provisions of this agreement.

 The agreement gives the Public Service Board a deadline of March 31, 2014 for granting this certificate.

Section 2 of the agreement below:

Entergy VY and PSD shall jointly recommend to and shall support before the Board the issuance of CPG(s) effective as of March2l,2012, for: (1) operation of the VY Station through December 31,2014, and (2) storage of SNF derived from such operation, as requested by the second amended petition filed by Entergy VY in Board Docket No. 7862 on August 27,2013. Entergy VY and PSD will submit a Memorandum of Understanding ("MOU") to the Board, in the form attached as Exhibit A, in connection with those filings.

In the event that by March 31 ,2014, the Board has not granted Entergy VY a CPG that: (i) approves operation of the VY Station until December 31, 2014, and the storage of SNF derived from such operation; and (ii) approves the Parties' jointly filed MOU substantially in its entirety and contains conditions that do not materially alter, add to, or reject what is provided for by the MOU, each Party agrees that this Agreement may terminate, if such Party so determines in its sole discretion and provides written notice within ten (10) days of Board issuance of its order, whereupon each Party shall be placed in the position thatit occupied before entering into this Agreement, except that the obligations of paragraph 3(a) through (c) and the actions taken thereunder are final and shall not be affected by any termination.

Sections 3 a, b and c....this is an agreement that both sides (state and Entergy) promise not to appeal the court of appeals ruling in the major federal lawsuit. I blogged about this issue in The Second Lingering Lawsuit: The Attorney Fees.  I said that the state was unlikely to bring an appeal, since they had lost on the pre-emption issue in two courts.

Not Over Till It's Over

The day after the agreement was signed, I was interviewed by Pat Bradley of WAMC: Vermont and Entergy Reach Agreement on Future of Vermont Yankee Operations.

Here's my quote from that interview.

Public Service Board members Coen, Volz and Burke
See note below
Ethan Allen Institute Energy Education Project Director Meredith Angwin has worked in the power industry and pens the blog Yes Vermont Yankee. She notes that the Public Service Board, which has a case involving the plant, was not involved and expects some controversy to continue.   “What they really kind-of announced is that the Department of Public Service would advocate for this agreement before the Public Service Board. And the Department of Public Service carries a lot of weight. The Public Service Board still has to rule, but the intervenors will have plenty of time in front of the Public Service Board to say ‘no, no that’s a terrible idea, that’s a terrible idea.”

In other words, it's not over till it's over.

Note:  Coen has left the Public Service Board and been replaced by Margaret Cheney. Here's the new page with the new picture.    However, at the time of the Cheney appointment, I got the impression that Coen would continue to serve on any open dockets and Cheney would take over new dockets.  It is not clear to me which group of board members will be seated on the bench for this docket.  I will let you know when I find out.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Be Prompt and Positive with Vermont Yankee: Guest Post by Patty O'Donnell

Patty O'Donnell speaking to Public Service Board
November 2012

Prompt, positive Vermont Yankee decision benefits everyone

By Patricia O’Donnell, Chair
Vernon Board of Selectmen

For the sake of the residents of Vernon, I strongly encourage the Vermont Public Service Board (PSB) allow Vermont Yankee and the State of Vermont to come to an equitable agreement, and issue a clean Certificate of Public Good (CPG) at the end of this year guaranteeing Vermont Yankee’s continued operation until late 2014. An unburdened CPG will provide much-needed and much-warranted economic and environmental certainty and will give all stakeholders the unobstructed opportunity to plan for the future.

As an elected representative of Vernon – a town now facing the loss of its largest employer and taxpayer, significant budget cuts, and mounting questions about its financial footing – I hope the Public Service Board will at least grant us this gift of clarity as we continue the difficult task of planning for life without Vermont Yankee.

Vernon and its residents deserve to know whether Vermont Yankee will continue to operate through next year. A prompt decision by the PSB will allow us to clearly anticipate and navigate the road through 2014 and beyond, and help to ease the financial blow to our school system, our police departments and other local services resulting from the loss of this crucial revenue source.

It is equally important for the Public Service Board to pursue a course that is both fair and equitable and looks to mitigate any further harm. Assigning a tangle of conditions or refusing outright to grant the CPG will only add insult to injury for the people of Vernon – and a contentious ruling will only hinder our efforts to recover from the loss of Vermont Yankee.

For nearly four decades, the town of Vernon, as the host community for this important economic and energy generator, has been integral to Vermont’s strength and sustainability, contributing billions of dollars in tax revenues, billions more in economic benefits, and supporting thousands of jobs statewide.

It is crucial that the PSB act expeditiously and fairly in issuing a decision, and provide some semblance of certainty as we continue through this difficult transition period. The residents of Vernon, indeed all Vermonters, deserve the security of knowing what the future holds.

Note: O'Donnell wrote this before the recent agreement between Entergy and the state.  However, it is still relevant.  The Public Service Board has not ruled yet.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays

Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree
It's gloomy and rainy and ice-storm-y here in Vermont as I write this, but it still is the holiday season.

I wish all my readers happy holidays and Merry Christmas!

May you have the joys of the season: friends, family, good food and great music.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Updated: Breaking News: State and Vermont Yankee Make a Deal

The Deal

The State and Vermont Yankee have a deal about closing Vermont Yankee, announced this afternoon. I have read the breaking news report at WPTZ, and watched Shumlin's press conference as described in  Vermont Digger and embedded below.  Thank you to Digger for posting the conference so quickly!

The deal seems to have hard-edged parts (yes, I understand what's happening) and soft-edged parts (hmmm, open to interpretation here).  I share my opinions below, but I also share the press conference video, so you can form your own opinions.

Hard-edged parts of the deal:
  1. Entergy will file a decommissioning plan with the NRC in about a year, although it can legally take up to four years to do so. This plan will include an estimate of the total costs of decommissioning.
  2. Entergy will pay $2 million dollars a year for the next five years, some of which will go into the Clean Energy Development fund, and some of which will go into helping displaced workers in Windham County (or at least, something about Windham County--unclear).
  3. Entergy will put another $25 million dollars into the decommissioning fund.
  4. Entergy will attempt (it can't promise) to move all fuel into dry casks within about seven years. 
  5. When the money in the decommissioning fund has grown to the level needed for decommissioning (see #1 above), Entergy will start decommissioning activities within three months. It will not just keep the plant in SAFSTOR for sixty years or so.
  6. The state and Entergy drop all lawsuits against each other.
Update: According to the Brattleboro Reformer, "lawsuits are over" does not apply to the generation tax lawsuit which will be heard in Vermont Supreme Court.

Second Update: An article in my local paper seems to have a different take on the generation tax--that Entergy will pay the tax-to-date and the state won't expect the tax going forward?  I am sorry, but we will have to wait till after the holidays to get this straight.  Here is the article, originally from the Rutland Herald, but it may be behind a paywall.

Soft-edged parts of the deal:
  1. Entergy agrees that it will "Greenfield" the plant. Actually, Entergy agreed to this in the memorandum of understanding when it bought the plant in 2002. "Greenfielding" means site remediation beyond what the NRC requires for decommissioning.  However, what does greenfielding mean in practice?  Level and reseed the ground? Entergy had always agreed to do that.  Or  does it mean "dig up every foundation to a depth of 40 feet, at great trouble and expense"? Entergy has never agreed to that.
  2. Who is agreeing here? I mean, I think it is great to see Governor Shumlin up there explaining the deal, but what about the PSB? Will they be willing to agree to this?  Will they be annoyed that their quasi-judicial process isn't processing?
  3. Who is not-suing here?  I can practically hear the howls of "Shumlin betrayed us" from the intervenors.  I suspect more lawsuits will come from that direction.
  4. Did the state promise "no clever new taxes on the plant or fuel"?  If they did, I didn't see it in the press conference.  
My Current Opinion:

It seems to me a good-enough agreement.
  1. Entergy didn't promise anything it can't perform (such as promising to decommission within ten years or something like that).  
  2. Entergy supplied enough Danegeld to allow Shumlin to tell his supporters he made a great deal for the people of Vermont, so he doesn't lose face and he may abide by the agreement.  
  3. But Entergy didn't provide too much Danegeld.  After all, the state wanted $12 million a year to make up for the generation tax, though they knew they couldn't actually obtain that amount.
I am sure we will hear more about this, and I bet some intervenors are getting their legal briefs ready, even as I post this.

Meanwhile, the press conference that announced the deal:

The Second Lingering Lawsuit: The Attorney Fees

Attorney's Fees: The Second Lingering Lawsuit

What it is: Will the state of Vermont have to pay Entergy's legal fees in the major recent lawsuit?

History:  The state of Vermont passed laws by which the state legislature could shut down Vermont Yankee.  Then the legislature spent a lot of time and energy discussing nuclear safety, which is an area that is regulated only at the federal level. A federal judge reviewed the record, and decided in Vermont Yankee's favor: the state was indeed, attempting to pre-empt a federal prerogative.  The judge also ruled that the state of Vermont also had to pay Entergy's legal fees.  

The state appealed this ruling, and the appeals court also ruled in Vermont Yankee's favor, on the same basis of pre-emption.  However, the appeals court ruled that Vermont did not have to pay Vermont Yankee's legal fees.  So the ruling on nuclear safety was the same in both courts, but the ruling on legal fees was different.  The legal fees at issue are over $4 million dollars.

What happened recently:  Entergy filed a brief claiming that it had other bases on which to claim the legal fees: you can see the brief here at Entergy Fees Memo, filed October 31. The state filed a brief the same day claiming that Entergy should not be allowed to appeal to other reasons to claim the legal fees: you can see that brief at State Fees Memo

What is next:  It's not really clear.

About the legal fees:  the state and Entergy are keeping their options open, I believe.  However, they haven't actually started an appeal process. An appeal would be a filing to the United States Supreme Court, and I see no such filing.

Pre-emption is a separate issue, and it was the main issue of state versus federal jurisdiction on nuclear safety. At this point, two courts have ruled against the state on this major issue. The state can appeal those rulings to the Supreme Court.  However, with such a consensus from the lower courts, and the plant shutting down, such a state appeal seems a fantastic waste of taxpayer money. (I am not claiming the state won't press this appeal, you understand.  I just think it isn't very likely.)

Notes: Yesterday I blogged about another lingering lawsuit: the generation tax.  I plan a sporadic series of such blogs to keep up with the legal issues. 

Saturday, December 21, 2013

A Lingering Lawsuit: The Generation Tax

Since I blog about Vermont Yankee, every now and again I have to update the legal issues.  So here we go...again.   The first lawsuit is about the Generation Tax.

The Generation Tax: The First Lingering Lawsuit

What it is: A tax law written so narrowly that only Vermont Yankee was affected by it. This tax was challenged by Entergy in federal court

History: The legislature passed a law which increased the "generation tax" on Vermont Yankee (fee to the state per kWh sold) to a total of about $12 million a year.  This tax was designed to force Vermont Yankee to continue to make payments to the state at the same level as it had been paying the state under Memorandums of Understanding (signed contracts with the state). However, these contracts ended in March 2012.

A federal court called some of those payments  "a form of blackmail (extorted by the state) for approval of construction (by Entergy)," but at least they were signed contracts.  The new twelve million dollar tax, however, is a tax imposed by the state on "power plants with a nameplate capacity of over 200 MW."  There's only one such plant in the state. When they passed this law, legislators were warned by lawyers that such a closely-directed law would probably be challenged in court. (See page 12 of this Entergy filing.)

What happened recently:  Entergy lost in federal court and in appeals court.  The tax continues in effect.

On the other hand, courts do not like to rule on constitutional issues if they can find another way to decide. Both federal courts ruled mostly on jurisdictional issues, claiming that Entergy should have filed suit in the state courts before coming to the federal court.  You can see these rulings on this page, maintained by the Attorney General of Vermont: Generating Tax Entergy Litigation.

In the sequence:

  • the federal court dismissed the case,
  • Entergy appealed the dismissal 
  • the appeals court ruled against Entergy.  

The appeals courts said that that Entergy has to start the appeals process in state courts.

You can also read a review of the case by Gabriella Khoransanee at FindLaw, a website for legal professionals.

Calvin Coolidge tips hat
By the way, a big hat tip and kudo to William Sorrell, Vermont Attorney General, for keeping up these user-friendly and complete pages on the various lawsuits.

What's next:   Khoransanee expects the legal challenges to the tax will continue in other courts, as suggested by the federal court rulings.  To some extent, the whole thing is going to be moot pretty soon, because Vermont Yankee is planning to close.  At that point, Vermont Yankee will no longer pay a "generation" tax, because it won't be generating electricity.

However, twelve million dollars for a year's worth of tax is twelve million dollars.  I suspect both sides will consider it worthwhile to keep litigating about this sum of money.  I think Entergy will follow the guidance of the federal court, and begin the litigation process again in the state courts.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Howard Shaffer Post at ANS Nuclear Cafe: What are opponents doing nowadays?

Vermont Yankee
Howard Shaffer's most recent contribution to ANS Nuclear Cafe was posted yesterday afternoon.

Vermont Yankee: Now What Are Opponents Doing?

In this post, Shaffer describes the many ways opponents are attempting to generate political cover for the ways in which the plant's closing will affect the state, and the related ways in which they continue to foster fear about the decommissioning process, the last few months of the plant's operation, etc.

Governor Shumlin
Vermont Yankee management and the Shumlin administration are in closed-door meetings at this time.  Who knows what they will resolve?  Who knows what they are even discussing, since almost everything about the decommissioning is in the hands of the NRC and Entergy, not the state?  I suspect the discussions are another case of the state attempting to extract Dane-Geld from Entergy.

In the meantime, I recommend reading Shaffer's post for the most up-to-date information on the current "controversies."  Comment on the post, too!  (The opponents are commenting.)

Vermont Yankee: Now What Are Opponents Doing?

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Pandora's Promise on iTunes Now

Robert Stone's Documentary, Pandora's Promise, is now available on iTunes.  It was shown in theaters all over the world, but rather a limited number of theaters-- not everyone was able to see it.  Now you can see it, own it, get some friends together to watch it!

Here's a link to Pandora's Promise on iTunes.

Pandora's Promise is about the promise of nuclear energy.  It stars active environmentalists who learned more about nuclear energy, and now support it.  A review by Cal Abel on the iTunes website includes this summary:

The people he (director Stone) chose to show in the movie didn't change their values. They changed their understanding. 

Understanding nuclear power means realizing that it is indeed the promise for an abundant world in the future.  Here's an earlier post of mine, just after I saw a screening in June. I talk about environmentalists who have their eyes open, and some who have deliberately kept their eyes completely closed.  Pandora's Promise does not expect people to suddenly be convinced that nuclear energy is wonderful, but it DOES effectively start a conversation.

Now everyone can see this movie!

Once again, the link to Pandora's Promise on iTunes!

And just for fun, once again, the trailer

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Vermont Yankee's Closing Will Hurt Vermont

The Plant Will Close

On Aug. 27, Entergy announced that Vermont Yankee would be shuttered in the fall or 2014, when its current fuel load is finished producing power.

Entergy’s decision elicited a variety of reactions. Some regarded this as a great victory and were practically dancing in the streets. I was among those who were upset and depressed by the news. But I suspect that most people were somewhere in the middle. They thought, well, Vermont isn’t using Vermont Yankee power anyway, so it shouldn’t make much of a difference.

It does. Vermont Yankee’s closing will affect everyone in Vermont. It will make our electricity more expensive, more fossil-fuel based and less reliable.

Vermont utilities are using Vermont Yankee power now. They’re not officially buying Vermont Yankee power, but “using” power and “buying” power are different. Power use has to do with physical structure — where power plants, transmission lines and users are located. “Buying” power is about power contracts. A utility can choose to “buy” power from far away, but it will continue to use the power from the local generators. For example, when Green Mountain Power bought power from Seabrook instead of from Vermont Yankee, no power lines needed to be constructed. When a major supplier of regional power is lost, it must be replaced, regardless of who’s buying it.

So when Vermont Yankee closes, people in Vermont will have to get actual power from other sources. Can they get this power? The short answer is yes. Vermont Electric Power Co. (VELCO) manages the state transmission systems. VELCO was concerned that Vermont Yankee might close. Between 2010 and 2013, it invested $30 million in new lines and substations to bring replacement electricity to Vermont.

The Replacement Power

What will the new power sources be? Despite the Vermont Comprehensive Plan, very little will come from renewable sources. Building renewables is a slow, expensive, land-intensive job. Vermont Yankee generates 620 megawatts of power and is well-connected to the grid. In contrast, the Lowell Mountain wind project produces 64 MW and has difficulty getting on the grid. Rep. Tony Klein, a strong advocate of wind energy, said recently that he expects no more wind farms to be built in Vermont for another 10 to 15 years.

When Vermont Yankee goes off-line, Vermont will get its power from outside Vermont: either power supplied by the regional grid, ISO-NE, or hydro-power from Canada. With Yankee closing, much of the power on the grid, especially the spot market power, will be gas-fired and its price is due to go up. Power supplied under contract by HydroQuebec follows that spot price. Before, when gas prices went up, Vermont Yankee could underbid the gas prices, and supply many megawatt-hours at a lower price than gas. But without Vermont Yankee, gas prices will determine the price of almost everything on the grid.

Natural Gas and Some Oil

Industrial Gas Turbine
Our local grid power is already overdependent on natural gas. Right now, 52 percent of the power on the grid is produced from natural gas, and it will be a higher percentage when Vermont Yankee closes. ISO-NE considers gas dependence a “key strategic risk” for New England. The area is vulnerable to supply disruptions and price changes for this commodity.

Let’s start with supply disruptions. We had a natural gas supply crisis during the January 2013 cold snap. Although many in New England heat their homes with natural gas, the limited gas lines serving the region make for an inadequate supply. In cold weather, when domestic demand for gas spikes, those customers receive priority, and the power plants can’t get enough gas. During that cold snap, the grid would attempt to summon the help of a gas-burning power plant, and the plant would answer: “Sorry. Can’t go online. No gas.”

This year, ISO-NE started a “Winter Reliability Program” to address this problem — by using oil. ISO-NE has set aside $75 million to keep (mostly) oil-burning plants at the ready. That’s right, the grid is paying $75 million to have oil-burning plants keep oil onsite. (This is a “capacity” payment; the plants will be paid separately when they actual make power.) ISO-NE is ensuring reliability, but at a high dollar cost and a high cost in fossil-fuel use.

Without Vermont Yankee, more power will come from gas plants, but they will still be supplied by the same set of pipelines. Unless new pipelines are built quickly, an unlikely event, it will take less of a cold snap to activate the “we can’t get gas for our power plant” situation. In that case, more oil will be needed for back-up.

Price also matters, and once again, the problem is a lack of pipelines. Fracking has made a lot of gas available, but New England’s access to it is limited. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which tracks national supply and demand, published a market assessment in October that reported that gas prices are relatively stable in most of the country, except in New England. In other regions, gas prices charged last winter and for futures contracts written on the coming winter are around $4 per MMBTU (1 million BTUs). In New England, natural gas prices last year were $6.60 MMBTU, but the futures price for the winter of 2014 is soaring to $11.75. Electricity prices in this area are also expected to rise, since electricity prices customarily track gas prices.

Canadian Hydro--only a very partial solution

What about getting more power from hydro plants in Canada? This will work … partially. Depending on how much electricity we import, new transmission lines may well be needed. Some of these lines are already being planned. We should also note that Canadian power is unlikely to shield us from price rises on the grid. Under the new HydroQuebec contracts signed around 2012, the price HydroQuebec charges will fluctuate; it will move according to the market price on the grid, which itself follows natural gas prices.

Ice Storm of 1998
In this case, we will be actually moving more electricity from Canada, not just writing contracts. Electricity carried long distances is also liable to disruptions. In 1998, an ice storm devastated HydroQuebec’s power lines, causing widespread, lengthy power outages. This could happen again, but let’s look at a more recent and more mundane supply disruption.

During that same cold snap last January, HydroQuebec exported only about half of the usual amount of electricity to the U.S. Why did it cut back just when the power was most needed?

Quebec law requires HydroQuebec to supply inexpensive electricity to “legacy” customers within the province. The needs of those customers must be met, and at a retail price of around 3 cents per kWh. Therefore, many people in Quebec heat with electricity. In a cold snap, the Quebec heaters go on, and HydroQuebec has less power to send to us. HydroQuebec hates this, but has no choice.

Cold Weather and Reliability

Even with Vermont Yankee running, Vermont and New England were overly dependent on natural gas. Without Vermont Yankee, the problems will get worse,. Our dependence on natural gas and on Canada sets us up for a perfect storm of increased power prices — and it won’t take a monster storm to trigger it. Cold weather itself will do a fine job.


Reference list about effects of closing Vermont Yankee

My op-ed, Vermont Yankee Closing Will Hurt Vermont,  was based on many references. This list of links helps support it, but no simple list can be a complete set of references on these subjects.

Wind Projects in Vermont

Representative Klein on not-expecting wind projects in Vermont for about ten years

Natural Gas

ISO says natural gas dependence is key strategic risk

FERC Market Assessment of price nationally

Matt Wald of the NYTimes on natural gas and New England

20% electricity price rise expected in Boston this winter

Portland at Forbes on the gas crisis in New England

Winter Reliability with Oil

ISO Winter reliability program---burning oil

Hydro Quebec and more

When HQ exported only half the electricity during a cold snap...

HQ Planning document:
Note page 6 on 97% of electricity goes to Heritage Pool in Quebec
Note page 32 on plans for profits from exports

An older blog post about HQ and profits.
HQ charts showing where their profits come from.  This post is old, but HQ puts equivalent charts in every annual report.  Look at the blue charts...also see page 32 of planning document above

The great ice storm of 1998

Careful review of who-owns-what in the weird structure of Gaz  Metro and HQ. My basic conclusion---ordinary shareholders do not influence these companies.  The government of Quebec controls the actions of these companies.  It's hard to figure out, however.  Good links within the post.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

400K Pageviews at Yes Vermont Yankee Blog

A Successful Blog

Yesterday afternoon, I took this screen shot of the page-views on Yes Vermont Yankee blog.  It's from the blogger "Stats" page. Clearly the time-line is not right, because the blog began in January 2010. Still, I think the page-count is accurate.  For example, the big blip shown in "April 2009" is certainly the giant readership of the 25th Carnival of Nuclear Energy blogs in October 2010.  That post was featured in Instapundit and other venues.

I'm proud of the record of this blog. The blog has followed the story of Vermont Yankee and put that story in perspective. The issues in Vermont are a reflection (exaggeration?) of the type of opposition faced by nuclear plants world-wide.  In my opinion, knowing the specifics of a single example illuminates the "big picture" of nuclear.

Angwin and Shaffer as Visible Supporters of Vermont Yankee

This blog has also served as a voice for the pro-nuclear side of the debate about Vermont Yankee.  Howard Shaffer and I have been voices for Vermont Yankee. We have been rewarded by frequent media interviews, plus opportunities to write op-eds and participate in debates. (But the opponents won't debate us any more. More accurately, opponents tried to back out of our most recent debates, and no new debates are currently scheduled...)

The presence of this blog also means that reporter bias becomes visible.  A biased, rushed or lazy reporter can interview a well-known opponent. He or she can follow this by getting a "no comment" from the plant.  That's the end-of-story for that reporter! However, the more enterprising reporters know that Howard and I are available. We are knowledgeable, we are credible, and we are always good for a sound-bite.  We don't expect to get interviewed every time, but we do get interviewed.

A Voice For Many Supporters

Howard and I are not the only voices in this blog.  I am pleased that this blog has hosted guest posts from plant supporters within and outside of Vermont: Willem Post, Charles Kelly, Guy Page, Dr. Robert Hargraves, Cheryl Twarog, Cavan Stone, and many more. This blog has been a place for pro-nuclear voices to be heard.

I am especially proud of the many examples of pro-Vermont Yankee statements submitted to the Public Service Board in November 2012: many of these are guest posts on the blog.  For a listing of Public Service Board posts on this blog, I recommend Vermont Yankee's Greatest Hits at the Public Service Board Meeting, posted at ANS Nuclear Cafe.  

But better yet: get the book!  George Angwin and I put together Voices for Vermont Yankee, a compendium of pictures and testimony from plant supporters at the Public Service Board meeting.

You can buy Voices for Vermont Yankee as a Kindle for $2.99
You can buy Voices for Vermont Yankee as a paperback for $4.51
You can buy Voices for Vermont Yankee on the Nook for  $2.99

Just in time for Christmas!  (Though it's late for Hanukkah, it could be a New Year's present maybe?)

The ebook versions are less expensive than a ginger latte, or whatever the local coffee shops are serving nowadays. The paperback version is something you can hold, and it has a pretty full-color cover.  Yes, you can afford one of these books!  You will find reading the book to be heartening and inspiring.

Supporting the Work

Buying the book also supports the pro-nuclear activism of the Energy Education Project: a portion of book profits is donated to the Project. We do everything on the super-cheap, but we still have expenses.  There's mileage, some Internet fees, travel for ourselves and for guest speakers. We have summer interns when we can.  Every now and again, if we can, we pay ourselves something (not much, alas, not much).  Your contribution helps a lot!

Or you can donate to the Energy Education Project directly.  There's a Donate button at the top right of this page.  Please click it and make a donation of any amount.  If you want to be a full-fledged member of the Energy Education Project, please donate $30 ($40 for a family membership) . It is perfectly okay to donate more ;-) I think $50 is a nice number, don't you?

Any amount is helpful, it really is. When you make is a direct donation to our cause, it is fully tax-deductible.  The Energy Education Project is part of the Ethan Allen Institute, a 501c(3) nonprofit, educational organization.

Here's a link to more information about donation and membership.

Thank you for reading this blog. Please support it if you can.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Pay for Education, Not Tribute: Vermont Yankee ANS Nuclear Cafe

Viking Longship Reconstruction
Extorting Money from Vermont Yankee

On ANS Nuclear Cafe today,  I have posted a history of the extortion against Vermont Yankee, and some advice for the nuclear industry going forward:

Millions for education, but not one cent for tribute.

Vermont Yankee made  certain agreements with the Vermont Public Service Board. They made these agreements in order to get permission to run their plant and upgrade their equipment. These agreements were straight extortion.

According to these agreements, Vermont Yankee paid for cleaning up Lake Champlain (it's the other side of the state from the power plant) and for wind turbines.  In other words, in order to keep operating, Entergy paid for pet projects of the legislature and Public Service Board.

But to save money, Entergy closed the visitor center.

Keep the Visitor Center, Lose the Extortion

In my opinion, this was a backward strategy.  The visitor center was important.  The money for legislative-pet-projects was counter-productive.

I suggest nuclear plants should fund outreach (visitor centers and more).  They should fund their lawyers, when necessary.  They shouldn't give in to extortion and to paying Dane-geld.  Paying off the Vikings doesn't work.

Rudyard Kipling has a memorable poem about Dane-geld. It explains why trying to pay off the Vikings is a bad idea.  "Once you have paid him the Dane-geld, you never get rid of the Dane."  The extortionists will certainly come back later, for more money.

Deliver the Public Service Board From Temptation

The Kipling poem includes some surprising advice. It suggests you should save the Vikings from
John McClaughry
by not paying the Dane-geld:

"It is wrong to put temptation in the path of any nation,
  For fear they should succumb and go astray;"

John McClaughry of the Ethan Allen Institute wrote about this shake-down back in 2005, though he called it the extortion "simony" instead of "dane-geld."  In that article, McClaughry quotes the state auditor, who also wants to protect the Public Service Board from itself:

In November 2003, in return for Public Service Department support for a reactor power uprate, Entergy agreed to pay $7.8 million to cleanup algae in Lake Champlain, 180 miles away, plus $2.1 million to subsidize low income home heating. The deal was criticized not only by the anti-nuclear activists, but also by state Auditor Elizabeth Ready: “(Vermonters) health and safety could be placed at risk if utility regulation is allowed to become a pay-to-play endeavor, fueled by extracting millions from applicants for pet projects in order to get the Public Service Department’s stamp of approval.”

In other words, this sort of thing is just too tempting for the Danes and for the Public Service Board.

Instead of giving money to clean up Lake Champlain, or whatever pet project the Public Service Board requires, nuclear plants should spend money on outreach. And, if necessary, on lawyers.

Kipling and State Auditor Ready would agree: Do not put temptation in the path of any nation...or any Public Service Board.

Don't pay.


I am sorry.  I cannot easily find a link to McClaughry's 2005 Commentary: "New State Revenue Technique: Simony."

John McClaughry is the founder of the Ethan Allen Institute. The Energy Education Project is part of that Institute, and I am the director of the Energy Education Project.

Monday, December 2, 2013

SAFSTOR: On Decommissioning Vermont Yankee

Mark 1 Schematic

SAFSTOR is a method for delayed decommissioning of a nuclear plant. With SAFSTOR, fuel is taken out of the reactor and put in the fuel pool.  Then the plant remains basically intact for some years.  After some time (up to 60 years after fuel is removed from the core) the plant is fully decommissioned.

Vermont Yankee opponents are very determined that the plant should not be put in SAFSTOR. However, even the opponents are beginning to realize that Entergy's agreement about buying the plant (state agreement), and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (federal oversight)  allow the use of SAFSTOR.  The opponents will not have much to say about what decommissioning methods (including SAFSTOR) Entergy chooses.

One advantage of SAFSTOR is that the workers who decommission the plant will be exposed to less radiation, because much of the radiation has decayed away.

The opponents are opposed to SAFSTOR, because they consider the "danger" of the plant (danger to them) while it is in SAFSTOR is a far more important problem than any extra radiation exposure to nuclear workers.  The opponents are personally very frightened (or they say they are).  Simultaneously, they are very willing for other people to face increased radiation.

In contrast, in an article at WCAX, Bill Irwin of the Vermont Department of Health says the plant will be generally safer after shutdown, even in SAFSTOR.

(Irwin) uses the analogy of a boiling pot: When the pot is hot and the water boiling, they're more concerned about spills. But a pot of cold water won't boil over -- though it could still leak, which is what they'll look for. But as the years go by, they will have to monitor a smaller and smaller area


In this case, opponents are  not going to get what they want.  According to the Memorandum of Understanding, the agreement by which Entergy bought the plant, SAFSTOR is an option for decommissioning.  It is also the option which Entergy has always said it would choose.

In an article by Susan Smallheer in the Rutland Herald, Mike Twomey of Entergy was quoted as follows:

Michael Twomey, vice president of external affairs for Entergy Nuclear, Yankee’s owner, told the panel Thursday that while the company was leaning toward a delayed decommissioning, it’s not a given that it will take all 60 years allowed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

But Twomey said there would be little activity at the plant, except for handling spent fuel, in any event, for six to 10 years after it shuts down in late 2014. Twomey, who recently testified before two Vermont House committees on the plant’s pending shutdown, said the company had two years after the reactor actually stops generating power next year to study how much it would cost to decommission the plant, and choose a course for federal regulators.

Entergy has two years to file a decommissioning plan with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. It plans to have little activity at the plant for six to ten years after the plant shuts down. For six to ten years (at least) the plant will be in SAFSTOR.

Architecture is Destiny

In terms of decommissioning, one of the things I have thought about is the position of the fuel pool at Vermont Yankee.

Once fuel is removed from the core, it must stay in the fuel pool for about five years before it can be put into dry cask storage. At Vermont Yankee,  the fuel pool is in the same building as the reactor. Therefore, it would be very hard to begin dis-assembling the reactor while maintaining the fuel pool.

The obvious schedule would be to wait about five years for the fuel to cool, and then transfer it to dry casks. After the transfer, when the fuel pool no longer needs to be maintained, the workers could begin   dis-assembling and decommissioning the reactor, the fuel pool and the reactor building.

I expect that this  is Entergy's plan. The protestors in Vermont cannot change the internal arrangement of the plant. Therefore, Entergy's plan will be the way the plant is decommissioned.

More on Decommissioning

This is one of a series of posts on issues on decommissioning Vermont Yankee.  The earlier posts:

Vermont Yankee Site Unlikely to be Used Again.  There are many vacant industrial sites in the Northeast: adding one more is unlikely to attract a new business.

Backwards reasoning about Greenfields.  Insisting on expensive "greenfield" work will not make the site more attractive to another business, and will slow down site availability.

The Formal Negotiations.  Shumlin's team and Entergy are sitting down together, in closed session.  They are discussing"issues" such as "how long fuel has to stay in a fuel pool."  (Issues? Facts, maybe..)