Keep Up the (Water) Pressure

Finally, the State is saying Yankee is violating the Clean Water Act and Vermont’s water quality standards! The Agency of Natural Resources cites evidence submitted to the Public Service Board by Connecticut River Watershed Council and VNRC in Docket 7862 (license to operate through December 31, 2014).  Entergy reviewed the draft permit and said it would mean closed cycle cooling for the rest of the year. It wants to be able to raise water temperatures by up to 13 degrees.

Entergy’s Clean Water Act permit expired in 2001 and has been under review by the Agency of Natural Resources for over eight years. In 2012 and 2013 we took to the river in  SAGE Flotillas to raise awareness that Entergy is overheating the Connecticut River, we demanded closed cycle cooling, and told Vermont to get moving on its process.  

Entergy’s attorney denies there is new evidence of thermal pollution, but the Agency’s attorney, Jon Goveman, disagrees. It sounds like he has all his ducks lined up in a row, his boss, Agency Secretary Deb Markowitz, said any disagreements with Entergy can be termed “conversations,” and that the permit is still in draft form. Public hearings will have to be held once the permit is finalized.

Let Secretary Markowitz know the pressure is on! According to the Rutland Herald, “Markowitz said Vermont Yankee is slated to shut down in December, making the permit less important than if the plant were operating for another 18 years as originally planned.’ Write the Secretary and tell her that one summer DOES MATTER to the life of a river. Twelve years of the State dotting their I’s and crossing their T’s to make a perfect permit is enough! Get it done now. Entergy got to look at the draft permit — give the public a look now, get it done, and tell Entergy to COOL IT.

Deb Markowitz, ANR Secretary    deb.markowitz@state.vt.us
1 National Life Drive, Davis 2
Montpelier, Vermont 05620-3901
phone: 802-828-1294

You can reFlotilla Heading to the Reactorad the Brattleboro Reformer’s article here and VPR’s brief story here.

In a related development, New England Coaltion filed a brief with the PSB, asking it to re-open Docket 7862, in part to make conditions on thermal pollution.

Flotilla 2012  and  Flotilla 2103

 

 

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No more evacuation planning?

Emergency planning has always been weak in the evacuation zone. Soon it could be non-existent. Today’s Brattleboro Reformer says Entergy wants to be exempted from evac zone planning beyond its borders as of April 2016. Deadline tomorrow 4/10/14: Comment (links below) on the following proposed change in NRC guidance to its staff, being pushed by the industry: If a reactor has stopped operating, the owner can apply to the NRC to be exempted from off-site emergency planning – even if the spent fuel pool is still full.
So even before a reactor is decommissioned, the nuclear industry wants to be released of responsibility for dealing with those of us who live beyond the fence line of the reactor. Like the kids at the elementary school across the street from Vermont Yankee.What could possibly go wrong while they move 900 tons of spent radioactive fuel out of the pool and into dry casks over the next 7 years? While they dismantle the reactor building, cooling towers, and outbuildings? While they uncover toxic waste buried from when the reactor was built, back before the EPA regulated arsenic and lead?

We have experienced ten years of near misses and mishaps at Yankee, resulting in cover-ups and lies by Entergy. Remember when they were moving spent fuel and fuel rods were within inches of dropping onto the concrete due to a malfunctioning crane?

Please comment today – the Public Comment period closes April 10.

Email or call your elected officials and emergency planning personnel and ask them to comment, too. Ask them to tell the NRC to keep emergency planning in full force during and after decommissioning
US Senator Bernie Sanders (VT)  Phone: (202) 224-5141 fax (202) 228-0776  Email by clicking here US Senator Ed Markey (MA) Phone: 202-224-2742 Email by clicking here

US Representative Peter Welch (VT)  Phone: (202) 225-4115   Email by clicking here
VT Governor Peter Shumlin / Phone: 802 828-3333

Chris Recchia, Commissioner / VT Public Service Dept./ Phone: 802 828-4071

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No Fooling

 

"Where Fools and Flies Stick to Entergy's Lies"

“Where Fools and Flies Stick to Entergy’s Lies”

On APRIL FOOL’S DAY we were back at the gates of Vermont Yankee. Entergy is not fooling us, and we are not fooling around. Public safety is no joke. Check out our skits on YouTube, as we play “Entergy Executives” coming up to VYto help clean up: It Depends” and “Shop Vacs & Shovels

“Clean, Safe, Reliable!”   “Nuclear is the Solution to Climate Change!”   “Too Cheap to Meter!”  “Just Trust Us!”  We weren’t fooled by these old promises, and we are aren’t fooled by their new promises of being fair partners and prompt decommissioning.

Won’t Get Fooled Again  by The Who (1971)

I’ll tip my hat to the new constitution   ( CORPORATIONS ARE NOT PEOPLE )
Take a bow for the new revolution         ( THE GREEN REVOLUTION )
Smile and grin at the change all around  (  VT YANKEE IS CLOSING !!!!)
Pick up my guitar and play
Just like yesterday
Then I’ll get on my knees and pray
We don’t get fooled again
Don’t get fooled again
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Public Service Board gives Entergy a CPG

Vermont’s Pubic Service Board, in a 98-page decision which we are slogging through, has granted a Certificate of Public Good to Entergy to operate Vermont Yankee through December 31, 2014.  “The Company’s sustained record of misconduct has been troubling to observe over the years and has continued to trouble us as we determine whether to grant Entergy a license to operate.” However, given the short period of time and the “closure” on “outstanding matters” the PSB decided that granting the CPG was in the best interests of the state. You can download their order here.

A half dozen of us learned about the decision while in Hanover, NH at a symposium at Dartmouth College to mark the 35th anniversary of the meltdown at Three Mile Island. We had just sat through a 90 minute panel of nuclear engineers and a Deputy Secretary of the Dept. of Energy rave about new nuclear technologies. The day was dominated by nuclear denial of facts: no one died as a result of Three Mile Island. Any health impacts on the Japanese people because of radiation due to Fukushima will be negligible. The safety oversight of reactors is robust because of our strong and independent NRC. You can watch the full 9 hour YouTube of the symposium here.

Then came the wake-up calls. US Rep. Peter Welch told the overflow audience that there is no political will for new nuclear. Essentially, he said, you guys have had 50 years of more federal money than any other energy technology, and you still haven’t solved the waste problem and new construction is still over budget. Just look at Vermont Yankee. I listen to the people in my district.

Next came Amory Lovins of the Rocky Mountain Institute, with a slide show of bells and whistles to dazzle a roomful of engineers. Nuclear is dead. There is no renaissance. You can’t beat micropower (renewables plus co-gen minus big hydro) in cost, quick start up, efficiency, and reliability.

We decided to leave on a high note. Now on to read the PSB’s full 98 page decision.

 

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A Homer Simpson Kinda Birthday

43 years ago today, in 1972, Vermont Yankee received its license to operate from the NRC. 3 years ago today, the NRC extended their safety approval for another 20 years, til 2032.
Today, the public learned for the first time that “A Vermont Yankee employee reported in November that security management ‘detonated a suspicious item’ that resembled a pipe bomb inside the nuclear power plant compound.” The worker called the police, who came & recommended that the bomb squad be brought in. “Against the advice of the police, Entergy employees duct taped a piece of string to the pipe, stood back and pulled the string to see if it ‘went off,’ according to the report.” No big bang. Turned out it was a discarded well pipe.

This sure seems like the kind of thing we’d watch on The Simpsons. except this is a real nuclear reactor with real workers – one who blew the whistle, a few who played a dangerous game.  Read the story on Vt.Digger.com

 

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Citizens’ Groups Briefs to the PSB

Since Entergy applied to Vermont’s Public Service Board in 2008 for a Certificate of Public Good to operate past March 21, 2012, citizens’ groups have been engaged in the legal process. The media blackout of the five groups’ responses to the current deal before the Public Service Board (PSB) is an appropriate metaphor for the fact that the State and Entergy ignored the groups when making the deal. The briefs were submitted February 21. Since no one else in the press or blogosphere has reported on their arguments, I will attempt to do so here.

There is one consistent message in the five briefs: Entergy is not a fair partner because it can’t be trusted.

Let’s start with the shortest brief, submitted by the Conservation Law Foundation (CLF). In just four pages, Sandy Levine concludes that a CPG should be granted, albeit on “very limited grounds.” Without any enforcement provisions and no time line, “Nothing stands in the way of Entergy waiting a full sixty years before beginning radiological decommissioning.” She uses one paragraph describing the MOU’s “limited benefits” and two full pages on why “[m]any provisions in the MOU fail to provide meaningful benefits and should not be relied upon.” So why grant a CPG at all? If a CPG is denied, appeals would be made and the reactor would likely continue to operate until those are resolved. If granted a CPG, CLF’s goal will be met:  “the plant will shut down and will not plague Vermont with the problems of decades of continued operation.”

The next simple argument came from Vermont Natural Resources Council (VNRC) and the Connecticut River Watershed Council, which limited their argument to the thermal pollution that would continue if a CPG is granted under this deal.  PSB should deny a CPG outright, or condition a CPG on the reactor using closed cycle cooling during operations so that overheating the river stops. Alternatively, the PSB could require a renewed Clean Water Act permit, which Yankee has not had since 2005.

The Windham Regional Commission (WRC), which represents the economic interests of Windham County, states “The MOU offers little and guarantees less.”  There is no binding agreement for prompt decommissioning, which is the “the best way to mitigate the employment and economic impacts of closure.” None of WRC’s consistent goals are addressed by the deal. Operations and decommissioning should be “held jointly and severally by ENVY, Entergy Nuclear Operations & Entergy Corporation.” The decommissioning trust fund must be adequately funded. The definition of decommissioning must be clarified to meet the standards agreed to under the 2002 sale agreement — return the site to productive use without SAFSTOR and remove of all structures below grade. Prompt movement of spent fuel to dry cask should be an operational expense, not shifted to the decommissioning trust fund. Without meeting these criteria, WRC sees no reason to support a Certificate of Public Good.

The New England Coalition (NEC) describes the current process as “taking on more the aspects of hostage negotiations than civil discourse. This speaks volumes to Entergy’s qualifications as ‘fair partner’ to Vermont.” Although the PSB told the NEC that such deals are common practice, the NEC finds it “deeply troubling” that the PSB’s authority was undermined by private talks that left out the five parties and years of evidence. NEC also reminds the PSB of all the times the PSB itself found Entergy less than honest, and the “proclivity of Entergy to hide in the language of selectivity and obfuscation…” After analyzing the MOU, NEC concludes that the PSB must either reject MOU outright or set conditions that “offset Entergy’s failure to achieve fair-partner status” without recommending what those might be.

VT Public Interest Research Group’s (VPIRG)  brief by Jim Dumont is a detailed laundry list of reasons why the CPG must be denied. It also offers the PSB two enforceable, non-preempted conditions the MOU could have – but did not – impose. First, the MOU could have included a condition that Entergy seek NRC approval of decommissioning when the state requests it. Second, the PSB could order an auction to help PSB decide “which entity would best serve the public good” by decommissioning Vermont Yankee. “Entergy is not the only entity that has the expertise and resources to become the N.R.C. licensee in charge of decommissioning the plant. The auction may result in a bid by another entity to own and decommission the plant on terms different than those that Entergy is willing to commit to.”

Dumont pokes a lot of legal holes in the MOU.  In addition, the current MOU is “vague, unenforceable, and a major retreat from prior PSB orders,” and VPIRG is alarmed to see site restoration provisions included in the MOU. Site restoration is under state, not NRC, purview. As recently as October 2013, the State determined that non-radiological site restoration is not preempted nor subject to an appeal. The State argued for the condition that Entergy put $60 million into a site restoration fund within 20 days of a CPG being granted. According to VPIRG, “They were right in October. With no MOU, PSB would have unfettered authority to impose standards in this area.”

But in December’s deal, the State changed its position, with no reason given. Despite PR spin about economic benefits to the state, the new MOU offers $15 million less for site restoration, and spreads it out over a number of years. The PSB can write much better conditions, argues VPIRG, or simply revert back to the Dept. of Public Service condition from October 2013.

In my mind, VPIRG puts forth the most common sense argument as to why the PSB should deny a CPG, in its opening statement. The agreement with the State is based on “Entergy’s promise to shortchange its shareholders and put the interests of the people of Vermont first.” Putting Vermont citizens above shareholders is surely a stretch for Louisiana-based Entergy.  Its stock value has plummeted and its finances have been under public scrutiny. Under NRC rules, Entergy can wait it out for a few decades while the decommissioning fund (hopefully) grows in the stock market, with their eye on the prize in this MOU: Entergy gets to keep 50% of any surplus in the fund. With no enforcement conditions and a Certificate of Public Good in hand, what could possibly motivate Entergy to decommission in the next decade? What nuclear power company – or what traditional energy company, for that matter – has ever put the public good over profits?

You can read the briefs yourself, as well as the State and Entergy documents, by downloading them from the Public Service Board webpage for Docket 7862.

The Public Service Board has until March 31 to approve a Certificate of Public Good or, in a brash threat from Entergy’s VP, testifying before the Public Service Board on January 31, 2014:

 “…if we don’t have an agreement, then the trust fund could reach 2 billion dollars, and the cost of decontamination and dismantlement could be a billion dollars, and we could still wait 60 years without, from our perspective, any requirement to do anymore.”

Does that sound like a company which has just promised to put the good of Vermont’s citizens over the good of its bottom line?

TAKE ACTION: Contact the PSB & Thank the Citizens’ Groups

Email your comments to the Public Service Board or mail your comments here:

Clerk of the Board
Vermont Public Service Board
112 State Street
Montpelier, VT 05620-2701

Attn: Docket 7862

Those of us living in Vermont Yankee’s shadow suffer the consequences of Entergy’s decisions. For well over a decade VPIRG, CLF, NEC, VNRC, Windham Regional Commission and Conn. River Watershed Council have worked to protect us from current and future harm. Without their voices before the Public Service Board, we would have had no voice at all.  We will surely miss their voices after closure when, under federal rules, decommissioning is decided by the NRC and the owners alone, with no role for the state or its citizens, and our advocates.

Thank the groups here:

Jim Dumont, VPIRG dumont@gmavt.net

Sandy Levine, CLF slevine@clf.org

Ray Shadis, NEC shadis@prexar.com

Jamie Fidel, VNRC jfidel@vnrc.org

Chris Campney, Windham Regional Commission ccampney@sover.net

Andy Fisk, Connecticut River Watershed Council afisk@ctriver.org

Author’s Note: I am not a lawyer, just a lay person with decades of experience reading legal material. I had to make choices about what to cover and what to set aside as I summarized five legal briefs into an essay of a manageable length and put legal language  into plain English.  I apologize to the authors of the five briefs for any mistakes, key omissions, or misinterpretations.

Peace,

Leslie Sullivan Sachs, for the Safe & Green Campaign

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“Nuclear Goldilocks”

At the US Senate hearings in January, we heard the whining voices of nuclear power corporations speaking through a majority of the Senators on the NRC oversight committee. Their mantra is that the industry is over-regulated.  In 2012, industry pressured the NRC into a study of the cumulative effect of regulations. On March 13, David Lochbaum of the Union of Concerned Scientists presented a paper on an NRC panel on the topic. His paper is entitled “Nuclear Goldilocks:” regulation should be “neither too harsh nor too lax, but just right.” But between its generic, cookie cutter approach to individual reactors and cost-benefit analysis, NRC rules end up protecting owners  — not the public.

As a result, “Nearly half of the reactors in the U.S. have never complied with the NRC’s fire protection regulations. Nearly a third of the reactors in the U.S. may not be properly protected against flooding should an upstream dam fail. Nearly a quarter of the reactors in the U.S. may not be properly protected against damage caused by an earthquake.13  But the NRC assesses each of these and numerous other afflictions in isolation and fails to evaluate their cumulative effect. It is simply impossible to connect-the-dots to see the entire picture by focusing on a single dot.”

Contact Congress and tell them to remind the NRC that its job is to protect the public, not the corporations. We want clear and tough regulations. There is no cost-benefit analysis for public safety. Click here for contact info.

You can download and readDavid Lochbaum’s “Nuclear Goldilocks” paper here.

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Voices of Fukushima 2014

Safe & Green hosted a “Voices of Fukushima” gathering at the Brattleboro Food Coop Community Room on March 11. After watching short documentaries about Fukushima,  Chiho Kaneko gave a presentation, led a discussion on shifting the paradigm on radiation, and answered questions about her visit with Chikako Nishiyama of Kawauchi, Greenfield’s sister city. Fairewinds Education asked her to make a video of her presentation. You can read the transcript, watch the 20 minute video or listen to audio here:  http://fairewinds.org/bringing-focus-back-life/

Click here for our Voices of Fuushima 2014 handout, with a list of links to actions you can take, documentaries available on-line and articles.

 

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Entergy: Not Walking Its Talk

While before state regulators, Energy lawyers promise its days of ‘misspeaking’ and cover ups are ancient history, and vows the state can trust it. But Entergy is acting like the profit-driven corporation that it is, behind the scenes avoiding putting money into a doomed operation. Entergy seems to have lost sight of the fact that what Yankee produces is not harmless widgets but radioactive waste, and one accident could devastate the region.

There is still a little time left to tell the Public Service Board whether you think Entergy has earned our trust.

The NRC doesn’t seem to trust Entergy. It reported that even though Entergy has said it will shut down the reactor, it is under “no legal obligation” to do so, and so the NRC “has asked Entergy for additional information before granting its request that it be exempted from costly studies and safety improvements. “  In an audit conducted by the NRC, Entergy did not perform a visual inspection of flood prevention measures, had faulty record keeping, and made miscalculations in its flood assessment.

This matters because in 2013, missing flood seals allowed 2 feet of water to seep into the conduit below the switchgear room, which are centers for electrical cables going from the control room to other parts of the reactor.  Two additional water infiltration areas were found later. According to an NRC event notification report, “internal flooding of both Switchgear Rooms could affect (a.) safe shutdown, (b.) removal of decay heat, (c.) control of release of radioactive material and (d.) mitigating an accident.” ENVY avoided responsibility by blaming a contractor for not fixing the seals.

Meanwhile, Entergy’s finances continue to tumble. According to the Wall Street Journal, “Excluding write-downs and other expenses related to the planned closure of the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant and other items, adjusted earnings fell to $1 from $1.72.

 

 

 

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“High Power” in Northampton Friday

Pradeep Indulkar will show the short film, “High Power” this Friday, Feb. 7  at 7:00pm, Frances Crowe Community Rom, Media Education Foundation, 60 Masonic Street in Northampton, Mass. He will discuss the film and the recent trade agreement between the US and India, approving the sale of six Westinghouse reactors to India.  Please read event details here. YouTube Trailer here.

UPDATE: You may watch the full half hour “High Power” film on BCTV on-line here.

Director-High-Power-Pradeep-Indulkar-Mr. Indulkar is a former nuclear engineer who became an environmentalist. “High Power” won the “Yellow Oscar” for short documentary at the International Uranium Film Festival in Rio in 2013. He will join other film makers in New York for the International Uranium Film Festival’s traveling festival on February 14-19 (Pavilion Theatre Park Slope, Brooklyn).
More info here.

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