Indian Point Nukes To Close

It is official: Indian Point is closing! The State of New York and Entergy came to an agreement this past week to close one reactor in 2020 and the other in 2021. Both had been operating under expired NRC permits while Entergy applied for 20 year license extensions. For background, read this article in Forbes 01.07.17  and for details on the deal, read Riverkeeper’s post 01.09.17.

Starting with the closure announcement for Vermont Yankee just 3 years ago, Entergy has since announced the closure of Pilgrim (MA), Palisades (MI) and now Indian Point. That leaves one Entergy reactor left in the Northeast: Fitzpatrick (NY). Those in the know suspect FitzPatrick was a bargaining chip in the deal to close Indian Point. In 2015 Entergy announced that it would close FitzPatrick. NY Gov. Cuomo told his regulatory board to create ratepayer-financed subsidies to protect FitzPatrick (citing jobs). In August 2016, Entergy announced it would sell FitzPatrick to Exelon.

Yet Indian Point activists cannot rest. Like Pilgrim, VY, FitzPatrick and Palisades, the nukes should shut down NOW, and their legacy of thousands of tons of highly radioactive waste remain. And a 42 inch gas pipeline is being built by Spectra, on Indian Point property, 105 feet from emergency generators for the nukes and under the Hudson River. It’s a nightmare scenario. On Friday nine activists were sentenced for blocking access to a Spectra construction site.  (The Guardian published a decent background piece on the issue in April).  

 

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Nuclear Energy Isn’t Green

My Turn: Nuclear Energy Isn’t Green

by Ann Darling, Safe & Green Campaign Greenfield Recorder 12.26.16

Here in the Pioneer Valley we live within a circle of five operating, decommissioning, or decommissioned nuclear power facilities and a nuclear submarine base. Radioactive materials are extremely dangerous and extremely long lived, and for our safety and the safety of future generations, we need to be informed about nuclear power and the waste created from its mining and its use in weapons and power generation.

Of course, there are nuclear facilities all over the world, and nuclear contamination has a way of traveling very long distances in the air, through oceans and rivers, and in our bodies. So it’s not something anyone can totally escape from, no matter where we live. We have fouled our nest with nightmarishly toxic and pernicious stuff, and we don’t know what to do with it.

It’s extremely painful and frightening and depressing to face this head on. But we have to. We are now the stewards of all this radioactive waste, whether we like it or not. And more waste is being made all the time.

What can you do? First, accept the responsibility of being a nuclear steward. Then become knowledgeable. Two good resources are the Nuclear Information and Resource Service, www.nirs.org, or Fairewinds Energy Education, www.fairewinds.org.

Second, question everything you hear about nuclear power. Start with these two basic assumptions and see if they help you make sense of it: 1) Corporations have a “perverse motivation” (i.e. profit) to reduce costs and neglect safety, so they tend to obfuscate and lie when challenged. 2) The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is about one quarter regulator (at best) and three quarters nuclear industry cheerleader. It is one of many “captive regulators” in an economy driven by short-term gain and not by long-term investment in the future.

Third, do everything you can to pressure government, utilities, and corporations to stop creating more radioactive waste. A good starting place would be calling Governor Baker and telling him Pilgrim Nuclear in Plymouth should be shut down.

Fourth, don’t for one second think that nuclear power is green or sustainable in any way. You will hear that, because nukes don’t create CO2 when they’re generating power, they’re a solution to climate change. What you don’t hear from the proponents of nuclear power/weapons is that the mining and refining of nuclear fuel is extremely energy- and carbon-intensive. What you don’t hear is that the billions of government subsidy dollars that are going to shore up and bail out unprofitable nuclear power companies could be better spent on developing and bringing to scale truly sustainable forms of energy. What you don’t hear is that there is no way to safely clean up radioactive waste. “Green” and “nuclear” simply cannot be credibly used together.

Fifth, don’t even imagine that Yucca Mountain is an appropriate place to store radioactive waste. Even if we had technology good enough to contain radioactive waste for generations – which we don’t – Yucca is not the right place from a geological standpoint.

Sixth, if you live near a shutdown reactor (which you do) and just want the radioactive waste gone, yesterday, think about where it will go. Think about the places it would be transported through, at great risk of accident or terror attack. Think about the places where it would be stored, and where it could leak or worse. Right now, radioactive materials from the decommissioning of Vermont Yankee are being shipped to a storage facility near the Texas-New Mexico border that sits on top on a huge aquifer supplying at least seven southwestern states. What will happen if the radioactivity gets into the deep water?

Seventh, recognize that the communities and geographies that are being forced or asked to take on radioactive waste are sacrifice zones inhabited by people with dark skin and/or no money or political clout. That storage facility on the Texas-New Mexico border is in an area that is poor, rural, and largely Mexican-American. Uranium is mined on indigenous people’s land throughout the world and the waste simply left there, making them sick. Yucca Mountain itself, and the contaminated Nevada nuclear testing sites nearby, are actually on Shoshone tribal lands. This is racism at a profound level.

Finally, get involved in anything that will slow down or stop the creation of nuclear waste. Promote sustainable energy and energy conservation efforts. Climate Action Now is a good local resource: www.climateactionnowma.org. Advocate to shut down Pilgrim Nuclear in Plymouth:  www.capedownwinders.org or www.pilgrimcoalition.org. Get involved in regional and national discussions about what is the least bad resolution to the problem of nuclear waste. The Citizens’ Awareness Network is a local organization with a solid history and national reach: www.nukebusters.org. You don’t have to be an expert on nuclear power to make a difference. You just have to show up and be ready to learn and work hard for your children and their children and their children.

 

Sincerely,

Ann Darling

Easthampton

Ann Darling currently lives in Easthampton and has worked in Greenfield for over 15 years. She is a 35-year resident of the Brattleboro, Vermont, area and a member of the Safe and Green Campaign to responsibly shut down and decommission Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Plant. She recently attended a national summit on radioactive waste in Chicago.

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Asking Questions on VY Sale

On Election Day (11.8.16) Entergy announced plans to sell Vermont Yankee to a consortium of four companies, led by NorthStar Group. The sale must be approved by the Public Service Board and Nuclear Regulatory Commission.  Press coverage is here: vtdigger.org/2016/11/08/  Reactions in the press include “Critics-question-Vt-Yankee-sale-plans” by Richie Davis and  vtdigger/optimism-tempered-questions/

The CEO of NorthStar and Entergy VP Mike Twomey will give a 45 minute presentation on the proposed sale during a special Nuclear Decommissioning Citizen Advisory Panel meeting December 1.  It is open to the public. You are encouraged to send in questions in advance by emailing Kate O’Connor, NDCAP Chair, at PSD.NDCAP@vermont.gov.  (Although it is not on the Agenda, after the panelists ask questions, the Chair said the public will also be given time to ask questions that arise from the presentations.)

It feels like back to 2001 and the sale of Vermont Yankee to a company we learned about through the sale process. This time we are asked to trust  four out-of-state corporations: Northstar, Burns & McDonnell, AREVA (which is French) and Waste Control Specialists. The latter is being sued by the US Dept. of Justice for creating a monopoly on nuclear waste disposal.

Will the PSB require that commitments made to Vermont in the 2001 sale be honored by NorthStar? Or are we starting with a clean slate? What will the clean up standards be: greenfield? Will they re-hire workers who know the site? The state and Entergy just got to a happy place with state oversight after months of negotiations … does that start over?

So many questions … please email your’s to NDCAP and come to Brattleboro December 1.

From the official NDCAP webpage:

Special Meeting of the Full NDCAP Panel

Thursday, December 1, 2016, 6:00 pm – 9:00 pm
Brattleboro Area Middle School Multipurpose Room
109 Sunny Acres, Brattleboro, VT

The Panel will receive a briefing from representatives from Entergy and NorthStar Group Services Inc. regarding the proposed sale of Vermont Yankee.  The Panel will also hear a decommissioning update from Entergy and a presentation on site restoration standards from the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources.

The public is invited to submit questions for this meeting in advance by emailing Kate O’Connor, NDCAP Chair, at PSD.NDCAP@vermont.gov.  (All emails sent to NDCAP become public record.)

The complete agenda for the December 1 meeting is available here.
Advanced meeting material for this meeting will available here as it becomes available. 

All meetings of the Nuclear Decommissioning Citizens Advisory Panel are open to the public.

Remote Access (via GoToWebinar) will be available for the December 1, 2016 meeting.  Please email Tony Leshinskie, Vermont State Nuclear Engineer at anthony.leshinskie@vermont.gov or via PSD.NDCAP@vermont.gov to request a remote access connection.  Remote access requests should be made no later than 12 noon on December 1, 2016.

12-1-16-ndcap-agenda-final-1

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Entergy Selling VT Yankee

While all eyes are on the US elections today, Entergy announced that it is selling Vermont Yankee to NorthStar Group Services. Links to articles are below.  An article is posted on VtDigger here: http://vtdigger.org/2016/11/08/entergy-sell-vermont-yankee-northstar

  •  Entergy now plans to move the hghly radioactive spent fuel into dry casks by 2018, two years ahead of schedule.
  • Northstar intends to begin work in 2021 and complete decommissioning (except for the radioactive fuel in the dry casks) by 2030 – decades ahead of schedule.
  • NorthStar will get the $525 million decommissioning trust fund.
  • The sale must go through the Public Service Board and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

The next Nuclear Decommissioning Citizen Advisory Panel meeting is November 17. This sale will certainly come up. Chair Kate O’Conner said this topic alone will be addressed at special meeting of NDCAP December 1st. NorthStar, its 3 partners in this venture (Areva, Waste Control Specialist, and Burns & Donnell), Entergy and other parties will be at this meeting. Both meetings are on Thursdays, 6-9pm, at the Brattleboro Union Middle School Multi Purpose Room. PLEASE Attend.

 Entergy’s Press Release is here. [One red flag that came up for this reader: “NorthStar will ask the Public Service Board to approve proposed site restoration standards that are generally consistent with those of other regional decommissioning projects.” Will this conflict with the “greenfield” standard set in the original 2002 sale agreement?]

FYI: This is not the first time a company has sold reactors for this purpose. Zion, an Illinois site with two reactors, was sold by its nuclear owner to EnergySolutions, a decommissioning company. As of October 25, 2016, according to its recent press release, it is 6 months ahead of schedule and on budget. Let’s hope a rush job doesn’t mean a toxic legacy for the residents of Illinois. Power Engineering Magazine 10.25.16

Finally, here is a press release from the state:

Gov. Shumlin Statement on Entergy Filing with Public Service Board

Montpelier – Gov. Peter Shumlin issued the following statement after Entergy announced it would file to transfer ownership of the Vermont Yankee site.

“Today’s announcement that Entergy is planning to file for approval at the Public Service Board to transfer ownership of the Vermont Yankee site to a third-party offers the potential for an accelerated decommissioning of the plant. This is something my Administration has advocated for, and as a Governor who is from Windham County, I can tell you that it would be a major positive for the economy and for jobs in Southern Vermont. I am also pleased that Entergy is announcing plans to move up by two years, to 2018, the date by which spent fuel will be transferred to dry cask storage.

“However, I want to be clear that Vermont needs an open and transparent look at the financial capabilities of the buyer to be able to complete the decommissioning at Vermont Yankee. Vermont will advocate for rigorous financial disclosure in the Public Service Board process. The state and the public must have confidence that the buyer has financial backing to meet the decommissioning schedule, even in the event that they find additional cleanup work necessary that we cannot foresee. We will also advocate for strong site restoration standards that will allow for safe and productive reuse of the site.

“My Administration looks forward to starting a process at the Board to determine if this transaction meets the public good of the state.”

 

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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

STATE COMMENTS ON NEW DECOMMISSIONING RULES

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.

STILL WAITING …

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]

IMAGINE IT GONE

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:

CONSENT

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?

THREE MORE NUKES TO CLOSE

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?

Peace,

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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