NDCAP Tonight: A Rush Job

Nuclear Decommissioning Citizen Advisory Panel (NDCAP) is meeting tonight at 6pm at the Marlboro Graduate Center, Room 2-E, in downtown Brattleboro  (28 Vernon Street, just past the Museum). Last week the NDCAP hosts, the VT Dept of Public Service, announced that the public would have until NOV 25 to comment on two items on the Agenda for tonight: the Site Assessment Plan and the Post Shut Down Action Plan (PSDAR). This announcement does not appear on their website: http://publicservice.vermont.gov/topics/electric/nuclear

This is only the third meeting of NDCAP. The first Agenda item for tonight is a one hour discussion on the Panel’s structure and communications, leaving just 90 minutes for the two Entergy plans. NDCAP is largely volunteer.

Entergy is rushing through these plans. Why? No independent assessment was done – we have to trust Entergy’s review of past reports and interviews with workers. (Yesterday, Entergy announced that it would lay off 165 employees in January.) Do they not want the State or public to take a close look at their own assessment of what is on the site? The PSDAR is not due to the NRC for two years post-shut down — why rush us to comment before it even closes?

For Immediate Release
November 13, 2014
Contact: Tony Leshinskie, Vermont State Nuclear Engineer
Public invited to submit comments on Vermont Yankee Site Assessment Study and draft Post-Shutdown Decommissioning Activities Report
Montpelier, Vermont – The Public Service Department today announced that it is seeking written public comments on the Vermont Yankee Site Assessment Study (SAS), and draft Post-Shutdown Decommissioning Activities Report (PSDAR) recently published by Entergy.  Public comments on the draft PSDAR received by November 25, 2014 will be considered for inclusion with the Public Service Department’s comments that will be provided to Entergy for incorporation with its PSDAR submittal to the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission. All public comments received on the draft PSDAR and the SAS will be considered for inclusion with the State’s evaluation of the Vermont Yankee Site Assessment Survey, and may also be considered for discussion at a future Vermont Nuclear Decommissioning Citizens Advisory Panel meeting.
Written comments may be mailed electronically to the State Nuclear Engineer at the following address: anthony.leshinskie@state.vt.us.  Please include “PSDAR/SAS Comments” in the email subject line.   Written comments may also be mailed to the Public Service Department at the following address:
Vermont Public Service Department
112 State Street – Drawer 20
Montpelier, VT 05620-2601
To facilitate the ease of compiling all comments received, please consider emailing comments as an attached MSWord or PDF document.  When sending comments via US Mail, please consider using a Compact Disk (CD) and either MSWord or PDF format.  
The entire SAS & draft PSDAR are available online at http://vydecommissioning.com/document-library/.  Additional information on VY’s decommissioning is available athttp://publicservice.vermont.gov/topics/electric/nuclear#NDCAP.



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Weaseling Out

Entergy is trying to weasel out of paying for operating expenses by dipping into the decommissioning trust fund for emergency planning and spent fuel management. According to VtDigger, Vermont’s AG Bill Sorrell, believes ‘emergency planning is a cost that should come out of the company’s operating budget.’

“We want decommissioning to be able to move forward as soon as reasonably possible and we don’t want to let Entergy’s profit considerations and risk-averse desires to cause an undue slowdown of the growth of the fund.”

We need protection while the fuel is still in the fuel pool, and while it is moved into dry casks storage. Arnie Gundersen says the risk of a nuclear accident is highest while fuel is moved out of the pool and into storage.

We are between the proverbial rock and a hard place. If Entergy is allowed to dip into the fund for emergency planning and moving fuel, the fund will have to grow further to make up for the monies Entergy took out. It delays the date when real decommissioning begins.  But if Entergy has to pay for it from their profits, our chances of being covered are weak to none. When did the 2nd largest nuclear corporation in the US,  from its HQ in New Orleans, start to care about the people or environment up north?

Providing emergency planning is not decommissioning. It is acting like a corporation that gives a damn about protecting the children at the elementary school across the street. Let’s hope the State stands firm and Entergy grows a conscience.

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Decomm. Panel Notes & Reflections

The second meeting of the Nuclear Decommissioning Community Advisory Panel was held on Thursday, October 30th. The meeting was held at Vernon Elementary School, the reactor’s closest neighbor, and surely its first victim should an accident occur. (This was not mentioned at the meeting. Entergy’s evac zone presentation was simply slides of NRC regulations. Perhaps, given the setting, a dry recitation of regs was the only way to cope.)

What’s the Rush?

Over the course of the evening, it became apparent that Entergy is pushing things along at a rapid clip. Its site assessment was submitted two months ahead of schedule. In 60 days, two years ahead of schedule, they intend to file the PSDAR (Post Shutdown Decommissioning Activities Report).

We have been asking for prompt this and prompt that: we want the dangerous fuel out the pool and the site decontaminated and restored promptly and safely. So why aren’t we happy with the pace now?

60 days gives the NDCAP panelists less than two months to go through the assessment and make comments. Everyone needs time to come up to speed on the technical questions involved. Citizen rep David Deen said quite simply, “Sixty days is not enough time. We are volunteers.” After a day at their jobs, our citizen reps will snuggle up and relax with the chapter on radiological materials, or perhaps subsurface soils.

For all Entergy’s talk about transparency, this rush job makes one think that it is all for show. The negotiations with the state, the panel, the assessment, the PSDAR are all but nice window dressing so the nuclear industry looks like good corporate citizens.

Clay Turnbull of the New England Coalition was blunt, “Who is driving the schedule? Entergy. This Panel should take control of the schedule.”

Spent Fuel

Entergy is looking at taking out a $150 million line of credit to move spent fuel from the reactor to the pool, and from the pool into dry casks. Chris Campney, one of the citizen reps, called the credit line offer “the headline of the night.” This would enable things to move more quickly than Entergy dipping into the Decommissioning Trust Fund and then suing the DOE for breach of contract.

Under questioning by Deb Katz of CAN, an Entergy VP insinuated that it may not be easy for Entergy to get a line of credit. This was ironic. CAN has a lead role in a current investigation at the NRC into whether Entergy’s poor finances are affecting its ability to maintain their Northeast plants safely. He also reminded us that spent fuel management costs incur over decades, not all at once.

Emergency Planning

NRC regulations call for reactors to keep the 10-mile emergency planning zone in place until all the spent fuel is removed from the reactor and the fuel pool. 18 times owners have asked for an exemption to this regulation; 18 times the NRC has given them the thumbs up. Local fire departments and state emergency planners bear the financial and personnel burden to protect their communities.

Entergy says evacuation planning money would have to come out of the decommissioning trust fund, to a tune of $100 million until 2020, when presumably all the spent fuel is “safely” in dry cask storage. I couldn’t figure out how they got to $100 million. Entergy currently pays $4.5 million a year to the three states for the EPZ. There are 6 years between now and 2020. $4.5 million x 6 = $27 million. What’s the other $73 million for? On Sunday, Susan Smallheer asked the same question in her report in the Rutland Herald. Entergy says the $100 million equals the “current 24/7 level of staffing” until all the fuel is out of the fuel pool.

“This is an area of open disagreement” between the state and Entergy, said co-chair Chris Recchia, Commissioner of Public Service, at Thursday’s NDCAP meeting. The state has filed a motion to intervene in Entergy’s request to the NRC asking for exemption for evacuation planning in 2016.

Entergy has 550 staff now, and will lay off all but 316 in early 2015. Citizen rep Derrik Jordan asked about losing institutional memory once so many employees are gone. Entergy said former employees were interviewed for the site assessment.

Drones, Casks & What Ifs

Frances Crowe asked about security from drones. Entergy doesn’t comment on security matters. (The drone question seemed to fly over everyone’s heads. But Frances asked a timely question. It is a mystery as to who is responsible for drones sighted over nukes in France this month; on one day, multiple drones flew off nukes hundreds of miles apart. Greenpeace says it’s not them, and people are worried as no one is taking credit.)

Entergy has not decided on what dry casks it will use. Dry cask vendors made presentations to the Community Advisory Panel at San Onofre, CA. Leslie Sullivan Sachs asked if this Panel will have the same opportunity to hear from vendors. Entergy said no, that is a contractual matter and the Panel is advisory only. Chair Recchia said the State may disagree.

Nancy Braus asked what would happen if Entergy went bankrupt? An Entergy rep said the funds are in a trust and it will grow, but that “I can’t talk on camera” about what could happen financially. The NRC has primary responsibility.

The meeting began and ended with discussion on the Panel’s process and communications. It included sticky wickets familiar to anyone who follows democratic process, such as “if a couple of the panelists get together, must it be declared in advance as a public meeting?” A report on the NDCAP’s activities is due to the Governor and legislative energy committees by January 15.

There was also discussion on how to give the panel, and the public, opportunities to comment on the Assessment plan (and presumably whatever else comes up at the NDCAP meetings). There is currently no ability to make comments on the Dept. of Public Service website or on Entergy’s new website on decommissioning. We will let you know when that changes. Entergy has updated the website to include all Appendices to the Site Assessment Study. Oh, and if you missed their animated decomm video, here it is. Not Saturday morning cartoon laughs, but your kids will understand it.

The next meeting of DCAP is scheduled for Thursday, November 20th.

Leslie Sullivan Sachs, Safe & Green Campaign

Correction: In an earlier version of these notes emailed to our list 11.03.14, your faithful scribe made an error: Derrik Jordan is the citizen rep who asked about jobs. My sincere apologies to Derrik (and Dan DeWalt, who is not a rep and was not in attendance). The notes above are corrected.  

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Profits Before Safety

Will post-closure staffing reductions at Yankee 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 Vernon Elementary School Muli-Purpose Room on Governor Hunt Road in Vernon. NDCAP meetings are open to the public, and an opportunity to hear what’s going on and make comments.

VT NDCAP_Agenda10-30-14 Final


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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 www.facebook.com/vydecommissioning and a new website dedicated to decommissioning VT Yankee. http://vydecommissioning.com/

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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