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.