Sunday, October 30, 2016

Pro-Nuclear Rally in Chicago

Pro-nuclear activists in front of fossil lobbyist offices, Chicago
Pnoto courtesy of Environmental Progress 
The March

The weekend of October 22, 2016, I joined about 70 pro-nuclear people in Chicago.  We held a planning session and protest march. The march showed visible and effective support for keeping Illinois nuclear plants open.

The marchers gathered in front of ELPC,  an anti-nuclear lobbying organization that proclaims itself as an environmentalist group.  Their offices are at 35 East Wacker Drive. The picture above this post shows our group outside their offices.  (I went on the march, but did not continue as far as the building.)

Why did Clean Power Coalition decide to target this anti-nuclear group?  I was not involved in the decision-making, but I think I know.  At this point, we have to get back to basics.  Who opposes nuclear power, and what can we do about it?

The main thing we can do is:  Encourage pro-nuclear public opinion. 

Nuclear opponents and the fossil lobby

If we are encouraging nuclear energy, who do we consider to be opposing it?  Unfortunately, there are many groups that have claimed the mantle of “environmentalism” while making it their business to oppose the most effective source of clean energy in the world.

I think we have to stop calling these groups “environmental” groups.  They aren’t.  They are in the business of lobbying and campaigning against nuclear energy.  Many of them get well paid for their efforts: by fossil fuel companies.  Not all are paid by fossil fuel companies, of course.  But some are.

For example, let’s look at the Environmental Progress fact page on ELPC.

Here’s a quote from that page:

Earlier this year ELPC raised at least $137,500 from natural gas, renewables or financial companies that would benefit from ELPC’s efforts to kill nuclear plants. ELPC raised it at its dinner where “recognition from the podium” was given by groups like Invenergy, a natural gas and wind company, for investing $10,000 to $25,000 to ELPC.

"Everybody looks with excitement when a new natural gas plant is build," ELPC head, Howard Learner said when justifying his efforts to replace nuclear plants with fossil fuels.

And of course, we cannot forget the Sierra Club finally admitting it took $26 million from natural gas companies.  Time magazine has an excellent article about this.

Encouraging Pro-Nuclear Public Opinion

I stated the goal of the march as encouraging pro-nuclear public opinion.  In my view, this is the ultimate goal of pro-nuclear activism.

It almost doesn’t matter the official description of what is happening: a vote in a legislative body, a public service board hearing, a lawsuit, a referendum.  In all these cases, pro-nuclear public opinion will make a difference.

I remember when I was first starting out in pro-nuclear advocacy.  I wondered why local anti-nuclear groups were holding rallies outside a courthouse where a judge was deciding a legal case about nuclear energy.  A man who was much wiser than me explained: “Judges read the papers, too.” After that, I was quite willing to hold rallies outside of courthouses, right there with the anti-nuclear groups!

Exposing Opponent Ties to Fossil Fuels

One way to build pro-nuclear public opinion is to call the anti-nuclear groups exactly what they are: anti-nuclear groups.  Not “environmental” groups or any other green-washed words.  They are anti-nuclear lobbying groups, plain and simple.

Yes, of course, nuclear advocates have to present our positive vision of a world with abundant clean energy.  But we also need to show that our opponents are not honorable young Boy Scouts.  That’s how the opponents want to be seen.  

They aren’t Boy Scouts.  They are lobbyists.

To sway public opinion, we have to show their motivations, as well as our own.

The organizing group

The Chicago event was organized by Environmental Progress and other groups of the Clean Power Coalition. Here’s a group picture from the meeting.   (I’m in the middle, in a pink turtleneck with a very visible necklace.)

Friday, October 21, 2016

Pro-Nuclear Environmentalists March to Save Illinois Nuclear Plants: Eric Meyer Guest Post

Clinton Power Station

With Time Running Out for Illinois Nuclear Plants, Independent, Pro-Nuclear Environmentalists to March 

WHEN: Monday, October 24th, 2016, 11:00 AM
WHAT: Protest March and Rally at Invenergy and Environmental Law and Policy Center.
WHO: Pro-Nuclear Environmentalists
WHERE: Starts at W. Monroe and S. Wells St., Chicago, ending with a rally and press conference at ELPC at 12:30 (see map)
WHY: To urge passage of legislation to save Illinois nuclear plants

CHICAGO -- On Monday, October 24th at 11:00am, independent pro-nuclear environmentalists will march, rally, and sing in support of provisions in the Next Generation Energy Plan (NGEP) that would allow for continued operation of Clinton and Quad Cities Nuclear Plants.

Illinois legislators could still act in a “veto session” after the November 8 elections to save both plants as part of a package deal that includes generous subsidies for renewables and energy efficiency.

The march is being organized by the Clean Power Coalition, a new pro-nuclear environmental coalition consisting of Environmental Progress, American Nuclear Society - Young Members Group, Mothers for Nuclear, Thorium Energy Alliance, and the International Youth Nuclear Congress.

Coalition marchers will march on the headquarters of two organizations they view as hostile towards nuclear power — Invenergy and the Environmental Law and Policy Center (ELPC).

“The ELPC has accepted funding from fossil energy companies including Invenergy to lobby against nuclear,” said Alan Medsker, IL Coordinator of Environmental Progress, a pro-nuclear environmental organization, “but we won’t let them shut down these two climate change champions, Clinton and Quad Cities.”

“There are only a few regions in the world that have actually been able to stop burning fossil fuel for power — places like France, Sweden, and Ontario — and they did so with nuclear power,” said University of Illinois nuclear engineering student and ANS student president Aries Loumis,   “Illinois could be one of those places.”

If the Next Generation Energy Plan passes with the nuclear component intact, the plants will get the small subsidy necessary to remain competitive in a market flooded with cheap natural gas.  “This is just smart energy policy,” said Lenka Kollar of IYNC, “Keeping these valuable assets online is crucial for mitigating climate change and ensuring energy security for the future.”

“Abandoning these plants would lead to 2 million cars worth of pollution and over 4,000 people losing their jobs,“ added Natalie Wood, President, North American Young Generation in Nuclear.  "If we need to march to ensure fair treatment of nuclear power, we will.”

“It takes guts to defend nuclear power in this hostile political climate,” noted Brett Rampal, President of American Nuclear Society's Young Members Group. “But with all the information, I trust the legislature will do the right thing.”

About the Clean Power Coalition

The Clean Power Coalition is composed of environmental, academic, and industry organizations including Environmental Progress, Mothers for Nuclear, the International Youth Nuclear Congress, North American Young Generation of Nuclear, Thorium Energy Alliance, and American Nuclear Society Young Members Group.

Click to expand map

About Environmental Progress

Environmental Progress is an environmental research and policy organization building a movement of citizens, scientists and conservationists advocating ethical and practical energy solutions for people and nature.

To learn more visit,
 or email us at

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Vermont Yankee Decomm Fund Supports Local Schools. Guy Page Guest Post

Pellet Boiler Schematic
VY Decommissioning Fund Supports Local Schools

Next summer, money from the 2013 Vermont Yankee decommissioning settlement is scheduled to help pay for the oil-to-wood pellet furnace conversion of a Windham County school.

Flood Brook Elementary School in Londonderry will become the first full-sized public school to receive a new pellet-burning furnace with Windham Wood Heat Initiative (WWHI) assistance, a program overseen by the Windham Regional Commission, WRC planner Marion Major said in an October 7 interview.

WWHI was created with funding from the December 2013 Master Settlement Agreement (MSA) between Entergy and the State of Vermont that settled most of the parties’ disagreements and cleared the path for Vermont Yankee decommissioning. The MSA provides more than $40 million from Entergy for site restoration and renewable and economic development including $5.2 million for the Vermont Clean Energy Development Fund. This excerpt from an April, 2015 WWHI press release summarizes the program:

“The $1.6 million-program, funded by Vermont Yankee decommissioning via the Vermont Clean Energy Development Fund (CEDF), will help at least 20 municipal and school buildings convert to heating with advanced wood heating systems that use local, sustainable wood while addressing those buildings’ energy efficiency and durability needs. The program also includes public education, training for local building professionals, and fuel supply procurement.”

WWHI will pay 25% of a school’s pellet furnace installation cost and also offers planning assistance. After the oil furnace at the small Esteyville school building in Brattleboro failed in September 2015, WWHI enabled the conversion to pellet heat, thus cutting oil consumption by 1100 gallons per year, according to a March 30, 2016 report on WWHI also has financed control system upgrades to the Academy School in Brattleboro, Bellows Falls Middle School, and Leland & Gray in Townshend. Several others schools have tentative conversion agreements that are contingent on securing voter support. But there has not yet been an oil-to-pellet furnace conversion at a full-size, traditional public school – Flood Brook is scheduled to be the first.

The unexpectedly low cost of heating oil has been a challenge to the speedy acceptance of wood pellet conversion, Ms. Major said. The emergence of the hydro-fracturing mining process that has suppressed natural gas prices – to the detriment of the nuclear power industry – also has suppressed the price of heating oil. However, Major said many school officials remember when heating oil was very expensive and understand that fuel prices are subject to rapid change.

A recent snapshot of price comparisons, however, is hardly encouraging. The February 2016 Vermont Fuel Price Report, published by the Vermont Department of Public Service, shows fuel oil costing $16.85 compared to $22.41 for wood pellets. Until pellet fuel costs as much as or less than oil, school officials will be looking an expensive conversion that – for now – consumes a more expensive fuel, as well.

An October 5 wood boiler incident that forced the evacuation of a Lebanon, NH school is highly unlikely to occur in Vermont, Ms. Major said. According to the October 6 Valley News daily newspaper, stack emissions from the Lebanon Middle School wood pellet furnace were wind-blown into the school’s air intake system, causing smoke to circulate inside the building, the News said. The Vermont systems use standards designed to prevent such incidents, Ms. Major said.

Guy Page is communications director of the Vermont Energy Partnership (  Page is a frequent guest blogger at this blog: his most recent post is The Panama Canal and the Renewable Mandate.