When People & Money Leave (and the Plant Stays)

10.14.2016 report  issued: “When People and Money Leave (and the Plant Stays) – Lessons Learned from the Closure of the Vermont Yankee Power Station: A Tri-Region Experience.” Authored by Windham Regional Commission (Vermont), Southwest Regional Planning Commission (New Hampshire) & Franklin Regional Council of Government (Massachusetts), and the Brattleboro Development Credit Corp.

Download the PDF here white-paper-final

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NDCAP Thursday 10/27 in Vernon

This Thursday, October 27, 2016 is the monthly meeting of the Vermont Nuclear Decommissioning Citizens Advisory Panel.  Please note that the meeting will take place from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. in the cafetorium at the Vernon Elementary School, 381 Governor Hunt Rd, Vernon, VT.

At the meeting the Panel will receive a presentation on the decommissioning of the Yankee Rowe Nuclear Power Plant in Rowe, Massachusetts from David Howland, Regional Engineer, Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection.

The Panel will also hear decommissioning updates from the State of Vermont and Entergy.

The full agenda can be found on the NDCAP web page under Meeting Agendas: http://publicservice.vermont. gov/electric/ndcap

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Power Struggle Sneak Previews

After 7 years in the making, local area filmmaker Robbie Leppzer is holding two “Sneak Preview” benefit fundraiser screenings of his new 104-minute feature-length documentary film, POWER STRUGGLE, which chronicles the grassroots political battle to close the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant.

POWER STRUGGLE is an inspiring story of democracy in action, about whether citizens’ voices will be heard against big moneyed interests, and what people in our local area are doing to make a difference for a safe and sustainable energy future. The film is also a warning about the dangers of the high-level radioactive nuclear waste that will remain on site at Vermont Yankee indefinitely into the future.

POWER STRUGGLE is directed and produced by long-time Pioneer Valley independent documentary filmmaker Robbie Leppzer and his Wendell, MA based production company Turning Tide Productions, in association with HBO and NHK, the largest television network in Japan.

Northampton event details are here: Power Struggle 10/23/16 Northampton

The Academy of Music event will also feature a personal tribute to 97-year-old activist Frances Crowe of Northampton, prominently featured in the film, who has been protesting “the splitting of the atom” since the atomic bombing of Hiroshima in 1945.

Brattleboro event details are here: Power Struggle 11/03/16 Brattleboro

An informal reception will take place from 6:00 to 7:00 pm with film participants in the Latchis Hotel Lobby. VT Governor Peter Shumlin will speak. Following the screening, director Robbie Leppzer will speak and conduct a question-and-answer session, along with nuclear engineer turned whistle-blower Arnie Gundersen and local activists who participated in the decades-long movement to close Vermont Yankee.

General Admission: $20 advance // Preferred Seating with Donation // $25 at door (No one will be turned away for lack of funds.)

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VT Yankee: Regenerations & Power Struggle

The documentary Robbie Leppzer has been working on since 2010, entitled “Power Struggle,” will premiere this fall.  Mark your calendars: Sunday 2pm on 10/23 at the Academy of Music in Northampton, and it will open Brattleboro’s Film Festival on Thursday, 11/3 at 7pm.  Details to come. http://powerstrugglemovie.com/

9/25: “Regenerations” An interRegenerationsdisciplinary performance project using dance, poetry, live music and installation. One public performance only, on Sunday 9/25 at 118 Elliot Street in Brattleboro. Performers: Grainne Buchanan, Megan Buchanan, Meg Bathory-Peeler, Bruce Hesselbach and others TBA. Installation by Duncan Johnson and Megan Buchanan. $10 suggested donation (no one turned away for lack of funds). Supported in part by the Vermont Arts Council.

Other local events of note:

9/17: Free talk by Joanna Macy in Brattleboro, Centre Congregational Church, Main Street at 7:30pm. Among other things, Joanna is the founder of the Nuclear Guardianship project. In her 90s, this may be our last opportunity to hear her. Details on Sept. 17 talk here. 

9/22: The next meeting of NDCAP (Vermont Nuclear Decommissioning Citizens Advisory Panel) will take place on Thursday, September 22 at the Brattleboro Union High School multipurpose room on Fairground Rd, Brattleboro. http://publicservice.vermont.gov/electric/ndcap

10/15 & 10/16: 350VT is hosting a Climate Organizer Leadership Training at the Root Social Justice in Brattleboro. “explore climate justice and racial justice, theory of change and campaign building, and we will learn about core organizing skills.  Click here for more info!

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May 26 NDCAP Meeting


There were a few pleasant surprises at the May NDCAP meeting.

Emergency Planning & Paying for Oversight

The state of Vermont is resurrecting the EPZ! The state will take on responsibility for emergency planning beginning this July. It hopes to continue until the highly radioactive spent fuel rods are out of the spent fuel pool and in dry cask storage. The VT Dept. of Emergency Management will bill Entergy for the work. Their staffer, Erica Borneman, said a draft of the EPZ state plan will be published before the end of June.

In addition, the Dept. of Health, Agency of Natural Resources, and Dept. of Agriculture will conduct oversight of non-radiological activity at Vermont Yankee, such as water monitoring, and bill Entergy for it.

Billing Entergy for both the EPZ and oversight are made possible by a last minute addition to the state’s budget for 2017. “Bill back” is a common practice; the state does the work then charges the entity which has a Certificate of Good from the Public Service Board.  The new language in the budget bill, “monitoring the post-closure activities of any nuclear generating plant within the state,” will allow the state agencies to bill back. Otherwise, a department would have to go to the PSB for approval to bill each expense.

Entergy is probably going to want to take all these expenses from the decommissioning trust fund. Chris Recchia, Commissioner of the Dept. of Public Service, expects a fight. He also said emergency planning and monitoring non-radiological substances are not decommissioning, and so should not be drawn from the trust fund.

VtDigger http://vtdigger.org/2016/05/29/state-to-bill-vermont-yankee-for-emergency-planning/

Brattleboro Reformer http://www.reformer.com/latestnews/ci_29955509/state-charge-entergy-emergency-planning-at-vermont-yankee


This agenda item started with an explanation that only a bureaucrat could love by our state nuclear engineer of the byzantine process by which the NRC will create the new decommissioning rules. We were then rewarded for our patience with three presentations by the state. Vermont’s comment to the NRC was over 100 pages long. It was drafted by Vermont and joined by NY, CT, NH and MA.

It had everything I would have asked the NRC to do.

All decommissioning should be complete within 10 years of closure. No SAFSTOR. Public health and environmental monitoring must continue until decommissioning is complete. Any reactor undergoing decommissioning when the rule is approved should be subject to the new rule. Host communities and states should have a seat at the table and “be on an equal footing with licensees [owners].” Emergency planning should stay in place until the fuel is in dry casks. Prepare for terrorists, sabotage, fire, and natural disasters. NRC approval of the PSDAR (Post Shut Down Assessment Report). Community advisory panels must be independent, not run by the reactor owner. Transparent use of the Decommissioning Trust Fund, and no use of the fund for spent fuel management.

I could go on, but at the end of the hour my only public comment was “Thank you.” It was clear from the presentations that, once again, Vermont is acting as David fighting Goliath, taking the lead in an issue that impacts citizens across the country. It was also clear that the state’s team knows their issues inside and out (at long last). What will happen if the Governor is a Republican next year?

TAXES: An Unpleasant Surprise

Did you know that the IRS collects a 20% tax on the Decommissioning Trust Fund? Not many of us did. It is yet another new twist – and another drawback – to the “merchant” status of Vermont Yankee. Because it is owned by a corporation, the trust fund is taxed. From 2005 to 2014, $34 Million in federal income taxes came out of Yankee’s DTF. The state of Vermont does not tax the fund. Public utilities are non-profits. Their trust funds are not subject to the tax, so no taxes were taken out prior to Entergy’s purchasing the reactor. [Vt Digger covered the issue this week.]

Speaking of the DTF, Entergy reported that, thanks to a “positive market,” the fund gained $12 million between February and April, even though Entergy continued to take money out. Entergy also deposited its third (of five) payment of $5 million into the “Site Restoration Fund,” which brings that total to date to $15 million.


The State is still waiting for a decision by the NRC on using the DTF for radioactive waste management, and on shrinking the EPZ while there is still radioactive waste in the pool.  Everyone is still waiting to hear from the Public Service Board (PSB) on the location of the new pad for dry cask storage.  A few weeks ago, the New England Coalition formally accused two of Entergy’s witnesses of filing “false and misleading information” to the PSB. NEC disputes Entergy testimony The PSB ruled against them this week, as too late and not that the Coalition did not “raise[s] sufficient questions as to warrant further investigation.” [VtDigger 6.3.16]


We all know how downright depressing talking nukes can be. The feds are against us, the corporation can’t be trusted, the science is scarier than hell, and the odds of making any headway are slim to none. Most of the NDCAP panelists were new to this when they took their seats 18 months ago. For a few, the experience has been a real wake-up call on the corporate capture of democracy. So who can blame them for getting excited about shipping the pieces, parts, and low level waste out of Vermont once and for all?

In mid May, about 15 officials from the US Dept. of Energy toured the Yankee site, checked out the railroad tracks, and gave an enthusiastic two thumbs up to their condition to transport Yankee’s detritus out of here. At the last minute, a few NDCAP panel members were invited to join the show and tell. VtDigger covers their visit here.  The good news is that the regional center that oversees spent fuel transportation east of the Mississippi River is in Burlington, Vermont. One panel member reported that the DOE estimated it will take 10,000 train car loads to ship the demolished reactor in pieces and parts to the WCS nuclear repository in Andrews, Texas, which has a contract with Vermont. When it is time to move the radioactive fuel in the casks, for security reasons the lead car has to be able to see the end car, so only 7 casks will be allowed per train.

As to where the radioactive waste would go …  all excitement came to a screeching halt. Which makes sense: there is no facility.   Which leads us to the next topic of discussion:


Not the kind of consent when one romantic partner asks of another, “may I touch you here?”

This consent is when the US government asks: “can we put waste in your town that will be highly radioactive for the next 100,000 years of so? We don’t know how to make it safe, but we will figure something out.”

Searching for a solution post-Yucca, the President’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Nuclear Waste decided on a “consent based” siting process. Andrews County in Texas said yes. Why consent to that Andrews is a poor rural county. It is now the home of two “low-level” rad waste dumps owned by Waste Control Specialists (WCS), and the county receives “5% of gross receipts” from the low level waste.

On April 28, the French company AREVA, an international firm, NACL, and WCS applied for a permit to build an “interim” high level radioactive waste storage facility there. If all goes well, WCS expects to have it built “as early as 2021.”  http://wcsstorage.com/

The WCS dumps are where Vermont’s “low-level” radioactive waste goes, as part of the Texas-Vermont Compact. The compact was originally just our two states. Then the Compact voted to welcome waste from more states [VtDigger 2012]. Now, it wants to expand and add highly radioactive waste. This radioactive waste creep is exactly what we feared would happen – as did the voters of Andrew County. Although WCS boasts of local support, approval of the low-level sites passed by only three votes. The site is close to the huge Ogallala aquifer. The fight to open the two WCS low-level waste dumps reads like an environmental crime novel, with re-drawn maps, bought-off commissioners, and dirty deals. The builder was a major contributor to the Bush campaign and a Karl Rove crony. (Here is one Texan’s synopsis.)

Sarcasm Alert:  But what does dirty Texas politics have to do with us, right? Aren’t we all just eager to see it all gone?


Let’s close on a positive note, shall we? Exelon – the largest nuclear corporation in the US – announced that it would shut down its two Quad City reactors and the single unit at Clinton in 2018. They are losing money and the State of Illinois declined to force the ratepayer or state taxpayers to subsidize them. Read briefs in Beyond Nuclear which note other reactors in financial straits. A month ago, NIRS posted a piece on its Safe Energy blog about Exelon, “quite likely the nation’s greediest electric utility.”

Vermont Yankee’s closure for “economic reasons” started the dominoes falling. Which one is next?


Leslie Sullivan Sachs

Safe & Green Campaign

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3.24.16 Citizens Advisory Panel meeting

The next meeting of the Nuclear Decommissioning Citizens Advisory Panel is Thursday, March 24. As always, it is open to the public and there is time for public comment at the end. You can access the agenda on NDCAP’s webpage, here.

It will be from 6:00 PM to 9:00 PM in the Multipurpose Room at Brattleboro Union High School on 131 Fairground Road, Brattleboro, VT.

Kate O’Connor, chair, writes:

We’ve added two additional participants to the water management discussion:
(1) A representative from Energy Solutions – the company employed by Entergy to remove the water – will be at the meeting to talk about what they do.
(2) Ray Powell, the NRC Region 1 Branch Chief of the Decommissioning Branch, will be on the phone to answer questions.

“The Panel will receive a presentation from Entergy and the State of Vermont on the water management issues at the Vermont Yankee site.  The Panel will also discuss an advisory opinion on groundwater monitoring at Vermont Yankee and receive an overview of the federal taxation of decommissioning trust funds.”

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Five Years of Nuclear Disaster: Fukushima Anniversary

Fuku 5 webThe fifth anniversary of the tsunami and earthquake which devastated Japan on March 11, 2011 caused the press to again — briefly — pay attention to the condition of the four Fukushima reactors, the radiated water gushing into the Pacific, the 9 millions bags of contaminated soil and debris, the daily crises faced by 80,000 evacuees, and the ghost towns. (Links to a few are below).

Safe & Green held a vigil on Saturday March 12 for a vigil between 10am and noon, at Pliny Park in downtown Brattleboro. About 30 citizens from Windham County, central Vermont, and downwind in the Pioneer Valley gathered together to counteract the nuclear industry whitewash, and spread the truth. At noon we walked silently through the Farmers Market and along Main Street.

Farmers Market IMG_2526sidewalk off center





By Safe & Green Campaign members:

Fukushima MotherhoodEnd Circle

Not a Wake Up Call

No end to nuclear disaster

Five years of local Fukushima solidarity actions

Outside Media

Fukushima: Five Years Later [Popular Science February 2016] A clear overview

NIRS April 5, 2016 Telebriefing on current conditions in Japan with Mary Olsen, NIRS and Arnie Gundersen, Fairewinds, who both the country in March 2016.  Presentation 30 minutes, followed by Q&A (60 minutes). http://www.nirs.org/fukushima/telebrief_20160405_fukushima.mp3

Arnie Gundersen, Fairewinds, reporting from Japan now. This audio episode is on daily living impacts. [Put on a Happy Face – Japan]

Namie: Abandoned Town in Japan’s Chernobyl (The Telegraph UK photos]

Kawauchi: Citizens step in where government has failed Fukushima children [Simply Info, the Fukushima Project 2014]

Over 9 million bags of nuclear clean up waste piled up across Fukushima [Mainichi JP December 2015]

Five years on, contamination crisis [South China Morning Post February 2016]

Japan to consider ocean disposal [Ashahi Shimbum December 2015]

For Fukushima mothers, protecting children from radiation comes at a heavy price [Ashahi Shimbum February 2016]

Cancer on the Rise in post-Fukushima [Fairewinds Energy Education November 2015]

Public Housing for Disaster Victims [Japan Times February 2016]

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PSR: 10,000 new cancers from Fukushima

Yesterday, Physicians for Social Responsibility released its research on the health impacts of Fukushima.  PSR estimates 10,000 excess cancers due to Fukushima.  Access the report or read highlights here.

Howard Schaeffer, long-time cheerleader for VT Yankee and the nuclear industry, told NDCAP at its February meeting meeting that no cancer hss resulted from the March 2011 triple meltdowns at Fukushima. We sincerely hope the citizen panel did not believe him. In its press conference releasing the PSR report, Dr. Alex Rosen, pediatrician and vice-chair, International Physicians for Prevention of Nuclear War, said:

 “One is of course reminded of the tobacco lobby disputing the notion that the horrific effects of its products have no adverse health impacts. This self-serving falsehood echoed for decades was made possible simply because the long-term health effects of smoking were not immediately observable. The 10,000 to 66,000 people who will develop cancer solely as a result of the “manmade disaster” are neither ‘negligible’ nor ‘insufficient,’ as Japanese authorities, the nation’s nuclear lobby, and various industry-dominated international bodies, would have you believe.”

Please stand up and speak truth to power. Join Safe & Green tomorrow, Saturday March 12th from 10am-Noon to remember Fukushima. Pliny Park, corner of High Street & Main Street, Brattleboro. More event info is here.



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People Power Wave by March 18

Decommissioning is the nuclear power wave of the future. Stop letting this corrupt industry dominate its captive regulator who should be answerable to the public, not profiteers. Add your voice to change the decommissioning rules. Comment to the NRC by March 18 by going to this Regulations.gov link.

Need more info before writing your comments? We sat in on a Webinar hosted by NIRS & CAN. They make 11 recommendations.  You can download the NIRS PDF Powerpoint with more info. Here is a summary:

  1. Require Full Decom Funding Upon Closure

Owners like Entergy exploit SAFSTOR to avoid compliance with regulations and defer cleanup for decades. The result: workers who know the reactor aren’t on the job; the environment is at risk of more contamination over time; economic planning deferred.

  1. Bar Exemptions for Decom Fund Expenses

NRC lets Entergy use Yankee decomm trust funds for nuclear waste management and storage, property taxes, and lobbying, among other things not in the rules.

  1. Restore NEPA Compliance

National Environmental Policy Act was required in the past, which makes decommissioning a Major Federal Action requiring EPA involvement and meaningful oversight.

  1. Restore Public Hearing Rights and Safeguards

Not just one public meeting! We deserve full hearing rights. We who live in the region impacted more than any other stakeholders.

  1. Require FULL Decommissioning Plans

The PSDAR is now rubber stamped by NRC. Require site-specific planning with detailed independent site surveys at the reactor to be decommissioning – not cookie-cutter plans.

  1. Restrict Use of SAFSTOR and DECON

Limit SAFSTOR and require SAFSTOR time period be justified with evidence. Decommissioning should begin at the earliest possible date determined by worker and community safety – NOT by corporate financial manipulation.

  1. Create 4th Decom Option: PDSR

Planned Decom & Site Remediation (PDSR) would limit duration of SAFSTOR to 20 years max, based on safety, not money; include state and community involvement, and retain 50% of current workforce.

  1. Establish Site-Specific Advisory Boards

Independent advisory boards with resources to hire technical consultants with access to information and the NRC.

  1. Permit State Oversight of Decom

States must have resources and authority to regulate pollution within their borders and decommissioning funds that impact taxes and host communities economic development.

  1. Require NRC Inspections and Oversight

The NRC inspectors have left VT Yankee. Who is enforcing even the weak NRC rules? Where is the accountability? Unannounced inspections plus liaison to Community Advisory Board should be mandatory.

  1. Increase License Fees for Decom Reactors

NRC must adapt to industry changes. Operators’ license fees should reflect projected decom costs.


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Busy Week: PSB & NDCAP

The Public Service Board is holding technical hearings in Docket 8300 today and tomorrow. This is Entergy’s application for a Certificate of Public Good (CPG) for a new, second pad for the dry casks which will hold the high level radioactive waste from the fuel pool.

In the past, all VT Yankee cases were accessible via the Board’s website but the Board is not posting documents from this Docket for the public to read.  We have previously postecd on the issue here.

Since we have no idea how long the radioactive waste will sit there, it is important that this be done well. The Nuclear Decommissioning Citizens Advisory Panel (NDCAP) is wrestling with the issue. The panel has been unable to come to consensus on an advisory opinion. It will be discussed Thursday night at their meeting. [6pm, Multi-Purpose Room, Brattleboro Union High School].

Schuyler Gould, a member of VYDA and now a New England Coalition trustee, has done a  Markup – NDCAP Draft Advisory Opinion on the issue here. His Cover Letter, Gould Markup Advisory Opinion is here. In the cover letter, he writes:

With all due respect to the efforts of the Panel on this particularly difficult issue, even the latest draft falls far short of standing up for the interests of the citizens it is commissioned to represent. The entire opinion is based, essentially, upon assertions by Entergy which have yet to be reviewed by the Public Service Board and judged to meet its regulatory obligations with the State of Vermont.

It is unclear to me, and others, why Entergy is even included on a citizens panel, it has been shown repeatedly to be at variance with citizens’ interests. That said, it should not be allowed to direct, certainly not to veto, the will of the majority of the panel.

The latest draft of the Opinion calls for “reliable assurances” from Entergy to “relevant regulatory bodies.” We all know a litany of assurances Entergy has given year after year after year—to the NRC, the Public Service Board, the Department of Public Service, the Department of Health, the Agency of Natural Resources, the Governor, the Legislature—not to mention the public, which have proven, quite simply, false.

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