Profits Before Safety

Will post-closure staffing reductions at Yankee will put the public at risk if there is an accident in the spent fuel pool? An alliance of northeast groups continues to push the NRC to determine whether the poor financial standing of Entergy endangers safety at Vermont Yankee, Pilgrim and Fitzpatrick.

In an update to their 2.206 emergency petition to the NRC, CAN and others also note that Entergy’s slowness to replace an aging cooling system condenser at the Fitzpatrick plant has resulted in higher than necessary radiation exposure for workers. The condenser has been plagued by frequent leaks.”


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NDCAP Meeting Thursday 10.30

The second meeting of the Nuclear Decommissioning Citizen Advisory Panel is 6:00pm on Thursday, October 30, at Brattleboro Union High School (Fairground Road, just off I-91 Exit 1). NDCAP meetings are open to the public, and an opportunity to hear what’s going on and make comments. We imagine the agenda will include a presentation from Entergy about the Site Assessment Plan released last week.

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NRC Questions Entergy on EPZ Risks

German ActivistsEntergy wants to save some money by reducing the Emergency Planning Zone (EPZ) from 10-miles to its footprint of 148 acres when it stops producing power.  Two weeks after being granted a Certificate of Public Good, Entergy asked the NRC for an exemption to regs which say an EPZ has to stay in effect. The NRC has granted exemptions to that rule every time its been asked to do so.

In an article in the Brattleboro Reformer today, “the NRC is questioning a number of assumptions used to justify the request, especially those related to the storage of spent fuel and the extent of any possible radioactive exposure if a nuclear waste accident was to occur… Three times in the request for additional information, the NRC notes that the amendment request “inaccurately states” the ramifications of a spent fuel accident at the site in Vernon.”

“In the unlikely event that there is a catastrophic loss of spent fuel pool water inventory, there is a potential for an offsite release of radioactive material …” noted the NRC.

We have more on Entergy and the EPZ issue here, with suggestions as to how you can take action (highlights below). One more suggestion: attend the NDCAP meeting on October 30 and speak out about emergency planning.

In May of this year, US Senators Sanders, Leahy, Markey and others “called on the agency to stop the “unwise policy” of issuing exemptions for emergency response regulations to decommissioning nuclear reactors which house decades-worth of spent nuclear fuel.” They  drafted 3 bills on related issues:

  • to prohibit the NRC “from issuing exemptions from its emergency response or security requirements for spent fuel stored at nuclear reactors that have permanently shut down until all of the spent nuclear fuel stored at the site has been moved into dry casks”
  • ” to ensure that states and local communities have a meaningful role in the crafting and preparation of decommissioning plans for retired nuclear plants”
  • “require the safe removal of spent nuclear fuel from the spent fuel pools and place that spent fuel into dry cask storage within 7 years…”
  • “expands the emergency planning zone for non-compliant reactor operators to 50 miles.”

Chris Recchia, Commissioner of the VT Dept. of Public Service, testified to the NRC Senate oversight committee in  May 2014: “The assumed basis for these proposed exemptions is that spent nuclear fuel remaining in the pool presents virtually equivalent off-site emergency risks as that in dry cask – that is to say (according to the NRC), none. This defies logic. Leaving aside the many scientific articles refuting that claim, the NRC staff themselves, in other documents, while claiming that all of the risks are at acceptable levels, acknowledge that spent fuel in pools is more risky than fuel stored in dry casks.”



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Entergy Decomm on the Web, Twitter

Entergy has a new Twitter account: @VYSafstor  (Guess that says it all), a new Facebook page and a new website dedicated to decommissioning VT Yankee.

P.S. Their “History” on the website is a bit incomplete. We’ll give them the benefit of a doubt and assume this is a work in progress. :o) We have an extensive Timeline (2004-2014) if they need help remembering the dates of some leaks, lies or law suits.  Or perhaps our own  Decommissioning Resources  page could be of service.

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SAFSTOR til 2053

Entergy has released its site assessment for Vermont Yankee decommissioning, waste management, and site clean-up.   Click here for the full report (PDF download).

Check out our Decommissioning Resources page for a list of our concerns, as well as a digest of information, news articles and OpEds.

The plan will be presented at the next NDCAP meeting, scheduled for October 30th, 6pm at Brattleboro Union High School. The meetings are open to the public so mark your calendar.

SAFSTOR til 2053. (Are you willing to make a bet that Entergy will be around in 2053?)

“… the earliest clean up of the site could begin is 2053, but Mike Twomey, Entergy vice president for external affairs, said that date is a worse-case scenario …”

“The site assessment study also revealed cost for cleaning up the site is more than expected, at $1.24 billion.”

$817M    Decomm after SAFSTOR til 2053-ish
$368M   Spent fuel management by 2020-ish
$ 57M     Site restoration.

The decommissioning trust fund is at $642,550,813, down from September at $653,292,191.

DPS Commissioner Chris Recchia believes things are not as bad as they sound: “Assuming Entergy can accomplish spent fuel management from the pool into dry cask on the 2019-2020 schedule Entergy has suggested, and get reimbursement from the US Department of Energy in a timely manner, we expect that these cost estimates will enable us to move forward with full decommissioning in the 2030s or perhaps late 2020s timeframe, depending on growth in the Decommissioning Trust Fund.”

So how long SAFSTOR will last is all based on Entergy & the NRC betting on Wall Street. OUR rates paid into the decommissioning fund, sold to Entergy along with the reactor in 2002, and subject to the whims of the stock market.

Quotes above from Reformer 10.18.14    VT Business Magazine    Keene Sentinel     VtDigger


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ANR Issues Thermal Permit

ANR issued its permit on October 12, 2014. It had lapsed in 2005. There were “wins” and “losses.” The wins: Entergy has to monitor the actual water temperature rather than rely on modeling and estimates. Yankee can discharge water up to 85 degrees for 3 months rather than 4; since this is the last summer & fall Yankee will be open, this doesn’t feel like the “win” it could have been a dozen years ago.  It is the losses that matter given the short time frame: the winter temperature limits stay the same, and ANR eliminated oversight by the environmental advisory board.  BFP 10.13.14

For more on the issue, go to our Flotilla pages in Past Actions.

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On Transparency & Spin

“Nuclear power requires obedience, not transparency. The gap between nuclear rhetoric and nuclear reality has been a fundamental impediment to wise energy policy decisions for half a century now. For various reasons in many nations, the nuclear industry cannot tell the truth about its progress, its promise or its perils. Its backers in government and in academia do no better.” Peter B. Bradford, former commissioner U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), former chair of the New York and Maine Utility Regulatory Commissions; Adjunct Professor, Vermont Law School. World-Nuclear-Report-2013

“We have interests. We have points of view on things. But the key is to keep the conversation going together and working through the issues. And that’s why we’re committed to transparency … We are a strong believer in nuclear energy… on the business side, we’re working to ensure that the marketplace that we compete in provides us a reasonable opportunity to earn a fair return. So we’re working on the market-structure issues in New England.”  Bill Mohl, president of Entergy Wholesale Commodities, Brattleboro Reformer 10.11.14

“Nuclear’s quiet production, and even quieter best-safety-record-of-any-industry, never got translated to the public, who only had doom and gloom input from ideological groups. … nuclear energy has no constituency. And that is very dangerous in a democracy.” James Conca, Forbes 10.10.14

{We have updated the growing list of Pro-Nuclear groups in our Resources section.}

“Actually, there is no reason at all to think that nuclear power’s lack of constituency is dangerous to our democracy. Bad ideas don’t necessarily maintain constituencies. And there must have been some constituency for nuclear power at one point–it’s hard to imagine that some 120+ nuclear reactors costing hundreds of billions of dollars could have been built without one. If that constituency didn’t stick around, then it may just be because that constituency reacted to the reality that nuclear power turned out to be not such a good deal for ratepayers, nor the air and water, nor public health, nor even the climate, where it is still holding back needed deployment of clean solar and wind power.” Micheal Mariotte, NIRS  GreenWorld 10.14.14

“On Monday, Feb 24, the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) unveiled its Future of Energy advertising campaign with a press conference at the National Press Club. The campaign will stress four major aspects of nuclear energy that are not as well understood as they should be. It will talk about the importance of nuclear energy in a diverse portfolio of electricity generation sources, the value of the high quality jobs associated with the industry, the environmental benefits it provides as a clean air source of power generation and the exciting technologies being developed that will enhance nuclear energy’s value in the future.” Rod Adams, Atomic Insights 02.27.14

“Using a deceptive public relations campaign and heavily-funded front groups like Nuclear Matters, Third Way, and C2ES, corporations including Exelon and Entergy have tried to drum up fears of a national energy crisis stemming from the closure of several aging, uncompetitive nuclear plants and the advance of renewable energy. While touting the need to “preserve” nuclear power, nuclear interests have covered up the actual reforms they are seeking and their implications for the U.S.’s energy future.”  Tim Judson, NIRS Killing the Competition: The Nuclear Power Industry Agenda to Block Climate Action, Stop Renewable Energy, and Subsidize Old Reactors




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$12.6B into the Death Spiral

The nuclear power industry got a huge boost today from YOU via the US Dept. of Energy. DOE is proposing $12.6 Billion (yes, B) in new nuclear “guaranteed loans” for existing and new nuclear reactors. Renewable Energy and Efficient Energy Projects is pegged for one-third that amount at $4 billion. There’s $8 billion for “Advanced Fossil Energy Projects.”  Only transportation got more: $16 B for “Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing.”

There is a lot of data on nuclear subsidies, from the Price-Anderson insurance boondoggle to states’ milking ratepayers for over-budget construction work in progress.  Back in 2011 the Union of Concerned Scientists released this report: Nuclear Power: Still Not Viable Without Subsidies. Ironically, the report was released on March 11, the morning Japan was hit by earthquakes and tsunami, just as the Fukushima nuclear disasters began.

In the three years since, it has become clear that the nuclear industry is in a “death spiral” due to competition from natural gas, solar and wind, plus the resulting push for decentralized power; 5 US reactors closing; media stories about the financial and human impacts of Fukushima; the release of more fact-based reports (see July 2014: Three of Four Nukes under construction globally are over budget & behind schedule ); and increased citizen activism at reactors  around the world.

Jeremy Rifkin, a world-renowned economist, summed up the “5 Reasons nuclear power is a dead end business model” succinctly to a meeting of asset managers recently.The conservative Forbes magazine, in an article entitled “Another Way to Look at the Utility Death Spiral,” concluded “Adding 19 trillion kilowatt hours to the world’s energy diet would take about 1,610 new nuclear power plants… There are 430 nuclear plants now and individual plants cost $7 billion or more.  … The alternative is to try alternatives.”

Yet financial reality bounces off the teflon armor of the US government. Obama is beholden to the nuclear industry which financed much of his political career. Former Exelon staff landed seats on the White House staff as soon as Obama was elected.  Exelon is now struggling to keep some of its 11 nuclear reactors in Illinois financially viable, and is holding that state’s energy policy hostage. Keep our nukes running with $580 of taxpayer money, or we’ll shut down & leave the state holding the bag for carbon emissions under the new EPA rules. A Chicago consumer advocate said, “If that’s going to be their ask, they’ll be getting all the profits without any of the risk. That would be an awfully hard hit to consumers.”

And lets not forget the massive media campaign by the industry, led by the Nuclear Energy Institute. NEI is a donor to ALEC, Koch brothers lobbying group. Last year, ALEC peddled 70 bills blocking alternative energy development in 37 states, and was successful in 16. Nuclear is promoting itself as the answer to climate change and pushing against renewables on a state by state basis, as outlined in this 2010 investigative report.

Money beats facts in Washington, DC. If nuclear power is clean power in Obama’s “all of the above” strategy, we need an “all of the above” strategy to fight back.

We might take as a starting point today post by Harvey Wasserman: Four Things We Need to Do to Win the Climate Fight

#1: In this movement, “what can I do?” always has a ready answer: fight the polluter next door. Pick one and shut it down!

YES! Let’s mark a big CHECK next to #1 ! We have strength and power and skills. Let’s take them to his next 3:

#2: Corporate dominance: Only way to take it on that has worked in the past: mass civil disobedience.

#3: For a green world, we need to include these issues: social justice, corporate personhood, net neutrality, election protection, and peace.

#4: Being an activist is a leap of faith which comes with rewards and costs, and so we can “listen to our gut instincts, accept what we’re good at doing, heed our natural passions, respect our comfort zones, heal in concert with our fellow citizen who are struggling to do the same.”

One activist reaching out to another, and another, and another, in peace,

Leslie Sullivan Sachs


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DCAP Meeting 9.25.2014

The next 2014 NDCAP meeting dates are October 30, November 11, December 18. Below is coverage of the first CAP meeting on Sept. 25:

The Commons’ Olga Peters covered the story 10.2: Entergy: Meeting was “watershed moment” for VY

Brattleboro Reformer: “Entergy details staff cuts, spent fuel plans at Vermont Yankee”

VtDigger: “Entergy Outlines Post-Shutdown Plans for VT Yankee”

Rutland Herald: “VY to Reveal Full Closing Cost in October”

9.25 details: The Nuclear Decommissioning Citizen Advisory Panel meeting is open to the public. It will be held at Brattleboro Union High School in the Multi-Purpose Room from 6-9pm. More info is here:

“The agenda for the September 25 meeting includes a discussion of the mission of NDCAP; an overview of the Settlement Agreement reached between the State of Vermont and Entergy Nuclear Vermont Yankee (ENVY) in December 2013; and Vermont Yankee decommissioning and stakeholder assessment findings. In addition, ENVY will present a summary of current decommissioning activities at Vermont Yankee.  The meeting will be recorded by Brattleboro Cable Access Television (BCTV) who will upload the recording to the Vermont Media Exchange for distribution to all other Vermont public access stations.”

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NEW Countdown to Closure!

Remember our daily “Countdown to Closure” vigils at the gates of Vermont Yankee back in 2011 & 2012? We were marking the days until March 21, 2012, the day Vermont’s stamp of approval for nuclear operations expired.  Now watch our NEW 2014 Countdown to Closure clock on this page, counting the number of days until December 29, 2014, the date Entergy has set to pull the plug on the reactor.

Today, with 98 days til shut down, Yankee is producing at 98%. Today marks 98 days until Yankee stops producing electricity and nuclear waste and stops heating up the Connecticut River.  Coincidentally, last week Yankee starting powering down a bit at a time as it rations its fuel, coasting down to December 29.


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