The Road from Vermont Yankee to Texas

Safe and Green Campaign is co-sponsoring a New England tour which will connect the dots among environmental justice, nuclear waste, and nuclear reactors in our region. [Click here for the May 6 event in Brattleboro; tour stops include Seabrook & Pilgrim reactors, Montpelier and Greenfield.]

Environmental Justice and Nuclear Waste: The Road from Vermont Yankee to Texas

What: Examining the issues of high-level nuclear waste (HLNW), Federal waste policy and environmental racism of the nuclear waste industry. 

Who: Rose Gardner, Sierra Club member and a resident of a community impacted by both a Texas low-level waste dump and a proposed Centralized Interim Storage site for HLNW in Andrews County, Texas; Kevin Kamps with Beyond Nuclear, speaking on the vulnerabilities of on-site storage of HLNW and federal policy; and Deb Katz with Citizens Awareness Network, addressing the issues of NorthStar, decommissioning, and hardened onsite storage at nuclear reactors.

Do you know where our Vermont Yankee nuclear waste goes? Although the nuclear industry and federal government committed to create a solution for high-level nuclear waste disposal, no acceptable solution exists.   The sites targeted for “disposal”, like Andrews County, Texas (interim storage site) and Yucca Mountain (permanent storage site), are routinely low-income, rural, people of color and Native American communities.

The industry pits nuclear communities against each other; reactor communities fear inadequate storage casks, lack of onsite protections, and abandonment of high level nuclear waste.  Communities targeted for nuclear waste disposal don’t want dangerous nuclear waste in their backyard, particularly given the abysmal record of leaks and inadequate environmental protections.  Waste communities face unconscionable choices – short-term economic survival or long-term health and safety.

This is a timely topic as the public and the state look at Yankee decommissioning. Waste Control Specialists (WCS) is one of the “dream team” created by NorthStar.  WCS has low level waste sites in Texas and is applying for a license to store high level nuclear waste. In addition to the Sierra Club’s Lone Star chapter, Nuke Free Texas and the Texas Public Citizen chapter have been fighting WCS and state regulators for decades. A 2009 article,  “Why is Andrews County so eager to get dumped on?” has insights that are still applicable today. 

Please join us in learning about and discussing these issues: 4:30pm on May 6th at the Central Congreational Church Parlor, 193 Main St., Brattleboro. Free and open to the public.

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PSB Sale Hearing Recap

Press coverage of the April 6 Public Service Board public hearing at Vernon Elementary School on the sale of Vermont Yankee (Docket #8880):

Process for sale of VT Yankee said to be first arrangement of its kind (Greenfield Recorder 04.06.17)

VY decommissioning sale praised (Rutland Herald, 04.08.17)

Questions dominate VT Yankee sale discussion (VtDigger.org, 04.09.17)

Brattleboro Community Access TV: BCTV recording of the hearing

Notes by Leslie Sullivan Sachs:

PSB Public Hearing on Docket #8880 sale of VT Yankee to NorthStar, April 6 2017, Vernon Elementary

At least 125 present, including a good number of citizens and also a hefty number of lawyers, and staff of intervenors (parties to the docket) such as Conservation Law Foundation, Assoc. Industries of VT.

The presentation at 6:00pm opened with Geoff Commons, Dept. of Public Service, saying the department has not taken a position yet. He then introduced Scott State, CEO of NorthStar and Mike Twomey, an Entergy VP. They spoke briefly then took questions from the audience for 40 minutes.

Dan Burns of Waste Control Specialists and two staff from Areava France attended but did not speak. A number of people commenting questioned Areva’s poor track record in France and financial stability.

Scott State said he thinks of Yankee as a “radiologically contaminated site,” not a nuclear reactor site. 95% of the radiation is from the spent fuel, which will be in dry cask storage. 99% of the radiation will be gone when they remove the internal torus from the reactor. PSDAR submitted to NRC today.

Questions from the public:

  • Inexperience with a reactor this size? NorthStar has done thousands of large decommissioning projects. “NorthStar and Areva” have decomm large nukes in the United Kingdom. [Fact: NorthStar has done 4 university lab reactor decomms, Areva has the experience.)
  • Chris Williams: safety of elementary school? NorthStar will set up containment while removing radiated pieces and parts.
  • NorthStar broke down decommissioning into 920 discrete tasks, each one assigned a cost. NorthStar will use precisely the amount budgeted – perhaps less, but “we cannot take more than is assigned that cost.” There is a 10% contingency on everything.
  • Why is NorthStar’s budget ($811 million) less than Entergy’s estimate of $1.2 billion? (1) Entergy is moving spent fuel into dry casks before the sale, so that cost is no longer in the budget; (2) the new financial model, “guaranteed fixed payment system;” (3) NorthStar will perform decomm & site restoration at same time.
  • Mark McDonald pressed NorthStar on the question: if decommissioning fund is gone, who will pay? State of NorthStar answered, “the owner.” Who’s the owner in this layers of LLCs? ENVY. NorthStar: the PSB and NRC will evaluate financial assurance issues. McDonald: but the NRC just changes the rules to fit the issue.

Margaret Cheney and Sarah Hoffman were the Public Service Board hearing officers present. No time limits were set for public. BCTV filmed the hearing.

A few themes: “it’s almost too good to be true” by both skeptics and supporters of the sale; will Vermont be protected financially if things don’t go according to plan?; concern about financial stability of Areva; how clean is clean.

Here’s who testified, to the best of our knowledge:

  • Brad Ferland, President of VT Energy Partnership (approve & move forward)
  • Deb Katz, CAN (Rowe & CT Yankee – double expense over what was budgeted due to what they didn’t know was in the ground; we could end up with a brownfield site)
  • Asher Crispe, a “technology futurist” (don’t worry, technology is moving fast, solutions ahead!)
  • Michael Granger, asked about performance bonds
  • Ben Kingsley, Prosperity for Vermont (approve)
  • Chris Williams, VCAN, NIRS (concerned about cost over runs)
  • Tim Smith, Franklin County MA Industrial Development Corp. (support, move forward)
  • Leslie Sullivan Sachs, Safe & Green Campaign (skeptical, goal should be greenest possible plan)
  • Vernon Planning Commission (excited about future use of site for new energy)
  • Zack, VT Law School student & Tunbridge farmer (due diligence and research)
  • John Field, Putney citizen (concerned about the companies — Areva bailout in France, Waste Control Specialists)
  • Betsy Williams, Safe & Green Campaign (no trust; bottom line: no cost to Vermont taxpayers)
  • Peter VanderDoes, New England Coalition (concerned about the companies — Areva bailout in France, Waste Control Specialists)
  • Lissa Weinmann, Brattleboro (leave nuclear waste on site until permanent solution)
  • Gary Sachs, Brattleboro (no rubblization: dilution is not solution to pollution)
  • Leo Schiff, Safe and Green Campaign (concerns about nuclear waste)
  • Lorie Cartwright, Brattleboro (skeptical, due diligence needed)
  • Ned Childs, New England Coalition
  • Clay Turnbull, New England Coalition

A second PSB public hearing will be held in September, after evidence is submitted by Entergy, NorthStar and the 8 intervenors to the sale docket.

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New: Links to NRC & PSB documents

We have collected current & selected historic documents relevant to the proposed sale of Vermont Yankee by Entergy to NorthStar, and posted them on one page, here: NRC Documents & PSB Docket Links.

Some were too large for our website to handle so are PDFs linked from the document library at Entergy’s vydecomm website.  

The page includes:

  • Current Public Service Board (PSB) Docket 8880 on the sale
  • PSB Docket 7862, allowing Entergy to operate through 12.31.14
  • Settlement Agreement (adopted as MOU to above Docket 7862)
  • 2002 Sale to Entergy Docket 6545
  • Site Assessment Study by Entergy
  • Radiological & Non-Radiological Site Assements
  • PSDAR

Please email Leslie Sullivan Sachs at safeandgreencampaign@gmail.com with broken links, suggestions for other relevant documents, or edits.

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NDCAP Notes 03.23.17

My personal, rough notes from the 03.23. 17 meeting of the Nuclear Decommissioning Citizen Advisory Panel are posted here.  News articles on the meeting have been posted on the Decommissioning Resources page. — Leslie Sullivan Sachs

My highlights of the meeting:

  • The three State agencies and Attorney Generals office appear to be sincerely concerned about the ability of NorthStar to do the decommissioning right, on the budget it has set.
    • They doubt the $125 million set aside for over runs will be enough.
    • They are aware that other sites have had to pay double the original estimates, largely because of radioactive & non-radioactive but toxic / hazardous materials found once decommissioning began.
  • Last year the legislature passed a bill allowing state agencies to bill back for post-closure related expenses for PSB hearings and oversight.
    • Dept of Public Service and Agency of Natural Resources have hired outside experts to help vet financials for Public Service Board sale case  PSB Docket 8880 here
  • Dry cask storage was explained more fully but there are still concerns.
  • A settlement agreement was negotiated between the state and Entergy after the closure announcement, before the PSB granted a certificate of public good. The negotiated settlement became part of the CPG. Will that happen again? [ MOU/Settlement 3.28.14]
  • When asked about resources for independent experts to talk to NDCAP, Dept of Public Service Commissioner June Tierney said NDCAP and the public should trust state to do its job. We are not experts and she wants to hear our perspective as laypeople.

You can see the agenda for the meeting on the NDCAP page.

 

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VY Yankee Clean Up Must Be Done Right

Sandy Levine of the Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) has a long history of working to protect the public and environment from Vermont Yankee before the Public Service Board. She has four suggestions you can make at the April 6 PSB Public Hearing on the sale of Vermont Yankee to NorthStar:

  • Timing – The timing of the clean-up should be a firm commitment. No vague promise to get the job done sooner.
  • Money – Northstar should have financial backing and insurance to cover all costs and contingencies if things do not go as planned.
  • Entergy – As the plant owner when it was operating, Entergy should not be off the hook. The site is contaminated and Entergy should remain financially responsible for clean-up.
  • Oversight – The clean-up operation should be an open book. Regulators and communities should have access to information about the clean-up during the process.

You can read a short blog post by Sandy here CLF: Speak Out-Cleaning Up VT Yankee or her longer OpEd in the Rutland Herald here.

The hearing will take place at the Vernon Elementary School (across the street from the reactor) on April 6. There will be a presentation at 6pm and comments taken beginning at 7pm. For more info, go to our event page here.

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April 6: New PSB Public Hearing Date

Vermont regulators want to hear what we think about Entergy selling VT Yankee to a new decommissioning company. It sounds good on the surface – the nuke would be taken down over the next dozen years – but the devil is in the details. The new company figures it can make a profit. We don’t want them cutting corners to meet a budget, leaving a mess for future generations to clean up.
The new Public Hearing date is April 6th. An informational presentation by the Dept. of Public Service will be held at 6:00pm. The Public Service Board will begin hearing the people speak at 7:00pm.
The hearing will be at Vernon Elementary School, on Governor Hunt Road (across the street from Vermont Yankee) in Vernon, VT.

For details go to our Decommissioning Resources page and our news post here.

Public Service Board notice: http://psb.vermont.gov/event/8880-rescheduled-public-hearing

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Our Goal: The Best Deal for the Planet

What follows is a summary of our thoughts as we prepare for the Public Service Board public hearing on April 6 (6pm, Vernon Elementary School, Vernon VT).

For more on our thoughts and to read our Principles for Decommissioning, go to our VY Closure & Decomm Issues page. We share them with you in the hopes that you will prepare and deliver your own comments to the Public Service Board.

Summary

The proposed sale of Vermont Yankee to NorthStar Group Services LLC is the first of its kind. Never before has an owner sold a reactor after shutdown and before decommissioning. Vermont Yankee will be the testing ground for NorthStar LLC to market itself to the US nuclear industry as a firm that can make decommissioning profitable.

The Safe and Green Campaign neither supports nor opposes the proposed sale of Vermont Yankee to NorthStar LLC. Rather, Safe and Green supports the best deal for our region, the United States, and the planet.

The best deal would be one that is presented with full transparency to the public in language we can understand. It would include enforceable assurances that:

  • The site standards will be the best that can be accomplished for public health and the environment, not to fit a budget projected by NorthStar.
  • The storage of the highly radioactive spent fuel will allow for ongoing, long-term monitoring of radiation levels, using the best available casks, contained in a building or bermed with soil, and strongly guarded against attack.
  • The high-level waste will be not transported anywhere on our poorly maintained roads and railways   until the US creates permanent, safe, long-term storage.
  • The Public Service Board will conduct “extreme vetting” of NorthStar’s finances and the nature of its relationship with its decommissioning team, and that Vermont taxpayers will be shielded from the costs of any poor decisions made.
  • NorthStar and its team will be strictly monitored during decommissioning by an independent entity, not only the NRC.

Prompt decommissioning gives us the opportunity to act as the stewards of the radioactive materials created at Vermont Yankee, rather than passing the financial, environmental, and public health burdens on to our children and grandchildren. Ethically, this is the right time. Now, we need to ensure we hire the right people to do the job.

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Fukushima 6

In mid-March six years ago, the NRC told Vermont by phone that it would approve a 40 year license extension for Vermont Yankee, a General Electric boiling water reactor built in 1972. On March 11, the world began to see what could happen when 1970s General Electric boiling water reactors lose power, explode, melt down.

Please join Safe & Green on March 11 so our corner of the world does not forget this on-going tragedy. We will gather in vigil at Noon, Pliny Park (corner of Main & High Streets). Stand in solidarity with the evacuees of a region once as beautiful, beloved and productive as our own.

Please help us spread the word on the March 11 vigil. You can download and print this Fukusima 2017 poster to distribute, and share our Facebook event.  Our 2017 Fukushima update is here: 2017 Fukushima Year in Review

Letter by Ann Darling, published in the Hampshire Gazette.

Letter by Nancy Braus, published in the Brattleboro Reformer

Fukushima On My Mind, an essay by Mina Hamilton, composed after reading Safe & Green’s info on this page, published in Women and Life on Earth

Clean Technica recently posted an update on what is happening happening at the reactors: cleantechnica.com/2017/02/15/fukushima-nuclear

The latest we have seen on the evacuation is that those living in Iitate (the same distance from the Japan reactors as Putney is from Yankee) have been ordered to return home, or lose their evacuee subsidies. Greenpeace has done a report based on their readings in Iitate, which contradict the government’s findings. A recent video on Iitate is here. A synopsis and reactions from evacuees is here.

Fukushima is Still Melting Down: Thom Hartman’s interview with Kevin Kamps of Beyond Nuclear (video).

The 2020 Olympics, which will be held in Tokoyo, add to the government and corporate pressure to hide the reality of what is happening at Fukushima.

This will be our sixth year of vigils and actions in solidarity with the people and environment at Fukushima. You can read about our past Actions here.

 

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Update: Public Hearings: VT 2 – NRC Zip

The Public Service Board announced that it will hold two public hearings, rather than the usual one, on the Certificate of Public Good for the sale of Vermont Yankee by Entergy to NorthStar Group Services LLC. The first session (April 6) is designed give the Board our broad concerns and questions about the sale. The second will be held in September, after much more specific information has been submitted to the Board. one early on, and another after .

The first will be Thursday April 6,  at Vernon Elementary School (across from Vermont Yankee on Governor Hunt Road). At 6:00pm will be an “informational session on the plant sale.” Public comments begin at 7:00pm.  Read more on VtDigger.org

‘Geoff Commons, the Public Service Department’s acting public advocacy director, has said the board’s review schedule “recognizes the strong interest that the local community and region have in all matters related to the Vermont Yankee plant” and allows for “a serious, in-depth review” of the sale.’

The sale is Docket #8880 on the Public Service Board’s website. http://epsb.vermont.gov/?q=node/64/27332

There is nothing in the Nuclear Regulatory Commission‘s process which says the public has the right to a hearing or meeting about the sale and the transfer of the license from Entergy to NorthStar — even though NorthStar will need to submit a new PSDAR (Post Shut Down Decommissioning Activities Report). The NRC came to Vermont in February 2015 for a raucous, standing room only meeting at the Quality Inn on Entergy’s PSDAR …. I imagine they are not chomping at the bit to return.

UPDATE: According to VtDigger.org, the NRC has agreed to schlep back to Vermont for another public meeting. No date set yet.

If you would like to read the filing from Entergy & NorthStar to the NRC, it is available but too large a file for our website; Entergy has it posted here.

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Notes on Nuclear Decomm 1.26.17

These note are my own and I can’t claim to any accuracy. My personal comments are in italics & I am subject to bursts of sarcasm.

Minutes will be posted on the NDCAP website, hopefully before the next meeting. Most presenters had power points but they have not been posted yet on NDCAP website. You can watch BCTV’s video of the full meeting. Go to our webpage, Decommissioning Resources, for all those links and the latest press. — Leslie Sullivan Sachs

NDCAP Meeting January 26, 2017

Who was there: 25 in audience including Haley, a staffer from Senator Bernie Sanders office, who often attends.  Three new state officials were in attendance: June Tierney, Commish of the Public Service Dept (replaces Chris Recchia, who was very active in NDCAP); Peter Walke, Deputy Secretary of Agency of Natural Resouces; Kate Buckley, Housing & Economic Development (who lives in Guilford).  

(Will they return or appoint minions to sit on the panel? We don’t know. June Tierney spoke a lot about how the public must be able to comment and participate at the NRC and PSB; perhaps she is making up for the fact that when she was general counsel to the Public Service Board, the Board tried to ban public from appearing at a VT Gas hearing – I imagine they were sick of the audience singing over the PSB).

 NRC presentation — by phone, 4 staffers

            No application for license transfer yet

            2 previous license transfers (Zion, LaCrosse) both in 2016. Took 1 year + 3 months for Zion. NorthStar & Entergy asked that this be done by end of 2017.

            License transfer definition does not include removal of non-radiated buildings or return of land to greenfield. Primary review is for financial “reasonable.” Contingency factor of 20-25% over cost estimate; must identify secondary source of funds if DTF is insufficient.

            30 day public comment period

            PSDAR will be redone by NorthStar; not necessary for new public meeting, but counsel is reviewing request.

            O’Conner, Irwin, Campany pushed for public meeting, panel vote on letter to NRC to support, with copies to other nuclear reactor host communities.

Irwin: this is a new industry – decommissioning for profit. Will the NRC have new rules or best practices? NRC response: we regulate for safety, not commerce.

Entergy decommissioning update with Joe Lynch, government affairs

            (I noticed a new logo on the Entergy power point: “We Power Life” Entergy Nuclear Excellence. Used to be photos of workers, and Safe Clean Reliable.  Entergy is closing Indian Point, Pallisades, and Pilgrim [least safe plant in the US per NRC] ; perhaps they can’t hide behind their workers and plant closures aren’t banners for reliability).

            Work on IFISI (new pad for dry casks) suspended for weather. North Warehouse down and its low level nuclear waste was offsite by mid December.

April – loading of dry casks will begin. (Not once did he say “moving high level radioactive fuel rods from fuel pool in to dry casks” … just loading, loading, loading.)

            New diesel generator and blast wall system (on 3 sides) put in

            Water management (again, just said water, never contaminated or radiated water or tritiated water… let’s not remind NDCAP members this is toxic )

                        – shipping 5,000 gallons a week in two loads

                        – 21,000 gallons total to date

            DTF ahead of budget and ahead of schedule

State update with decommissioning engineer, Tony Leshinske

            Public Service Board certificate of public good for sale of Entergy to Northstar is Docket #8880. (You can follow it here on the PSB’s nifty new website, which so far is indeed easy to use. While you are at 8880, count the number of LLCs … Also, see that this is NOT a Section 248 case (power generation)  like we are all used to from past PSB Yankee cases; it’s a mergers & acquisitions case.)

            Hazmat storage … sorry, missed it, something about state oversight.

            Briefing on water – Entergy wants 200,000 gallons to go to Idaho, going through NRC process. State filed questions about state sampling shipments before they leave. I think they said this would be the tourus water (part of the reactor).

            NRC Rule Making on ne decomm rules delayed from Fall 2016 to February 2017. State filed testimony.

            DOE & consent process – no one knows what will happen under Trump

            IRS – tax on DTFs? Or nuclear fuel storage? Unclear, state looking at it.

Panel & public questions & comments

            Holtec 100 system for dry casks – was do not fill until 5 years after use in reactor? Jack Boyle, Entergy decomm director: new and improved design using new metal with 10 times the heat capacity. Holtec has appliced for certificate of compliance for the new design, but not approved by NRC yet.

            Comment: it would have been nice to have blast walls around the dry casks, too.

Chris Willimas: Who paid for the full page ads by NorthStar & Entergy that were in papers around the state? Did that come out of the DTF? Lynch: Don’t know, I imagine it would come out of Outreach. I’ll get back to you. [A constant refrain from Joe, “I’ll get back to you on that.” Also, “You will have to ask AREVA” (or Holtec, or NorthStar) … is this what we have to look forward to, with NorthStar, AREVA, WCS, & Burns etal?]

Jeff Commons, deputy director, Dept of Public Service Public Advocate

            He will represent the public in Public Service Board #8880 on the sale

            Explained NRC public meeting vs hearing, and PSB hearing. Hopes PSB will hold a public hearing reasonably early to get a sense of what the public wants them to consider. He explained the PSB criteria for a CPG, including “fair partner” criteria.

Panel comments

            Campany – proposal for independent experts to educate NDCAP on the issues before the PSB

Public comments

            Clay Turnbull, New England Coalition – they will file for intervenor status. Time to let land at VY rest after 40 years of hard work. Comment to him by Steve Skibowsky, panelist – you might want to ask Vernon what it wants for its land; last time I checked it wasn’t NEC’s land. Clay – ask the Native Americans, then.

Kyle Landis, VT Attorney General’s office on environment

            Entergy sale & VY decomm is a high priority for new AG TJ Donovan

            AG will work with ANR, Dept of Health & others

            AG will review sale case and supporting Dept of Public Service as public advocate

            Will review / input NRC rule making on decomm

            AG’s office is available to help NDCAP

 

At that point I left the meeting.

 

According to news reports, after the meeting the panel discussed proposal to legislature to change membership of the panel from the 2 House & Senate committee reps to Windham County reps, and retain the Vernon Rep. Voted for, with state officials abstaining.

My comments: .   I have only seen the Vernon Rep. Mike Hebert at 2 meetings since Sept 2014 founding of NDCAP. This affects Senator Mark McDonald, rep on NDCAP for Senate Natural Resources Committee (which has been abolished/morphed into a new committee). Mark has been on NDCAP and before on VSNAP, strong critic with a lot of history.  Rep. David Deen of Putney attends all the meetings, either by phone or in person.

           Press coverage of the NDCAP Meeting

01.31.2017  Yankee sale calls for faster transfer of fuel (Susan Smallheer, Rutland Herald)

01.30.17 Proposed nuke panel shakeup irks Senator (Mike Faher, VtDigger)

01.27.17  VY to move fuel in spring (Mike Faher, VT Digger)

01.27.17  NDCAP wants public NRC meeting (Susan Smallheer, Rutland Herald)

01.27.17  NDCAP favors panel changes (Susan Smallheer, Rutland Herald)

 

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