Wednesday, December 31, 2014

New Year's Post: For the Happiness In My Life

To say I have been miserable about Vermont Yankee going off-line is putting it mildly.  People laid off, Vermont importing power from the gas plants in the states next door, opponents crowing that nuclear is just too expensive and this proves it.  It's all too much.

Moving My Attention
As in other periods in my life when some event made me miserable, I have been shifting my attention by concentrating on areas of love and happiness.

Next year will be my 50th anniversary, G-d willing. Yes, I'm old.  On the other hand, we married as undergraduates, so I'm not THAT old. ;-)   I am deeply grateful for this happiness in my personal life.  I am deeply grateful for my years with George Angwin and for my family.

In honor of the new year, I embed two videos about long-term love:
Sting--Fields of Gold
Goo Goo Dolls-- Come to Me

May your new year be full of love and health and joy.


Goo-Goo Dolls

Monday, December 29, 2014

Vermont Yankee Shut Down Today. Guest Post from VTEP

Vermont Yankee went off the grid at 12:12 p.m. today and was completely shut down at 1:04 p.m.

Brad Ferland of  VTEP issued the statement below, and I am pleased to publish it here.

Vermont Energy Partnership salutes Vermont Yankee on final day of operation

Today marks the final day of electricity production for Vermont Yankee. Since its first day of operations in 1972, Vermont Yankee has generated low-cost and low-carbon electricity totaling about three-quarters of the electricity produced in Vermont. For 42 years, it has provided approximately 650 high-paying jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars of local and state tax revenue. The generous employees of Vermont Yankee have donated millions of dollars’ worth of time and treasure to area schools and social services.  Today, the final day of power operations, the Vermont Energy Partnership salutes Vermont Yankee for its many economic, environmental, and societal contributions to Vermont’s quality of life. We wish Vermont Yankee management and workers a smooth decommissioning.

 Brad Ferland, President

The Vermont Energy Partnership ( is a diverse group of more than 90 business, labor, and community leaders committed to finding clean, affordable and reliable electricity solutions. Its mission is to educate policy makers, the media, businesses, and the general public about why electricity is imperative for prosperity, and about the optimal solutions to preserve and expand our electricity network. Entergy, owner of Vermont Yankee, is a member of the Vermont Energy Partnership.
Natural Gas
The future of the grid


Some other links:

The Entergy press release on the closing, as it appears in the Brattleboro Reformer.  The press release gives a concise history of the plant.

Entergy's VYDecommissioning page has a video thanking Vermont and many links to articles.

Nuclear Matters, a pro-industry group, also has a press release about the plant closing. This release could be described as "there goes grid diversity."

Rod Adams wrote a blog post about Vermont Yankee: the post expresses a lot of what we are all feeling. You may enjoy reading it. Should groups that celebrate loss of 600 MWe of reliable, ultra-low emission nuclear be called “environmental?”


I find it personally too difficult to write about this today.  Soon, I hope I will write something. Soon.

I decided to go with a natural gas image instead of a Vermont Yankee image for this article.  We're all supposed to look forward, aren't we?

Friday, December 26, 2014

Vermont Yankee Union President Guest Post: You Done Good

Thank you for publishing former Gov. Thomas Salmon’s accurate assessment of Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant, specifically that during 42 years of operation it has been “environmentally benign” and “never hurt a soul.” I worked with the employees at Vermont Yankee for many years and I would like to comment on why it was such a safe workplace and neighbor. For starters, long before the first nuclear power plant went online, a commitment to safety was hardwired into the cultural and organizational circuitry of the International Brother of Electrical Workers (IBEW), whose Local 300 I was honored to serve as President and Business Manager for many years.

In the early days of America’s electrification, the IBEW fought hard to reduce the high incidence of line worker electrocution by improving safety design, equipment and training. At nuclear plants such as Vermont Yankee, labor’s zeal for the safety of its brothers and sisters was joined by the industry’s prudent commitment to zero tolerance for safety error and aggressive, skilled oversight by the federal government. It’s been this way for decades, and gets more so every year. And of course the good work will continue as the plant is decommissioned. I am sure I can speak for the past and present members of Local 300 when I say we are proud to have helped Vermont Yankee meet and exceed the very high standard of safety performance set by the IBEW by adopting our Code of Excellence program, forming superior labor /management team, working with the state Occupational Health and Safety the NRC as well as other institutions who deal with nuclear safety standards. I fully agree with Gov. Salmon: you done good.

George Clain,


Past President and Business Manager, IBEW Local 300


George Clain's letter has appeared in several newspapers, as well as this blog.

He is referring to Governor Salmon's praise of Vermont Yankee, published in this blog as
Governor Salmon Praises 42 Years of Vermont Yankee. (Guest Post)

Thursday, December 25, 2014

A Report is Released about Economics. Released Christmas Eve.

The Report As Dumped

I didn't plan to blog today.  My "Christmas Post" went up yesterday. Families get together on Christmas Day.  That is what happens.

However, yesterday, during the magical time of Christmas Eve....we had a major News Dump about the huge financial effects of closing Vermont Yankee. "News Dump" is the technical term for releasing news at a time when it may be hard for reporters to cover it, and where it may just (hopefully) sink into oblivion at a time when few people are paying attention to the news.  At least, sinking-out-of-sight is the purpose of a news dump.

Vermont Digger (praise them!) was Johnny-on-the Spot cover the story. Thank you, Digger!  Thank you, John Herrick!

Here's the Digger link: UMass-Dartmouth Report Details Impact of Vermont Yankee Closing.  Within that link, there's a link to the report itself. From the Herrick article:

"Regional economic development planning officials say the closure will cost more than 1,100 related jobs and $480 million in economic activity in the region."

The press release about the report called the results "stark."  A good word choice.

Pat Bradley at WAMC

Although Pat Bradley's radio commentary on Vermont Yankee's closing was broadcast on Christmas Eve, it wasn't a news dump. Radio goes on all the time. A radio show is not the timed release of a major document. It's just another radio show.  Also, businesses and institutions practice News Dumping, while reporters simply practice reporting.

And here's the link to that show.  I am one of the interviewees. Vermont Yankee to Shut Down Permanently On Monday.  And here's part of my quote on that show:

Ethan Allen Institute Energy Education Project Director Meredith Angwin has supported continued operation of the plant.  “The plant is in beautiful shape. It has high ratings from the NRC. It has great labor relations. It is a really wonderful plant with a lot of wonderful people, many of whom are being hurt one way or another.”

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

For Christmas: Muddling Through or Hanging a Star

Two Sides of Christmas

Christmas this year feels bipolar, feels split, feels weird.

On one hand, it is Christmas, a season of hope and good wishes.

On the other hand, Vermont Yankee is closing forever--on Monday. Many people's lives are being changed, disrupted, hurt.

One of my favorite Christmas songs expresses these feelings: Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.  The song's words acknowledge the bipolar, uncertain nature of a WWII Christmas.

"Through the years we all will be together,
If the Fates allow."

(Here's a link to the lyrics.)

Muddling and Boughs

As a matter of fact, the lyrics for this song are themselves uncertain (link to Wikipedia history).

The WWII Judy Garland version was:
"If the Fates allow,
Until then, we'll have to muddle through somehow."

This version was very popular during and after the war.  It was the only version at the time.

In the fifties, Frank Sinatra recorded an album called Cheerful Christmas.  He was not happy with the "muddle through" line.  He asked the song-writer to make it a little more cheerful, please!

So the line was changed:
"If the Fates allow,
Hang a shining star upon the highest bough."

That's definitely more cheerful, and that is how it is usually sung today.

Usually but not always.  There's a website: The 50 Best Versions of Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, In Order. This website lists different artists singing the song.  Next to each artist is a note for the version the artist sings: M or H (or sometimes M and H).  M for Muddle through.  H for Hang a star.  

The artist decided which version is "my version."

Two Sides Again

I guess we all get to choose which version is "my version."  For me, both versions are "my version." Sometimes I'm muddling through my sadness; sometimes I'm hanging a star for the future.

The version I share below is the hopeful version.  As a matter of fact, it's Frank Sinatra singing the Frank Sinatra version.

My wish for you:

Be happy.  Be healthy.

May you and your family have a good Christmas and a good New Year.   

Monday, December 22, 2014

The High-Cost Consequences of New England's Energy Choices

Collage from "Green Lemons into

Why Are My Electricity Bills Getting Higher?

Green Lemons into Lemonade is a Facebook Page of pro-nuclear art and satire.  I think you will like it if you like it (small pun).

The collage above shows the consequences of New England energy choices.  The woman on the left is Patricia Richardson, 78 and retired. She lives in Massachusetts,  has had energy audits on her house, and had insulation installed. Because electricity prices rising by 30 to 45% for the winter, her energy bills are still increasing. She wants to know why the prices are going up, and she doesn't feel she is getting a solid answer. She is quoted in  a New York Times article on the future of energy prices in New England:  Even Before Long Winter Begins, Energy Bills Send Shivers in New England.

Why are prices going up? Part of the answer is that Vermont Yankee (and coal plants) are going off line. The New England gas pipelines cannot carry enough fuel to make up for the electricity production of the shuttered base load plants.

But...besides pipelines....

Another  reason for the high prices is the actions of the women in the right-hand picture.  They are Vermont Yankee opponents, dressed for a fun anti-nuclear demonstration. One carries a sign saying: "Vermont Yankee is Killing Us All."

Decisions and Consequences

New England is closing coal plants and my favorite nuclear plant. Meanwhile, locals fight hard against expanded gas pipelines.  To understand New England energy decisions (and their consequences), I recommend James Conca's clear and well-referenced post at Forbes: Pipeline and Nuclear Shortages Send New England's Utility Bills Soaring.  As Conca writes:

Not sure why New Englanders are so surprised (at the price rises). It was their choice to throw all-in for natural gas and renewables in a land of harsh winters. But they’ve refused to build new gas pipelines. And they’re shutting a nuclear plant that has 20 years of cheap reliable cold-resistant energy left on it.

That pretty much sums up the New England energy scene.  Thank you, James Conca.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Nuclear Energy Blog Carnival 240: Here At Yes Vermont Yankee

Once again, we are proud to host the Carnival of Nuclear Energy Bloggers, right here at Yes Vermont Yankee.  The Carnival is a compendium of nuclear blogs that rotates from blog site to blog site, and it is always a pleasure and an honor to host it.  Here we go!

Looking Ahead for Nuclear Energy: Mixed But Basically Positive

A look ahead to 2015 for nuclear energy
At Neutron Bytes--Dan Yurman
This report is an annual review of trends and developments around the globe. The science fiction writer Bruce Sterling once wrote that “the future is history that hasn’t happened yet.” While I don’t posses a crystal ball, there are some plausible scenarios as well as economic and technical factors in motion that deserve being mentioned here. There are lots of possible changes in the nuclear energy industry landscape.

Is Nuclear Restart in Japan on a Fast Track?
At The Hiroshima Syndrome's Fukushima Commentary-- Leslie Corrice
Despite a few Japanese news reports to the contrary, there is no reason to think the timetable for restarts will speed up or the number of nukes allowed to come on line will swell because of a Lower House election that did nothing more than maintain the status quo on nuke restarts.

Chinese Fast Reactor at Full Capacity
At Next Big Future--Brian Wang
China's experimental fast neutron reactor has been successfully operated at full capacity for the first time, China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) announced.The sodium-cooled, pool-type fast reactor was constructed with Russian assistance at the China Institute of Atomic Energy (CIEA), near Beijing, which undertakes fundamental research on nuclear science and technology. The reactor has a thermal capacity of 65 MW and can produce 20 MW in electrical power.

The EPA Clean Power Plan and the Nuclear Industry Response
At ANS Nuclear Cafe--Jim Hopf
Jim Hopf covers the overall response from nuclear industry (NEI)  institutions and professionals (including ANS members) to the EPA Clean Power Rule. The EPA now says that the rule will in all probability be revised regarding nuclear energy.  Hopf provides his own insightful perspective on how the rule should be altered to treat both existing and oncoming nuclear plants.

Meanwhile, Here in New England...

Utility Bills Soaring in New England
At Forbes--James Conca
Consumers in New England got a shock in their utility bills this month. A 40% increase over the previous month. It was their choice to throw all-in for natural gas and renewables in a land of harsh winters. But they’ve refused to build new gas pipelines. And they’re shutting a nuclear plant that has 20 years of cheap reliable cold-resistant energy left on it.

Vermont Yankee Employees will not get development fund money
At Yes Vermont Yankee--Meredith Angwin
The two million Entergy gave Vermont this year for Windham County Economic Development will not help Vermont Yankee employees.  As a matter of fact, overall....the whole exercise is a fizzle.  Governor Shumlin makes the final decision, and he has decided to award only $800K of the money this year.  None of the awards will be likely to help displaced employees.

Okay. Enough of that.
Let's Get Upbeat Again.  
A Noble History of Clean Safe Power

Nuclear Anniversaries
At Nuke Power Talk--Gail Marcus
Nuclear Anniversaries: Some Events to Remember
Gail Marcus notes that the month of December boasts an unusually large number of nuclear "firsts" and other nuclear anniversaries.  On her blog at Nuke Power Talk, she lists 10 important events drawn from her book, Nuclear Firsts:  Milestones on the Road to Nuclear Power Development.  Several of the events she lists, including the first sustained chain reaction at CP-1 on December 2, 1942, are among the key events in the history of nuclear power.
Columbia Generating Station

Three Decades of Clean Power at Columbia Generating Station
At ANS Nuclear Cafe--Laura Scheele
On its 30th anniversary, Columbia Generating Station can look back on decades of successful operation, and can be proud of major improvements in capacity factor.   It has currently been on-line for 528 days and counting.

History and Value at Columbia Generating Station
At Northwest Clean Energy Blog--Will Davis
Some history of the Columbia Generating Station, including the many ways the nuclear plant provides value to its neighbors. (After all, it makes enough power for the entire city of Seattle!)

Thirty-Four Years of Caring at Energy Northwest
At Northwest Clean Energy Blog--John Dobken
Starting four years before Columbia Generating Station went on-line, and continuing ever since: each and every child enrolled in Head Start programs in two counties has received new toys and clothing from Energy Northwest employees. That's 34 years and more than 11,000 children.

What We Say About Nuclear Energy
And How We Say It.

Nuclear energy is more than one story
at Nuclear Layperson--Millysievert
Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie describes The Danger of a Single Story: "The single story creates stereotypes,” says Adichie. Milly Sievert describes how the story that nuclear is "dirty and dangerous" is deeply entrenched. This story cannot easily be addressed head-on.  We need a balance of stories: Millysievert gives examples.

Branson Plus Lovins: An Interesting Combination
At Atomic Insights--Rod Adams
While Amory Lovins has been one of the most quoted and effective proponents of the anything-but-nuclear school of energy policy since the early 1970s, Sir Richard Branson is supportive enough of a new look at nuclear energy that he was an executive producer of Robert Stone's Pandora's Promise. Real progress might be possible if the combined persuasive powers of Rocky Mountain Institute and Carbon War Room are focused on an honest "best of the above" approach to solving both fossil fuel dominance and growing CO2 emissions. That approach would put nuclear energy back onto the table as one of the most powerful tools in their solution set.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Economic Development Fund Won't Help Vermont Yankee People

Two Million Dollars in Development Funds Won't Help People from Vermont Yankee

In November, Nuclear Energy Institute asked me to write a guest post about the effects of the closing of Vermont Yankee. I wrote:

In Entergy's...."late-2013 agreement with the state...Entergy will send $2 million a year for five years (for a total of $10 million) to the state for economic development of the Windham County region.....Some workers at Vermont Yankee....are fairly cynical about this development funding. They don’t believe it will help laid-off employees. I agree with them. ...."

I was right.  The workers were right. This money will not help Vermont Yankee workers. In retrospect, this outcome was predictable.  And yes, part of the outcome is Governor Shumlin's fault. I hate to point fingers, but sometimes facts are facts.

A Timeline: We Start With the Money
In December of 2013, Entergy and the state of Vermont signed an agreement about the final months of the plant operation. Basically, Entergy agreed to pay millions of dollars to the state (and move fuel to dry casks quickly). In return, the Entergy would get a Certificate of Public Good to operate the plant until the end  of 2014.

In March 2014, the Public Service Board approved the agreement and granted the Certificate. Various money was on the table, but for the purposes of this post, we will only discuss some of it, specifically the economic development money. Entergy's agreement included $2 million a year, for five years, for economic development of Windham County.

In late March or early April 2014, the state received $2 million dollars from Entergy.  By May, the state was developing guidelines for proposals to disburse the funds. Here's a May article in the Brattleboro Reformer about guideline development.

The economic guidelines needed to resolve many controversies. Should for-profit businesses be allowed to compete for this money? Would there be a revolving loan fund for businesses? Finally, in late July, the state had its guidelines and it requested applications.   As Vermont Digger reported,  non profits could apply for grants, and businesses could apply for loans. Loan "repayments will remain in a revolving fund for Windham County in perpetuity."  All applications were due on September 23.

The proposals and the panel
The panel received about $6 million dollars worth of proposals for the $2 million dollars available. The town of Vernon worked hard on its proposal: it was especially hard-hit by the plant's closing.  In this video clip about Vermont Yankee closing, you can hear Patty O'Donnell, chairman of the Vernon Selectboard, speaking hopefully of Vernon's application for a grant to start a business incubator.

The Vermont Economic Progress Council, an eleven-member panel, served as the decision-maker about the economic grants.  This panel has nine members appointed by the governor, and two members appointed by the legislature. Only two panel members come from Windham County, a fact noted by the Brattleboro Reformer in an editorial. The Reformer thought that more local representation might have been a good thing.

The panel recommends
Around Thanksgiving, the panel made its recommendations.  These were recommendations to Governor Peter Shumlin.  Shumlin would make the final decision.

Governor Shumlin
Note: Weirdly, in this state, "Governor Shumlin will make the final decision" doesn't surprise anybody. I have lived in many states, and in general, agency panels make decisions on funding. They put out a request for proposals, then they choose the proposals they want to fund.  Sometimes the governor must approve, but rarely is the situation described as the Governor making the final decision.

Vermont Digger wrote a report on the panel's recommendations.  The panel only planned to award $1.7 million in funding, and none of that was to the town of Vernon. That town's proposal didn't even make the first cut.

Governor Shumlin Decides
Governor Shumlin did not find all $1.7 million dollars worth of projects worthy of
funding.  As a matter of fact, he only plans to fund $800,000 dollars worth of projects.  Vermont Digger described the projects in its article: The State Slows Windham County Economic Development Program.  

The funded projects included $79,000 for the "Strolling of the Heifers" business plan competition.  Now, far be it from me to disrespect the "Strolling of the Heifers," a fine parade in Brattleboro. The Heifers organization is also involved in many locavore, farm-to-table projects.  Still, I don't understand why the Vernon business incubator made no headway with the committee, but the Heifers will be awarded funding for their business competition.  It's almost like saying: we are not interested in what happens to the people in Vernon.  (I am a blogger.  I have opinions.)

Well, that's my opinion of the outcome.  Governor Shumlin's opinion is that Vermont has to revamp the application process to get better proposals next year.

One businessman commented in Vermont Digger, claiming that the process was insulting. He doesn't think the business community is going to try again for next year's funds. A commentator on a Vermont Public Radio article said that the process puts Shumlin in an overly regal  role. 

Opinions certainly vary.

So It Goes
After an entire summer of workshops and excitement about grant applications for the Entergy money, the result can be most honestly described as a fizzle. Most of the money wasn't even awarded. Governor Shumlin was disappointed that the received proposals  were not "transformational" enough. Was he really disappointed, or did he just want to emphasize that the final decision is in his hands alone?  Who knows? Probably a little of both ideas.

Skeptics at Vermont Yankee thought the Entergy economic development money, once it was given to the state, was unlikely to be used to help Vermont Yankee workers.

The bottom line is that the Vermont Yankee skeptics were correct.


Saturday, December 13, 2014

Governor Salmon Praises 42 Years of Vermont Yankee. (Guest Post)

Governor Salmon speaking in favor of  Vermont Yankee
At PSB hearing,  November 2012

Former governor tells Vermont Yankee operators: ‘you done good’

By Thomas P. Salmon

In 1958, when I moved from Boston to Bellows Falls, Vermont was something of an economic and political backwater. The economy was stagnant and political loyalties were virtually unchanged since the Civil War. More people moved out than moved in. Not until 1963 did the human population exceed the bovine.

Construction on the Interstate Highway began in 1957. Many visitors followed the freeway north to the ski resorts, lakes and woodlands of “Vermont: The Beckoning Country,” so styled by Gov. Phil Hoff and his tourism expert, Al Moulton. Of course many loved what they saw and stayed. With them came fresh energy, ideas, and human and financial capital.

As our population and industrial base grew, so did our need for reliable, low-cost, smog-free electricity. In the mid-1960’s the Legislature faced a hard choice: buy hydro power from Labrador, or build an instate nuclear power plant. I favored the former. The struggle was intense, the vote close. Vermont Yankee won. Did the “losers,” myself included, take our bats and balls and go home? No, we closed ranks behind Vermont Yankee. Politics, then, took second place to presenting a unified front for creating plentiful, low-cost, clean electricity.

As I write these words, the operators of Vermont Yankee have spent 42 years before the mast. If an informed Vermonter were to sum up in a sentence the performance of Vermont Yankee, he would say, ‘you done good:’ 42 years of baseload power; environmentally benign; never hurt a soul. Vermont Yankee provided, at a critical time in Vermont’s history, stable, steady and very cost-effective power. It’s been a good corporate citizen, with wages and benefits far beyond the norm, and always there to help the community whenever there was a genuine need.

Eight years ago, after serving as president of the University of Vermont and chair of Green Mountain Power, I began to notice the heat being turned up on Vermont Yankee. A rather fierce ideological battle from the hard left ensued. Some were Vermonters, but the vast majority lived in other states. The Vermont press was responding to their siren song. However in Windham County, a hardy band of citizens said, ‘we want to be heard on these issues.’ And so the non-profit Vermont Energy Partnership was founded to advocate on behalf of public policies that facilitate the affordable, safe, reliable, clean power, including support for a well-operated Vermont Yankee plant. It was a great honor and privilege to participate in this effort.

At the end of this month, Vermont Yankee will cease to operate, but it will remain an important member of our community for many years still to come. I salute the plant’s many dedicated professionals and outstanding neighbors who will now retire or seek work elsewhere. In the meantime, there is still important work to be done for the future of Windham County and to solve energy issues in our state. Vermont Yankee has agreed to provide assistance for rebuilding the post-shutdown economy and renewable energy, contingent upon certain regulatory approvals from the state. I look forward to working with Vermont Yankee and the community to continue solving these issues together.

(Thomas P. Salmon of Rockingham served as governor for the State of Vermont from 1973-1977.)


This post has appeared as an op-ed in several newspapers in Vermont.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Update! Send Your Comment to the EPA! Here's Mine.

UPDATE:  Today, December 1, you can still comment on the  EPA rule which gives nuclear power credit for only 6% of the carbon that a nuclear plant mitigates.  

Here's my blog post on the rule: Support Nuclear This Weekend

But more important, here's the link to the American Nuclear Society page about the rule. This page includes explanations and a link to the EPA comment page.
Here's a direct link to the EPA instead, if you prefer

Below is the comment I sent in.  It's not a perfect comment, but I will say that it meets some of the criteria for a good comment: it includes my name and address, and it is unique to my situation.  Looking at it today, however, it seems a bit wordy.

Write your own comment!  Make it briefer than mine!

My name is Meredith Joan Angwin. I live in Wilder Vermont. I blog at Yes Vermont Yankee and I am a member the American Nuclear Society.

I want to say that the way the carbon pollution regulations are written now, when Vermont Yankee closes, IF it were to be replaced with gas from Canada supplying a natural-gas fired unit....the rules would say that the carbon dioxide emissions from Vermont would go DOWN, when the actual emissions would go UP.

Now, I am well aware the Vermont doesn't fall under these rules, because we basically only have Vermont Yankee, some hydro and some biomass in-state. So we didn't have to come up with a mitigation plan. However, these rules are backwards. You give nuclear (either existing or being built) credit for about 6% of its emissions reductions. However, any plant (coal or nuclear) that is replaced with a natural gas plant is part of the state's mitigation strategy.

Replacing coal with gas lowers the state's greenhouse gas emissions, replacing nuclear with gas raises the emissions, but it's all the same to the rules as they are formulated now.

I know that people love natural gas plants. "Clean natural gas, lower carbon than coal." But I am on the Coordinating Committee for the ISO-NE (grid operator) Consumer Liaison group, supposed to be the "voice of the consumer" advising the grid operator. I want you to know that consumers suffer when the grid does not have a diversity of supply. In the Northeast, massive price rises of electricity (25%, 40%) are happening this winter, because there's a winter supply crunch on natural gas.

The grid needs diversity so that the lights will stay on even if one type of fuel is unavailable. Yet your current rules would force the grid into renewables-with-natural-gas-backup. Even with different types of renewables, that is NOT diversity. Are you aware that the capacity value for wind in the Northeast is only about 13%? (I've heard lower values at seminars, but I'm going with a EIA report here. The capacity factor for wind in the Northeast is about 25%--that is, the wind blows enough to turn the turbines about 25% of the time. But the grid operators must look at whether the wind will be available when it is needed. That's the capacity value.

Basically, if you don't give nuclear more credit, the grid will inevitably go to renewables for reducing greenhouse gas emissions (but they will have with low capacity values). Then natural gas, with greenhouse gas emissions, will make the inevitable difference. In other words, there will be a nationwide grid that, like the Northeast, is overly dependent on natural gas, with all the price and supply problems that entails.

Originally, I worked in renewables. I was a project manager at the Electric Power Research Institute and I wanted renewables to do it all. Then, painfully, I realized they couldn't. Since I had already worked on the extremely difficult problem of lowering NOx emissions from fossil fuels, I gradually came to realize the virtues of nuclear power. Now I am devoted to it as a substitute for coal. Nuclear power PLUS renewables PLUS some natural gas will help with climate change. But if you don't give nuclear more credit in your calculations, the entire U S grid will be in the same shape as the Northeast grid. Overdependent on natural gas.

And that's not good. Give nuclear plants 100% of the credit for the greenhouse emissions they avoid. It's only fair, after all. I don't know how you got this 6% solution for nuclear, but its wrong. Luckily, there is still time to fix the problem!

Meredith Angwin

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Support Nuclear This Weekend. Email the EPA by Sunday!

Analysis of Ohio Carbon Dioxide Emissions
From American Nuclear Society (ANS) Webinar
November 26, 2013

The EPA and the Carbon Rules: It Situation Is Worse Than I Thought
But You Can Do Something About It

The Situation Is Worse Than I Thought

Several months ago, the Environmental Protection Agency issued its rules for cutting down carbon emissions from the utility sector.  The rules were complex and differed wildly, state by state.  States that used a lot of coal were required to cut back their carbon emissions by relatively small amounts.  I blogged about this backwards rule-making in my post: Exporting Our Carbon Problems: The EPA Takes a Flawed, State-by-State Approach to Greenhouse Gas Policy.


The situation is much worse than I thought.  Through some convoluted process, the EPA gives states with nuclear power plants credit for only 5.8% of the carbon dioxide avoided by the presence of the nuclear plants. This is true for existing nuclear plants, nuclear plants under construction, etc.  If you substitute gas-fired for coal, you get 100% credit for the avoided carbon.  If you substitute nuclear for coal, you get credit for 5.8% of the avoided carbon!  As a matter of fact, if  you substitute a gas-powered plant for a nuclear plant, your state emissions look better according to the EPA.

Ohio: The Example of the EPA Calculation

Let's look at the example above, from today's American Nuclear Society Webinar.  If we actually calculate the Ohio electricity sector carbon intensity, it is  1201 lbs CO2 per MWh. (That's the column called "100% nuclear"....that is, 100% credit for nuclear.)  If we use the EPA rule of 5.8% credit for nuclear, the carbon intensity is 1338 lbs CO2 per MWh.

Okay, now look at the last column. If Ohio's nuclear plants were closed and new gas-turbine plants erected instead, then (by EPA rules) Ohio's carbon intensity would be 1306 lbs CO2 per MWh. The new gas turbines would yield an improvement compared to the EPA's earlier calculation of 1338 lbs.  

Of course, the actual carbon intensity, without the weird EPA calculations, would go up from 1201 lbs/MWh to 1306 lbs/MWh if the nuclear plants went away.

But we're talking about a regulatory agency here, folks. The question is: Is the EPA going to keep this crazy anti-nuclear rule?

You can do something about this!  Do it!

 The comment period on this rule closes on Monday.  It is open this weekend, and many anti-nuclear groups are really hitting hard at the comments.  However, you can comment also.  You SHOULD comment also.

The American Nuclear Society has an excellent page about this rule.  Here's the link to the page, and the page includes a link to the comment page.

Here's a direct link to the EPA instead, if you prefer

As the ANS page explains, comments can be very simple. The two points are just what you would expect. Encourage the EPA to:

1) Treat existing plants equally by including 100% of nuclear current output in the baseline CO2 calculation.
2) Allow states with new plants under construction to count the new clean energy generation toward their EPA emissions target.

A Note About Your Note 

The EPA will read the emails, but they pay far less attention to cookie cutter or anonymous comments.
Put your name on your comment, and make it as personal as you can.  Say why YOU think nuclear generation has to be given more credit.  Do you think it is because we need a level playing field, because your grandfather was a coal miner, because nuclear is the future, because nuclear is a very important clean air option?  Just a sentence or two, so it is not cookie-cutter.

Do it this weekend.

EPA is about to bust the best source of clean air electricity in this country.  This is more important than the doorbusters at your local mall.

Write the EPA this weekend!

Have a great happy Thanksgiving...and write the EPA!


For those who want more information. Some blog posts:

Environmental Protection Agency's Clean Power Plan, by Nicholas Thompson at Nuclear Undone blog.  Includes quotes from NRDC (an organization opposed to nuclear energy) on how this organization shaped the new rule, working with the EPA. According to the NRDC, there was a danger (oh the horror!) that if nuclear were included, states with nuclear plants wouldn't be able to meet their targets if the nuclear plants were closed. Giving nuclear plants only 5.8% credit for their emissions reductions helped the NRDC achieve its goals.

The Details of the Clean Power Plan: So You Want to See the Numbers by Nicholas Thompson at ANS Nuclear Cafe blog.  The numbers.  A far more complete story than my explanation of Ohio emissions, but basically, the same story.

(Yes, I have already submitted a comment.  Maybe I will put it up here as a blog post later this weekend.)

Monday, November 24, 2014

UPDATED: Nuclear Energy Blog Carnival 236: Here at Yes Vermont Yankee

Once again, we are proud to host the Carnival of Nuclear Energy Bloggers, right here at Yes Vermont Yankee.  The Carnival is a compendium of nuclear blogs that rotates from blog site to blog site, and it is always a pleasure and an honor to host it.  Here we go!

At Fukushima, Radiation Decreases in Turbine Building Basements
From the Hiroshima Syndrome's Fukushima Commentary - Leslie Corrice
The Japanese Press routinely reports on sudden increases in wastewater radioactivity at F. Daiichi. However, they fail to report on what is going right. For at least a year, the activity levels in the turbine basements of units #1-4 have been steadily dropping. This is definitely a success story, but it does not seem newsworthy enough for the Japanese Press.

Yucca Post-Closure Safety Report Finally Released
From ANS Nuclear Cafe - Jim Hopf 
 Jim Hopf details the recent release of the Safety Evaluation Report on Yucca, what it means, and more importantly what's likely to be done and not likely to be done as a result of it.  Nuclear waste is an entity we're prepared to deal with, Hopf argues, and for that reason Yucca should be opened and utilized to satisfy the Federal Government's legal obligation to take spent fuel from nuclear plant sites. 

Time for a Battle and an Update on Radiation Risk
Atomic Insights - Rod Adams
An epic struggle with important health, safety, cost and energy abundance implications is shaping up with regard to the way that the officially sanctioned science and regulatory bodies treat the risks and benefits associated with using ionizing radiation at low doses and dose rates for medical uses, industrial uses and power production.
We must make sure that this battle for science, hearts and minds is not as asymmetrical as the one fought in the period between 1954-1964. During that battle, a very interested Rockefeller Foundation provided the funding and numerous key influencers during a successful campaign to firmly establish the myth that radiation is dangerous even at the lowest possible doses.

More Battles: The Supposed "Clean Power Plan"
Carbon Dioxide
From ANS Nuclear Cafe - Nicholas Thompson
Nick Thompson gives the details you need to know about the EPA Clean Power proposal, and why it's not the boon for nuclear energy some have lauded it as.  Includes background links for more information.  Includes links for submitting YOUR comments on the plan this weekend. Comments due by December 1!

Vermont Yankee: Consequences of a Battle We Lost
From NEI Nuclear Notes - Meredith Angwin
Meredith Angwin documents the spreading pain of Vermont Yankee's closing--starting with the plant employees who will be laid off, and pain propagating through the local towns, on to the grid, and up to the state level. Her post, at NEI Nuclear Notes, is part of an NEI report on closing the plant, a report that includes the effect of the plant closing on New England's energy crisis and on the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.  The full report: Closing Vermont Yankee: Carbon, Market Impacts of Closing the Vermont Yankee Plant.

Existing power plants
at Hinkley Point
Finances and Risk in Europe
Neutron Bytes - Dan Yurman
The financial future of the French state-owned nuclear giant has become less certain and some worry it may threaten the viability of the UK’s Hinkley Point 3200 MW new nuclear build.

A Nuclear Opponent and His Lack of Credibility
Northwest Clean Energy - Meredith Angwin
Why Do They Listen to Alvarez?
At the Northwest Clean Energy blog, Meredith Angwin notes that Robert Alvarez has now written a report about Columbia Generating Station. This report rehashes the testimony he gave in Vermont about Vermont Yankee in 2013.  She reviews his qualifications and his report and asks: Why Do They Listen to Alvarez?

Safety Culture Everywhere
Graphic from Wikipedia
Nuke Power Talk - Gail Marcus
Trains and Boats and Planes...and Nuclear Power Plants
Gail Marcus writes at Nuke Power Talk about her presentation on safety culture at a meeting in Chicago, and her subsequent experience with a failure of safety culture. Yes, on her way home from the meeting, she had a first-hand experience with a safety culture failure.  (Gail...did you ever find out how the plane's wing hit a barbed wire fence?)  All's well that ends well, but her trip home pointed out how important safety culture is, whether on trains, boats, planes or in nuclear power plants.

Monazite (thorium mineral)

Nuclear Power and Noah's Ark
Energy Reality Project - Rick Maltese
Noah Nuke Advocate
Rick Maltese's parable begs the question: Will we wake up to the reality in time? Obviously the warnings were there for Noah but when will we know? We know what we've been doing wrong but do not know how to change. Time to act. Alone or collectively.

Fundraiser: Crowd Funding for a Pro-Nuclear Presence at AGU
ThoriumMSR - Rick Maltese
Renewed efforts to spread the word about MSRs bigger than ever
Rick Maltese plans to go to the annual AGU (American Geophysical Union) Conference.  Approximately 24,000 scientists and policymakers come to this conference in San Francisco, which runs from Monday December 15 to Friday December 19. Rick will be representing the Thorium Energy Alliance of Silicon Valley (TESV), and his own Energy Reality Project.   Join him at TESV booth 2617: this booth sits directly across of the booth of the Union of Concerned Scientists.  Contribute to crowdfunding Maltese's important effort.

Nuclear Good News on New Builds
Next Big Future - Brian Wang
Brian Wang reports on new builds, commissioning tests and more in South Korea, Vietnam, China and Russia.

China's 2020 Energy Plans
Next Big Future - Brian Wang
Brian Wang reviews China's plan for its energy mix by 2020.  This includes deepwater oil drilling, reducing coal use to 62% of electricity generation, and considerable new nuclear coming on-line.  According to Chinese planning documents, fast reactors will be an important part of the energy mix in the future.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Meeting about Decomm and Important Posts about Closing Vermont Yankee

Marlboro College
Graduate School Building
graphic from Wikipedia
The Meeting and the Comments

Yesterday, I posted about ways to comment about Vermont Yankee's decommissioning plans. The comment period is only open until Tuesday.

Tonight, there is a meeting in Brattleboro of the Vermont Nuclear Decommissioning Citizen Advisory Panel (NDCAP).  The meeting starts at 6 p.m. at Marlboro College on Vernon Street.  Here's a link to the agenda. Regrettably, I still have a rather bad cold, and I will not be attending.

Did I say "regrettably"? Hmm....I try to be more honest than that!  These meetings can be very hard to attend because the nuclear opponents tend to dominate the conversation.  However, I have heard that this NDCAP meetings have been far more civilized than the earlier VSNAP meetings.  I encourage people to attend and support Vermont Yankee's continued operation and careful closing.

The 165 Layoffs and the Pain

As Vermont Digger posted yesterday, Entergy has announced that 165 Vermont Yankee workers will be laid off on January 19. According to an Entergy press release, 69 of these workers live in Vermont, 48 live in New Hampshire and 39 live in Massachusetts.  (I linked to the Digger article rather than the press release because you can comment on the Digger article.)

Evan Twarog at the left
Speaking at Rotary Day  at the U N
Today, I have a guest blog post at NEI Nuclear Notes about the spreading pain of Vermont Yankee closing. I attempt to cover layoffs, taxes, the grid, and my opinion that the Entergy payments for Windham County development won't help Vermont Yankee employees that much. I hope you read it and comment on it.  Pain from Vermont Yankee Closing Spreads Far and Wide.

Evan Twarog about the pain on the grid

Evan Twarog, the son of a Vermont Yankee employee, is now a blogger at Atomic Insights.  Today he has a very well-researched and thoughtful post about the price rises on the grid.  Power in New England: Why are Prices Increasing So Rapidly?  As usual, at Atomic Insights, the comment stream is also worth reading.

Those of you who follow this blog may remember that Twarog has been a frequent guest blogger, and was a summer intern at the Ethan Allen Institute Energy Education Project, two summers ago.

NEI Report on Vermont Yankee

This week, the Nuclear Energy Institute has written an excellent multi-faceted report on Vermont Yankee.  My blog post (linked above) was the final step in this report.  I encourage you to read the entire report, bookmark it, and use it!

Blog posts:

Closing Vermont Yankee, and All That It Means (overview and market problems)
Vermont Yankee and the Looming Energy Crisis (the energy market shortfalls)
Vermont Yankee and All That It Does Not Produce (effect of closing on the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative)
Pain From Vermont Yankee Closing Spreads Far and Wide  (my post, referenced above)

The report itself (Permanent at the NEI site, not blog posts):

Closing Vermont Yankee (overview and links to other pages, including great links about the energy markets, nationwide)
Nuclear Plant Shutdowns Reveal Market Problems
New England's Looming Energy Crisis
Vermont Yankee Closing Will Challenge Region's Emission Goals

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Opportunity Right Now to Comment on Decommissioning Plan

Time is Short!

In its agreement with the state of Vermont, Entergy promised to prepare several documents outlining decommissioning plans and costs.  Of course, it prepared the documents in a very timely fashion.

The best opportunity to comment on these documents is between now and Tuesday of next week. What's the hurry?  Well, the Bennington Banner explains it:

"Public comments on the draft PSDAR received by Nov. 25 will be considered for inclusion with the Public Service Department’s comments that will be provided to Entergy for incorporation with its PSDAR submittal to the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission."

The Documents

You can find the links to the documents on the Entergy VYDecommissioning Document Library Page.  The two documents that are most relevant are the Site Assessment Study, and Appendix C: Draft Post Shutdown Decommissioning Activities Report .   Oh right....  I need to tell you that Appendix C is the PSDAR referred to above (Post Shutdown Decommissioning Activities Report). The Site Assessment Study is the SAS, of course.

I hope you will comment.

Comment on what?

Well, yes. What to say? We are talking about two rather dry documents, each about 50 pages each. Reading the documents would be best used as a way to fall asleep without a lullaby or a glass of brandy (depending on your age).  Luckily, however, your comment does not have to be as long as the document.  I have three suggestions for commenting on the PSDAR:

1) The fuel pool:
Not actually in the PSDAR, but the opponents will insist that storing the used fuel rods in the spent fuel pool is very dangerous and the plant must keep all warning and safety and emergency response measures in place. They will claim that all emergency systems must be fully staffed and tested for the entire emergency planning zone, and they must be in place until all fuel rods are removed from the fuel pool after five years.  However, Entergy has calculated the residual heat in the fuel pool and the various accident scenarios, and Entergy plans to shrink the 10-mile planning zone to the plant fence line after about a year. After about a year, the fuel is cool enough for this change.

Opponents oppose this, of course, and Vermont Senator Sanders is particularly incensed at the idea of shrinking the emergency zone.  He seems to think that fuel pools are infinitely dangerous. Meanwhile, at  Fukushima, with fresh fuel in fuel pool 4 and the roof falling in, just about the worst-case-scenario you can imagine....nothing happened.  No melting, no fires, and all the used fuel rods have been removed successfully.

Bottom line: You might want to write a note saying the fuel pool at Fukushima 4 was okay, and the fuel pool at Vermont Yankee will be fine, too.

2) GEIS:
The PSDAR refers many times to the General Environmental Impact Statement (GEIS) issued by NRC about decommissioning. The PSDAR explains how the Vermont Yankee decomm process is governed by that document.  The opponents will undoubtedly attack the GEIS and also attack the idea that Vermont Yankee's situation is covered by the GEIS.  Meanwhile, the PSDAR has elaborate and (sleep-inducing) descriptions of the various parts of the GEIS.

Bottom line: You might want to write a note saying how you found the GEIS to be more comprehensive than you expected (too much information!) and it will be a good guide to the decommissioning process.

3) Timing:
Oh baby. This is a big one.  On page 21 of the PSDAR  there's a time-line for decommissioning.  As Entergy promised, the first part of the decomm (removal of fuel from the fuel pool and into dry casks) goes as fast as possible.  This phase ends in 2021.  But then, the plant is in SAFSTOR as the radiation gets less and the trust fund grows.

In the table on page 21, Decomm is shown as complete in 2073. Site restoration is complete in 2075. It is 59 years (just shy of the 60 allowed by the NRC) between plant shutdown and license termination.  Governor Shumlin initially believed that SAFSTOR was not even allowed in Vermont. You can see chilling footage of Shumlin's statements in my blog post: In Vermont, Our Word is Our Bond, So We Don't Honor Contracts.

Despite Shumlin's odd ideas, SAFSTOR is allowed in Entergy's agreement with Vermont, and it is allowed by the NRC, and Entergy can choose it.

Bottom line: You might want to write something saying acknowledging that SAFSTOR is not the choice that many people in Vermont would have liked, but it is legal and allowed by contract. It is also  safer for the workers and the community allow radiation time to diminish before dis-assembling a plant.

Submitting your remarks:

IMHO, the State of Vermont is not making it easy to make comments. However, you can submit them.  To quote the Bennington Banner again:

Written comments may be mailed electronically to the State Nuclear Engineer at : Please include “PSDAR/SAS Comments” in the email subject line. Written comments may also be mailed to the Public Service Department at Vermont Public Service Department, ATTN: PSDAR/SAS Comments, 112 State Street — Drawer 20, Montpelier, VT 05620-2601.

To facilitate the ease of compiling all comments received, please consider emailing comments as an attached MSWord or PDF document. When sending comments via US Mail, please consider using a Compact Disk and either MSWord or PDF format.


It's all part of the Entergy agreement with the state.  Entergy agreed to consider feedback from state agencies before submitting its documents to the NRC.  The Department of Public Service decided to take comments from the public.  And here we are, commenting...

To quote Chris Campany of the Windham Regional Commission (as quoted by Olga Peters in The Commons)

According to Campany, he asked the DPS to actively seek public comment.
“This is all voluntary on Entergy’s part,” he said of Entergy sending its draft reports to the state agencies for feedback.....
Ultimately, what appears in the PSDAR is “Entergy’s prerogative,” said Campany. “This is not a PSB process.”

Monday, November 10, 2014

Energy and the Vermont Election

Recently, I was asked my opinion about how the Vermont election results would (or would not ) change Vermont Energy policy. I wrote a lengthy email, which has now morphed into this blog post.

Bottom line: despite Governor Shumlin's squeaker (probable) victory, not much will change,

Scott Milne
The election

Over here in Vermont, we don't actually have a newly-elected governor.  The race was very tight, and in these cases, our constitution says that the legislature votes for Governor.  Governor Shumlin had a razor-thin margin over Republican challenger Scott Milne, but the legislature will decide.  If the Libertarian vote was combined with the Republican vote, Shumlin would have lost, but that is not very relevant.  Governor Shumlin says he is "personally humbled" by the election results.

Our legislature will decide.  Despite gains by the Republicans, our legislature has a heavy majority of Democratic/Progressive members, and so we can assume that our current Governor, Governor Shumlin, will be re-elected when the legislature convenes in January. Milne has not conceded victory.

In other words, Vermont's energy policy is unlikely to change very much on the basis of this election. The majority leader of the Vermont House is resigning, but I doubt if any relevant committee chairs will change.

The gas pipeline

The Governor (and others of his party) must be aware that he lost votes by supporting the Addison gas pipeline extension.  That awareness probably will not stop the pipeline, but it may affect Vermont energy policy going forward.  Also, Green Mountain Power is buying a great deal of its power from the grid, and its Hydro-Quebec contracts are "market-follow."  So I expect electricity price rises in Vermont, starting in January.  However, this has nothing to do with the elections: the purchase agreements are already in place.

The Governor's race in Vermont was very tight, but we can expect Governor Shumlin to be re-elected by the legislature when it comes into session in January.  (Such an election is required by Vermont's constitution in situations where neither candidate has over 50% of the votes.) This means that Vermont energy policy is unlikely to change very much.  However, Shumlin supported the Addison gas pipeline extension.  His tight race may have taught local politicians that if they support gas pipeline extensions,  they themselves will lose supporters.  This could have an effect on Vermont energy policy in the future.

Many pundits seem to agree, however, that energy policy was not the deciding factor in this election.  Issues included that Governor Shumlin never explained how he was going to fund Single Payer health care. Also, his attempt to buy land super-cheap from an impoverished neighbor led to doubts about his personal integrity.


Governor Shumlin
Other factors, not dependent on this election, will have the major effects on Vermont electricity

Vermont Yankee will close down in December, and it produces about 70% of the electricity that is produced within the state.  This may affect Vermont power costs or reliability. Even though Vermont utilities did not explicitly purchase Vermont Yankee power, the power was very available on the local grid and was part of the  "grid power" that they bought.   Now much more power will have to be imported.

Vermont utilities have some PPA power, such as 60 MW fixed-price Seabrook power. However, much of their power (market purchased power, Hydro-Quebec "market--follow" contracts) follow the prices on the grid. Therefore, in general, we can expect Vermont electricity prices to rise and be closer to parity with the prices of other New England states.

Also, some New England states no longer buy RECs (renewable energy certificates) from Vermont. Inability to sell RECs may accelerate Vermont's electricity price rise, because less out-of-state money will be flowing to our local utilities.

In short, the election itself will have few immediate effects.  Yet we can expect long-reaching changes  to electricity costs in Vermont.