February: A Month for a Miracle

I can point out to people that shutting down Vermont Yankee was a miracle, right? We weren’t, as the people, supposed to have that power. And people did it anyway. They insisted on it and they saw it through and made it happen. And so the same kind of courage and vision will have to be applied now to the decommissioning process. People have to stay in there, attend all the meetings, read all the documents. It’s a Herculean task and if anybody can do it, it’s the folks who have already forced the shutdown of Vermont Yankee.

Kevin Kamps, Beyond Nuclear, Nuclear Free Future Yankee Post-Mortem 01.06.15]

It’s time again to create a miracle. Your courage and vision are needed for one more month. Whats one more month after 40 years of activism?  February’s focus is on Entergy’s decommissioning plan for Vermont Yankee and the evacuation plan.  Mark your calendar with these events. Click on the links for details:

 

HERE IS A MIRACLE: The Connecticut River is iced over from Vernon south to Holyoke, for the first time in decades! Thank you – everyone who wrote, testified, marched, and paddled in flotillas! Check out more photos by Cate Woolner on her website: www.catewoolnerphoto.com/.   For the past few years, Dr. Andrew Larkin of Northampton has been watching the lack of ice in the winters.  A former Olympic rower and one of the organizers of the 2012 & 2013 SAGE Flotillas, Andy writes on his blog, Vernon Radiation Safety, about the Vermont Yankee / thermal pollution connection and celebrates the ice.

Arnie Gundersen and Deb Katz will speak at a THE NRC & YOU: a citizen forum on Entergy’s  decommissioning plan on February 9th, from 6-9pm at Marlboro Graduate Center, downtown Brattleboro. The Safe and Green Campaign and the Citizens Awareness Network will co-host. The presentations, with time for Q&A, will help you prepare remarks for the one and only NRC hearing, and to write your comments to the NRC (March 23 deadline). Forums before the NRC public hearing are also planned for Montpelier and Greenfield. Please visit to our Decommissioning Resources page for issues we have identified to date and for info how to comment.

NRC public hearing on decommissioning Vermont Yankee – February 19, 6-9pm at the Quality Inn in Brattleboro). Details on the hearing and how to submit written comments are on our website here.

SOLIDARITY: Entergy’s Pilgrim Reactor in Plymouth, MA

Southern Vermont and Franklin County missed the blizzard earlier this week that did serious damage on the Massachusetts coast. One victim was Entergy’s Pilgrim nuke plant. While the full truth about its sudden shut down is still unknown, the official story is that frozen power lines caused the scram, and for three days the reactor relied on back-up diesel power. Here’s some details.

This took place one day after the NRC rejected Entergy’s band-aid fixes to the plant and kept Pilgrim on its list of worst-performing reactors.

Last week, a half dozen activists from Cape Downwinders traveled to Brattleboro for two meetings with the Safe and Green steering committee. The Downwinders have been fighting Entergy’s Pilgrim reactor in Plymouth, MA since 1988. In the near future we will send a report specifically on Pilgrim and how we can support efforts to shut it down. We’ll include details on new legislation to hold Entergy accountable. Read more about that here: Cape Cod Times: 01.21.15

 INFO & INSPIRATION

Need some data to counter the moaning in Massachusetts blaming the closure of Yankee for high electric bills? The Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) points the finger at poor decision-making by utilities, not plant closures. “After big power plant retirements, the system is working well, and the forward prices that will set future retail electric rates are also down. Unfortunately, many customers’ bills remain extremely high thanks to poorly timed energy buys by electric utilities, but rates are already falling. The new, calmer reality we are seeing this winter should force rational policymakers to dial back the energy crisis hysteria.” CLF has the charts and data to back it up.

Nina Keller of Millers Falls had a letter published in the Greenfield Recorder in response to complaints by nuke workers, businesses and the town of Vernon about losing Yankee’s revenue. In “Adapting to Change,” she writes “In our changing environmental society, we can adapt and diversify, create different ways to use our skills, or belly ache when we don’t know how to fit in to a changing economy.” Read the whole letter on our website.

Nancy Braus of Brattleboro penned an OpEd for the Brattleboro Reformer, “Storage of Nuclear Waste Threatens Our Future.” It is a critique of the NRC regulations on storing fuel, Entergy’s plans, and what our options might be. “Far more technically sophisticated casks are used in Germany, France, and Japan — casks with a thicker metal wall, and allowing for real time remote monitoring to alert those in charge of the waste should there be a pressure change, or another worrisome development. Why are these casks not even in use in the United States?”

The Keene Sentinel published an Editorial on spent nuclear fuel including a look at storage at Maine Yankee and Yankee Rowe. Including the Vermont Yankee spent fuel, “…there are nearly 6,000 spent nuclear fuel rod assemblies sitting around in New England from shuttered nuclear plants. And that doesn’t even count the waste from the active Millstone, Pilgrim and Seabrook plants.” You can read more about the spent fuel issue on our website here.

WCAX-TV ran a piece called “VT Yankee’s Long Road to Retirement” [01.20.15 watch or transcript]. It featured Arnie Gundersen of Fairewinds and Howard Shaffer, a retired nuclear engineer. Arnie concludes, “Nuclear power was supposed to be a pay-as-you-go kind of system, where the people that got the benefit also took the risk. But what we’re doing now is the people that got the benefit of the power will be long dead and the risk will still be there, and that’s not fair.”

On its GreenWorld blog, NIRS detailed how the “Nuclear industry goes hysterically ballistic over Yankee shutdown.” That column prompted an onslaught of comments from pro-nukers, which NIRS shares with us in “Vermont Yankee-The Other Side Speaks.” There are two common themes: those who just don’t get that the whole grid is changing, and those in pain, who feel betrayed by Entergy’s decision to close Yankee but can’t admit the corporation chose profit over people.

REACTORS TO WATCH

POWER Magazine, a utility publication, gives its state-by-state prediction of the next reactors to shut down. US Faces Wave of Premature Nuclear Retirement opens with “The nuclear renaissance has turned into a nuclear retirement party.” YES! Among those on the potential chopping block are Entergy’s Palisades in Michigan and Pilgrim in Plymouth, MA.

At Palisades, Entergy is in a battle with the NRC over worker safety. The NRC claims that in one month, workers got more than half the yearly allowed radiation dose. “Entergy Corp. acknowledges it didn’t follow some radiation safety monitoring procedures during a refueling … some workers lacked one of the required body radiation monitors. It says that had no effect on the public’s or workers’ health.” [MI Public Radio 01.09.15]

Zion, an Exelon reactor in Illinois closed in 1998, is now running out of decommissioning funds. Ratepayers put $800 million into the fund. Originally, EnergySolutions, the decommissioning company, said it would make a 15% to 20% profit on decommissioning. Recently, it told the owner “the Zion fund is projected to run out before the company can remove all the buildings at the site.” EnergySolutions claims it will finish in the black, but the town is worried and the NRC doesn’t seem to be paying attention. The last of the waste will be moved out of the fuel pool and into dry cask storage on-site this weekend. [Chicago Tribune 01.09.15]

How to pay for decommissioning is a challenge everywhere. Japan has decided that all ratepayers – even those who do not get electricity from nuclear power – will bear the cost of decommissioning in the future. [Kyodo News 01.14.15] German utilities are committed to shutting down their nukes by 2024, but currently the fall in nuclear power profits due to boost in renewables means less money is going into decommissioning funds. “Some politicians fear the utilities may eventually leave the state to shoulder the problem, and that the largest – like the banks judged “too big to fail” – could have to be nationalized.” [Reuters 01.19.15]

RECOMMENDED

Vermont Yankee Post Mortem” is the topic on Nuclear Free Future, a series on Burlington’s cable access TV. Arnie Gundersen of Fairewinds and Kevin Kamps of Beyond Nuclear talk about how and why Yankee shut down, what prompt decommissioning would look like, the short cuts Entergy is trying to use in decommissioning, and what we as citizens can do. It is informational and inspiring. Watch or read the transcript on Fairewinds website here. We will close with words from Kevin and Arnie:

Kevin: “It was really the grassroots activists in Vermont, many of whom were at it for four decades …I really love this op-ed that Bob Bady of the Safe & Green Campaign put out just after Entergy announced its decision to permanently close Vermont Yankee…It was titled What Killed the Beast and he had a King Kong metaphor going. And his answer was it was the beauty of people power that killed the beast. Because what forced Entergy to have to compete on the spot market. Well, it was the people of Vermont and western Massachusetts and nearby in New Hampshire who got elected officials in the State of Vermont in the right place on this issue. And that led to the utilities of Vermont having a very strong stand when they negotiated with Entergy. Not one watt of electricity from Vermont Yankee has been used or sold in Vermont itself for years now. And that was people power in action. Arnie:

 “I think it was not just because of activism, but we are smarter because of activism in Vermont. The nuclear issues have constantly been raised and the populace in Vermont is very smart and the political office holders are also very smart. So we just didn’t get pushed around by Entergy like they seem to be able to push people around in other states.” [Nuclear Free Future Yankee Post-Mortem 01.06.15]

We’ve got one more month to show Entergy they can’t push us around. History is made by those who show up. Let’s make history … again.

Peace,

Leslie Sullivan Sachs

For the Safe and Green Campaign

PS This is an UPDATE to the email newsletter sent to our list on January 20th. To be added to the email list, fill out our Contact Us form. This newsletter-style email is sent out once every two or three weeks. Short reminders of Safe & Green events are sent once or twice prior to the event.

All the above, as well as events planned for March and April, are on the agenda of the Safe and Green Campaign steering committee’s next meeting on February 2nd. We meet once or twice a month on Mondays at 5:30pm, and it’s always a pot luck supper. Email safeandgreencampaign@gmail.com if you’re interested in more info.

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