VT & MA Congressional Delegations Tell NRC to Let the People Speak

US Rep. Peter Welch (VT), US Rep. Keating (MA), US Senators Bernie Sanders, Pat Leahy, Ed Markey and Elizabeth Warren are calling for an extension of the public comment period on new decommissioning rules. The current deadline is January 4th. See our post here for how to comment to the NRC.

“[“[W]e believe the short public comment period and the plan to have a single public meeting will not give local and state stakeholders sufficient opportunities to participate meaningfully in the rulemaking process,” their letter to the NRC states. The letter asks that the deadline be extended to February 4.

They point out that scheduling the comment period between Thanksgiving and New Year’s “falls short of providing satisfactory time to comment.” The also ask that “a public meeting be held in each of the states in which a plant is currently being decommissioned, or will be decommissioned int he next four years”



You can Congress decommissioning-nuclear-plants-letter 12.7.15.

Please email your thanks to Katie_Thomas@sanders.senate.gov and michael_freedhoff@markey.senate.gov


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12/12 Rally & March in Boston

800 people so far have RSVPed to head to Boston this coming Saturday to make their voices heard on climate justice. Please join Safe & Green and 130+ other environmental, labor, social justice, and climate action groups co-sponsors. The action marks the end of the Paris climate talks.

Why go ?

  • The end is not in sight for climate change, nor for the talks in Paris. It is likely the close of the climate talks will be extended past Saturday.
  • Multiple reports say Nuclear power is a big player this year – hidden beneath the “clean energy” slogan (Take a look at the three articles at the end of this email). Bring your own graphics, or look for the No Nukes flags and get one of your own.
  • 350VT and 350Mass have made it easy for you. They have extended the bus RSVP so may still be time to catch a ride there & back for only $37.50. Tickets are here.
  • Our New England climate is obviously warming – it’s still protest ‘season’ for fair weather activists 🙂
  • Shela Linton, an ally, single mom & Brattleboro native, writes from Paris with a convincing argument for joining together with others who share our values: “Through my work with the Vermont Workers’ Center and our national allies, I’ve come to see the interconnections between environmental and social justice issues and the need to build unity between our movements.” You can read her Sunday OpEd from Paris here.

Following the official rally on the Boston Common at 1 and March to the State House at 2:30, other groups will engage in separate direct actions. One action at Fanieul Hall Marketplace is looking for non-arrest supporters. In another action, “Dressed as official MBTA employees, we will “officially” announce and hand out Change of Service maps due to massive flooding to people entering and exiting the subway system. The maps showcase the imminent devastation that sea level rise is going have on our coastal infrastructure if we cross the climate line and fail to keep 80% of our fossil fuel reserves in the ground.”
The latest official schedule is below and here: http://www.jobsjusticeclimate.org/logistics/


1 PM: Rally at Parkman Band Stand

Derek Pellotte, 350 Mass for a Better Future

Sherri Mitchell, Maine Penobscot Tribe

Karen Higgins, Registered Nurse and National Co-President of National Nurses United

1:30 PM: March Begins

Stop 1: Fast food worker speaks in front of McDonalds
Stop 2: United Food and Commercial Workers worker speaks at Primark location
Stop 3: Jane Palmer, VT landowner & pipeline fighter, speaks in front of Kinder Morgan Office

2:30 PM: Rally at State House

John Robbins of Council of American Islamic Relations, Massachusetts

Rev. Margaret Bullitt-Jonas Missioner for Creation Care, of Western MA Episcopal Church and founding member of MA Interfaith Climate Coalition

John Harrity, President of Connecticut State Council of Machinists

Adrian Ventura, Executive Director of New Bedford Worker Center

YouTube Inspirational Invite Here

12/12 Rally & March Facebook Page here

And here we’ve selected three articles about nukes & Paris, as promised above:
The View from New England on HuffPo how the Paris talks are like New England’s current energy “quandries”

China’s awful env. record – and it wants to build 110 new nukes by 2030? Washington Post
Linda Gunter’s Counter-Punch article here: who are the billionaires behind the Breakthrough?


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NDCAP: 12/10 Meeting on 3 Draft Advisory Opinions

At the November Nuclear Decommissioning Citizen Advisory Panel (NDCAP) meeting, the panel passed an Advisory Opinion on the role of host communities in decommissioning: NDCAP Advisory Opinion – Engaging Host Communities – Adopted 11.12.15

Three more draft advisory opinions will be under discussion at the next NDCAP meeting December 10 [6pm, Brattleboro Area Middle School Multi-Purpose Room, 109 Sunny Acres Drive, Brattleboro, VT. (Sunny Acres Dr. is on the right just before the High School).

The more citizens at the meeting commenting the better! At a minimum, please email comments to mailto:PSD.NDCAP@vermont.gov

  1. We support the draft opinion addressing the re-location of the dry cask storage pad which will house 900+ tons of radioactive waste.   PDF of the  Advisory Opinion -DRAFT ISFSI-CPG – Submitted 10.15.15(1)

Here’s our take: Entergy proposes to build the second pad next to the existing pad. Both are within the “protected area” (near the reactor building).  Entergy’s plans are based on the false hope that the Dept of Energy will take the radioactive waste away by 2052, before it starts taking down the reactor building. Looking at the long history of Yucca Mtn. and other proposals for long term storage, there is no reason to believe Congress, the NRC, DOE and all the other players will find a site or sites, pass a law, enable regulations, build the facility, and license it —  by 2052.

We support the position of the Windham Regional Commission (WRC), which wants the PSB to make Entergy build the new pad further away from the reactor, in case the waste still there when the time comes for decommissioning the reactor. This Advisory Opinion also supports finding a location on site but far enough away from the reactor building such that it will be able to be decommissioned even if the DOE does not remove the waste in time.

VT’s NDCAP joined community advisory boards in MA, Maine and CT  which wrote “to federal lawmakers, urging approval of an interim, centralized storage facility so that nuclear waste won’t be stashed long-term at four shuttered plants – Vermont Yankee, Maine Yankee, Connecticut Yankee and Yankee Rowe.” [VtDigger 11.27.15]

2. We support continued funding of the emergency response plan. Advisory Opinion – DRAFT RERP – Submitted 10.15.15

This opinion was drafted by Dr. Bill Irwin of the VT Dept. of Health. It recommends funding emergency response planning for the state and towns as appropriate for the levels of risk at the different stages of decommissioning. Which makes a lot of sense to us. The level of risk which radioactive fuel is being moved from the fuel pool is different from the risk while it is stored in dry casks. The level of risk during so-called SAFSTOR (moth ball period) is different from the risk we will face when the radioactive buildings and the soil below are being decontaminated.

Currently, the NRC and Entergy operate under the delusion that any radioactive releases – whether in air, water or in the earth – will stop at the boundary of the site. Such wishful thinking does not protect the school 1500 feet from the site, nor those of us living downwind.

3. Groundwater monitoring. To be honest, your loyal scribe could not understand the 7-page proposal. At November’s NDCAP meeting we learned that it was written by Entergy staff. Nuclear Decommissioning Citizens Advisory Panel Advisory Opinion – Groundwater Monitoring Nuclear Decommissioning Citizens Advisory Panel Advisory Opinion – Groundwater Monitoring

After the November NDCAP meeting, Dr. Irwin drafted a counter proposal. DRAFT – NDCAP Groundwater Advisory Opinion Counter-Proposal – Submitted 11.23.15 (Bill Irwin)

We support Dr Irwin’s counter-proposal, that the Dept of Health be funded to monitor groundwater. In the past, VT Dept of Health found tritium and/or strontium 90 in the groundwater when Yankee staff did not report finding any. “Split samples” we take to mean that both VY and the Dept of Health analyze the same samples/

“The citizens of Vermont have relied on the independent VDH laboratory analysis of split samples from the VY site and its surrounding public environment which have been published for more than forty years. This independence and ease of access to data is a cornerstone of Vermont’s public health system and it provides Vermonters greater confidence that their land, water, air and health are fully protected.”

The NDCAP subcommittee on issues to take on as future advisory opinions will be meeting Friday, December 4th, 2015 from 12:00 PM to 1:00 PM at the Windham Regional Commission (WRC), 139 Main Street, Brattleboro, Vermont. The meeting will be held in the WRC conference room. Like all NDCAP meetings, it will be open to the public. Remote access locations are listed on the NDCAP webage. http://publicservice.vermont.gov/topics/electric/nuclear#NDCAP

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NRC Opens Public Comment Period on New Decomm Rules

It will take a few years to create new decommissioning rules, and they will not affect Vermont Yankee decommissioning, says the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. But Safe & Green Campaign believes other states and citizens groups should learn for the lessons we are currently being taught about decommissioning. This was just posted, so it will take a bit to process. We will post our own comments for you to read at a later date. For now, below is the link from the Federal Register as of November 19, 2015.

We have 45 days to comment (before January 4, 2016).

Regulatory Improvements for Decommissioning Power Reactors

Just in case you are free all day Wednesday December 9, the NRC is hosting a meeting on decommissioning rules. It is in Rockville, MD but you can tune in on line and comment. NRC 12.09.15 ML15306A003

Here is contact info to RSVP

Jenny Tobin, NRR

TELECONFERENCE: Bridge Number PassCode
888-659-9574 8778250

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DPS Public Hearing 11/18: Advocating for Change

For the last few decades, countless cases about VT Yankee have been heard at the Public Service Board, including the sale to Entergy, the uprate, dry cask storage #1 and now dry cask storage #2. The Dept of Public Service — DPS —  are our advocates in front of the Public Service Board. The DPS is asking citizens to comment on how they could restructure to better serve the public. Please read their brief statement here.
DPS is holding a hearing on Wednesday Nov 18, at Brattleboro High School, 131 Fairground Road, 6:30 – 9:00pm. Please comment! Or email comments to Wayne.Jortner@vermont.gov by November 30.DPS doesn’t want these hearings to turn into a litany of complaints about the past. So let’s get a few things out of our system now:

Just imagine VT Yankee’s history if a truly independent advocate had represented us. Would there have been an uprate? Would there have been a backroom deal about dry casks? If an independent advocate were representing citizen ratepayers during the Senate vote, and after years of town meetings, could Yankee have shut down on March 22, 2012?

At times the DPS has had a cozy relationship with Entergy. So cozy that in 2010, for example, David O’Brien, DPS Commissioner under pro-nuclear Gov. Jim Douglas, hosted a Christmas party which the VP of Entergy attended. A brouhaha ensued. Just imagine VT Yankee’s history if a truly independent advocate had represented us. Would there have been an uprate? Would there have been a backroom deal about dry casks? After the Senate vote, after years of town meetings, with an independent advocate would Yankee have shut down on March 21, 2012?

Two former DPS “ratepayer advocates” are currently on the 3-member Public Service Board; both served under Jim Douglas. PSB Chair Jim Volz was director of DPS public advocacy for 16 years; Sarah Hoffman was director after he moved to the PSB.

Electric power did not reach Jamaica in Windham County until 1964. People wanted power, and they wanted it cheap. Fifty years later, power is a lot more complicated, and citizens are educated and active in power politics, excited or opposed to technologies, and concerned about impacts on land, water, air and public health. But if we disagree with a position taken by DPS, we do not have a voice unless we have big bucks to pay for our own utility lawyers, after proving we have “intervenor status” at the PSB.  DPS always has intervenor status.

There are other models out there. Chris Williams of VCAN and NIRS passed along an innovative idea from Indiana. The Indiana Utility Ratepayer Trust

was established from a settlement over a cancelled nuke project. Groups or individuals who want to participate in cases before the state’s utility regulator, FERC, or the FCC can apply to the trust for funding.

 AARP and 350VT are calling for “independent ratepayer advocates.” Below is an email from 350VT which clearly lays out some of the issues in the context of gas pipelines. (Edited: deleted info on Nov 17 hearing date in Shelburne).

Peace, Leslie Sullivan Sachs
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Vernon Gassing Up

Here is the VtDigger report on the gas meeting in Vernon this past Tuesday night. It was a standing-room only crowd. The moderator said that Vernon residents would speak first, but as the meeting went on he never said when non-residents could start speaking, but it was clear to me that the majority  of speakers were Vernon residents.

The VtDigger article is a good one, so please give it a read. We were surprised that the planning commission had not already looked at the public health impacts of emissions from a gas powered generating plant, which concerned several residents. Some residents pointed out the hypocrisy of using fracked gas for electricity when VT has banned fracking. Town officials made gross generalizations about the need for more power generating capacity in New England and about solar, wind and other renewables being intermittent and unreliable.

Members of the town planning commission stated firmly that looking beyond Vernon at the human and environmental impacts of fracking is not their job. Beyond the heartlessness of that stance, there is the issue of Vernon’s border town, Northfield. Vernon’s proposal depends on Kinder Morgan;s building a compressor station and pipeline in Northfield. At a minimum, Vernon should do the neighborly thing and listen, learn and work with Northfield. We have a lot of work ahead. –Leslie Sullivan Sachs

Ann Darling, a member of the Safe & Green Campaign’s steering committee, shared these thoughts after the meeting.

Just got home from the meeting in Vernon. This was supposed to be a meeting for the Planning Commission members to get a pulse of the town about whether or not to pursue a [fracked] gas-powered power generating station to be sited near the electric transmission infrastructure at Vermont Yankee. I found it surreal and scary.

The scary parts: The presentation by Martin Langeveld for the Planning Commission was totally and transparently pro doing the project. Langeveld stated that Kinder Morgan has a good safety record. Even the federal government doesn’t believe that: Read this list of deaths, accidents and evacuations from February 2015. Scary: the Planning Commission never looked at the health impacts of hosting a gas plant. More scary: When they didn’t like what residents said, Planning Commission members Patty O’Donnell and Janet Rasmussen responded/argued their position without recognition from the moderator, and belittled the residents with whom they disagreed. No one – called them on their bullying rants. Even more scary: It was clear from both direct comments and from tone that this discussion should be just “about Vernon” — in other words, not about the pros and cons of fracked gas or the pipeline, not how the Kinder Morgan compression station would impact Vernon’s neighbors in Northfield — just about Vernon and what Vernon needs. What does Vernon need? Tax dollars. People who brought up the ethics of benefitting from fracking or the risks of a gas plant explosion so close to all that radioactive fuel were shut down. Scary too, because there seemed to be general agreement that we can’t rely on solar and wind to get us through dark, still days, that and we need “back up” from hydrocarbons — no mention of conservation, no big picture thinking about how to go full tilt with renewables.

Surreal? Well, surreal that this group of people was discussing something over which they really have no control. If the developers and Kinder Morgan and the regulators and all the other players decide this will happen, it will happen whether or not the residents of Vernon want it to. Surreal because there were so many statements about how stringent the regulatory structure is and how they could rely on federal regulators to keep the town safe from air pollutants and explosions, and that, in fact, the heavy weight of those regulations is a burden to any industry Surreal because, as someone asked, what happens in 30 years [or 10, or 5] when the plant is no longer profitable and shuts down? Haven’t these folks lived through that, and isn’t once enough? As one friend of our work said after the meeting, there was a lot of playing to fear of higher taxes and not having enough electricity. And another one said that the tone of the meeting was very American. By that I think she meant that it was about individualism and local needs, not seeing this event in a larger context or thinking long-term.

It’s a lesson to all of us who want this country and this world to make very big shifts very quickly (so that we can ALL go on living on a beautiful and functioning planet) that it will be very, very hard work. The frameworks and values that people carry in their minds leave us very far apart and polarized. That’s perhaps the most scary of all, because if we don’t find common ground, we’re all going to be in for a bad ride, and our children will be in for an even worse one.



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Juggling 3 Reactors

The NRC says there is nothing to worry about: Entergy’s finances are just jim dandy.

But the State of Vermont disagrees, and Green Mtn. Power recently joined the state’s campaign to see that decommissioning trust funds (DTF) are used for only for decommissioning. Entergy recent withdrawal of DTF included $1.5 million for property taxes to the Town of Vernon. Mike Fahr of VtDigger covers the issue here.

“Especially in light of Entergy’s recent announcements regarding the upcoming closure of the Pilgrim and FitzPatrick nuclear plants, the NRC needs to start taking these matters more seriously and provide a comprehensive and participatory process for reviewing requests to use decommissioning funds.” Chris Recchia, Public Service Dept.

Chris Campany of the Windham Regional Commission also worries about Entergy’s use of DTF, in this article on “Entergy Juggling Multiple Shutdowns” 11.05.15

“I worry that Entergy and the NRC are operating under assumptions that perhaps make the decommissioning trust numbers work in favor of a desirable answer. I hope I’m wrong”

The day after Entergy announced its plan to close the Pilgrim reactor, Power magazine published this article: Is Entergy Moving Out of Nukes?

And as Chris Recchia, Commissioner of VT Dept. of Public Service pointed out 11.05.15:

“The closure announcements are interesting taken collectively,” Recchia said. “If nuclear is not economically competitive in New England, where electricity prices are high and where gas is constrained, where can it be profitable?”



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Another One Bites the Dust

On November 2, Entergy made two announcements: it posted a big loss for the quarter, it will close its Fitzpatrick reactor once its fuel has run out.

Entergy blamed “market conditions” for the closure of the single-unit reactor on Lake Oswego. According to Power magazine’s blog, “The company said that it had worked with New York State officials during the past two months “to reach a constructive and mutually beneficial agreement to avoid a shutdown.” In the end, it was unsuccessful.”

From the Vermont Yankee experience “negotiating” the settlement agreement,” w understand that a state has little leverage with a nuclear company. The NRC places all the cards in the hands of the owner.

NY Governor Cuomo wants to retain the 600 jobs. He immediately announced that he would “pursue every legal and regulatory avenue” to keep Fitzpatrick open. At the same tie, he re-affirmed his commitment to close Indian Point. Let’s hope he doesn’t concede that point to keep Fitzpatrick open.

The nuclear industry pressure to keep IP open must be tremendous. Shutting down Indian Point would tell the world that the US nuclear experiment is over.

Closer to home, the closure of Vermont Yankee, Pilgrim and Fitzpatrick proves that Entergy made a very bad call when it bought these old reactors in the Northeast. I don’t know about you, but I feel nervous when I think about Entergy making business decisions about the Decommissioning Trust Fund we all paid in to.

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Nov. 10: Vernon Public Hearing on Proposed Gas Plant

We will be attending a public meeting on November 10 in Vernon at 6:30pm at the elementary school. The Vernon Planning Commission will present its proposal for a gas plant to be located in Vernon, which will be connected to the fracked gas pipeline proposed by Kinder Morgan through Massachusetts and New Hampshire. A pipeline would come from Northfield, MA to Vernon. Kinder Morgan has to prove to FERC (the feds) that there is a demand for the gas. A new gas plant in Vernon, creating a new market in Windham County, would help Kinder Morgan make that case.

A VtDigger article about the forum is re-posted on the No Fracked Gas in Mass website, which is also a good source of information about the pipeline, and alternatives.

At the meeting, we have been told that the general public will be allowed to comment after all Vernon residents are done talking. The chair of the Vernon Planning Commission is a familiar face: Patty O’Donnell, a goof friend to VT Yankee and formerly the Vernon selectboard chair, state rep, head of ALEC in Vermont, and lobbyist for Entergy in VT’s statehouse.


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LAST Siren Test Nov. 7

UPDATE: Entergy has offered towns first dibbs on the 37 sirens. (Read an article below.) Some towns are interested. The state is not. Here’s an idea: keep them active til all the radioactive fuel is moved from the fuel pool into dry cask storage!

Original post: This coming Saturday, November 7th, Vermont Yankee will perform the last tests of the 37 sirens in the 10-mile evacuation zone. On and off over decades, activists have been doing a die-ins when they hear the siren: lay down on the ground wherever you are when you hear the siren, and stay put until the siren ends — unless of course doing so would endanger yourself or others. The NRC has approved Entergy’s plan to stop emergency planning beyond the site boundaries of the nuclear power site, as of April 2016. So this is most likely the final tests of the evacuation zone sirens.

The sirens will go off at Noon in Brattleboro, Dummerston, Guilford, Vernon, VT;  Chesterfield, Hinsdale, Richmond, Swanzey and Winchester, NH and Gill, Colrain, Leyden, Bernardston and Northfield, MA.

REFORMER 11.05.15 VY: The Sirens of History

BRATTLEBORO >> Once a month for decades, people living and working in the emergency planning zone around Vermont Yankee in Vernon have heard the wail of the emergency sirens that dot the landscape within a 10-mile radius of the nuclear power plant.

On Saturday, at noon, all 37 sirens will fire in unison together for the last time. The full three-minute siren testing is conducted by Vermont, New Hampshire and Massachusetts state public safety agencies in compliance with the regulations of the Federal Emergency Management Agency to ensure the effectiveness of the public notification system.

In Vermont, sirens are located in Brattleboro, Dummerston, Guilford and Vernon. In New Hampshire, sirens are located in Chesterfield, Hinsdale, Richmond, Swanzey and Winchester. And in Massachusetts, they are located in Gill, Colrain, Leyden, Bernardston and Northfield.

But because the nuclear power plant ceased operations in December of 2014 and all the spent fuel has been moved out of the reactor, there is no longer a requirement to conduct the system-wide tests. And Entergy, which owns the plant, is only obligated to maintain the sirens until May 2016. Until then, emergency managers in the EPZ might “burp” the sirens for a few seconds to insure they are still working, but there will be no more three-minute tests.

What happens to the sirens after May 2016 is up to the towns, said Martin Cohn, senior communications specialist for Vermont Yankee decommissioning.

Cohn said Entergy is preparing a letter to deliver to all the towns in the EPZ, letting them know they can keep the sirens if they want them, or Entergy will dismantle and cart them away after May 2016.

Erika Bornemann, the chief of staff for the Division of Emergency Management and Homeland Security, said the state has no plan to take ownership of the sirens.

“We have told the towns that the sirens are their property. They need to decide whether to keep them or have them decommissioned.”

“We have five sirens in the town of Brattleboro,” said Mike Buccosi, the town’s fire chief and director of emergency management. “We have talked a number of times over the years about how we could incorporate the sirens into our own emergency warnings and we’ve always come back to the belief that people will associate the sirens with an emergency at Vermont Yankee.”

While the sirens could be used for any type of emergency, said Buccosi, what they are really telling people is to turn on your weather radios to get information, not that Yankee is experiencing an emergency. To sign up to receive alerts to your phone or email, visit www.vtalert.gov.

“We really have no use for them,” said Buccosi. “The only thing they could give a pre-warning about is a tornado, and, as you know, they are far and few between here.”

Patrick Moreland, Brattleboro’s assistant town manager, said there really is no good reason for the town to take ownership of the sirens.

“We have been offered them, but the idea of taking them on at additional cost just doesn’t make sense.”

But not everyone feels that way.

Zeke Goodband, the chairman of the Dummerston Selectboard, said that while there has been no official discussion about the future of the tow’s sirens, he believes the town will need to weigh the benefit of having the sirens against the costs of maintaining them.

And Mike Darcy, chairman of the Board of Selectmen for Hinsdale, N.H., said he and his other board members need more information from Entergy before they make a decision on whether to keep the sirens or not.

“We need to determine what the necessity is to having an emergency siren and how much it will cost to maintain one,” said Darcy.

Cohn said it can cost anywhere between $125 and $1,000 every year to maintain the sirens, depending on what kind of work needs to be done.

Jon McKeon, the chairman of the Chesterfield, N.H., Board of Selectmen, said town administrators are working with Chesterfield’s two fire departments to determine if they would like to take possession of the sirens.

“The sirens would be a good addition to the town’s early warning system,” said McKeon.

To sign up for emergency notifications to your phone or email in New Hampshire, visit www.readynh.gov.

Bob Audette can be contacted at 802-254-2311, ext. 160.


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