Wake Up Calls

Entergy and the NRC sure got a wakeup call at the NRC hearing Thursday. They were probably hoping activists had lose interest in the fate of Vermont Yankee once it was shut down.But 200 people packed the room and we Stakeholders asked a lot of questions the NRC cannot answer. There were so many great comments. Please send yours to us!

You can watch the full hearing on-line thanks to BCTV. This is such a great service by Brattleboro Community Access TV, and we are grateful for the quick turn around. [First hour are Entergy & NRC presentations. State comments start about 1:04:00 and public comments at 1:19:00.] Fairewinds Energy Education has posted a 7 minute video with transcript of Arnie Gundersen’s comments here.

Ready for another wake up call?  This Thursday, Feb 26, NDCAP — the Nuclear Decommissioning Citizen Advisory Panel — holds its monthly meeting. On the Agenda: the future of NDCAP, and the Emergency Planning Zone. It’s our chance to put the CITIZEN back in Citizen Advisory Panel, and to remind Entergy we are not a nuclear sacrifice zone – keep the EPZ. Show up at 6pm at the Marlboro Grad Center in Brattleboro (and yes! it’s warm in there!). Details are below.

NRC Meeting

Since decades of speaking to the NRC as citizens hadn’t made much of a dent, we wore “STAKE HOLDER” name tags. Three dozen of us spoke. At least a dozen more signed up and left before the meeting ended at 10pm, perhaps driven away by the arctic temperatures in the room, the droning non-answers by the NRC & Entergy, by the rude, persistent heckler, or all three.

One thing was very clear: the NRC has not written rules for decommissioning Merchant Plants. They said that at the meeting. There are no rules. Writing rules takes years. So Yankee is a test case and we are the lab rats in a vacuum in time – and we must fill the vacuum. We must demand prompt, safe decommissioning with State and Stakeholder input, oversight, and financial resources. Not just for Vermont and our own communities, but for the other 40+ merchant reactor host communities around the US who will decommission someday. If we don’t step in to fill the void, the corporate owners and their tag-team of LLCS will fill it by slowing down Yankee decommissioning, lobbying for the weakest cookie-cutter regs, and protecting for their cash.

One inspirational moment of the night came from Bert Picard, pointing to the NRC:

“When the Senate voted 26-4 saying they didn’t want it, that didn’t mean a thing to you. When the governor didn’t want it, it didn’t mean a thing to you. So what are you? A government of occupation, right? A government of occupation — that’s what you are. I have no respect for any of you.”

Nancy Braus asked what would happen if Entergy went bankrupt, since there are four LLCs to protect the parent company. “They told the legislature this week they would walk away. Can you imagine what would happen to Vermont’s budget if we had to pay $1 billion dollars to decommission?”

Claire Chang sunk her teeth into Entergy & the NRC like a bulldog with a rope, then shook and shook and wouldn’t let go as they gave non-answer after non-answer in response to her questions on taking money out of the decomm fund to move spent fuel and the chance that Entergy will just walk away. “Nobody expected ENRON,” she said, citing the energy company that sparked a massive downturn in the economy. “We would not let Entergy walk away,” said the NRC, but they fumbled for what that really means.

Jim Matteau opened his remarks by announcing that Entergy staff were posting snarky tweets about state officials who spoke (many of the tweets have since been deleted).

Chris Campney asked: since the State is burdened with 60 years of oversight due to Entergy’s choices, what are the financial resources available to the state? This elicited two long winded non-answers which leads us to conclude: $0 for State.

Deb Katz, the opening act, hammered the NRC to keep the EPZ in place and protect the school children 1500 feet from the reactor, especially while spent fuel is being moved. Arnie Gundersen agreed. “There are 700 nuclear bombs worth of cesium in the fuel pool.” There is no reason in physics for SAFSTOR, and many reasons not to wait. We know there is strontium-90, cesium and tritium under the AOG building; take it out now or it will spread. The only reason to wait is financial, and Entergy will treat the fund as a cookie jar for any number of things.

Late into the night, Chris Williams tried to pass on speaking, but the crowd roared his name. “This is a train wreck waiting to happen,” he said of decommissioning merchant reactors. “What happens in Vermont is going to have a big impact on a lot of the cars farther down the train.”

Kevin Kamps of Beyond Nuclear drove 14 hours from Maryland to attend the meeting, got stuck in Brattleboro traffic for an hour because Exits 2 & 3 were shut down for bridge work, and was just taking his coat off as his name was called to speak. “Entergy has done nothing to address its problems other than lobby the NRC to weaken the safety regulations,” he said, “which the NRC does.” The folks in this room, educated citizens fighting Yankee for four decades, shut it down. “You have to use your same courage and vision and creativity to make decommissioning happen.”

We are writing an essay on the meeting to share with other Entergy reactor activists, and to post on our website. If you spoke, or took notes or photos and are willing to share, please email safeandgreencampaign@gmail.com

Here are the few media stories that we have found:

Charged Atmosphere (NEPR News) 2.20.15

Critics Decry Lack of Details TA 2.21.15

NRC Takes Comments on Decommm Plan (Commons 02.25.15)

Residents Seek Assurance (VTDigger 02.22.15)

“Our Brand New Reality – OpEd by Lissa Weinmann (The Commons 02.25.15)

On Friday morning, VT Public Radio cover the meeting twice with great statements by Safe & Green’s Nancy Braus and Bert Picard, and Peter Tusinski from the planning board for the town of Leyden, MA. But there is nothing on VPR’s website. did VPR get calls from cranky Entergy VPs? Are you a VPR member? Maybe you can call, too. (We can’t help it if 36 Stakeholders spoke against Entergy and only about four said nice things… just report the news, VPR!)     

NDCAP: Thursday Feb. 26 @ 6pm Marlboro Grad Ctr.

Two important issues are on the agenda of this Thursday’s Nuclear Decommissioning Citizen Advisory Panel meeting, the EPZ and the future of NDCAP. February 26, 2015, 6:00- 9:00 PM, Marlboro Grad Center, Room 2-E, 28 Vernon Street, Brattleboro [Press release from State of VT  has a link to download the Agenda. All past NDCAP meetings are taped by BCTV and available to watch online here.]

We can put the CITIZEN back in Citizen Advisory Panel. Please show up early – this is first on the Agenda. Last month the panel chose citizens reps to serve as Chair, Kate O’Connor of Brattleboro, and vice-Chair, Martin Langeveld of Vernon.  This new leadership is an opportunity to get NDCAP back on track as a Citizens panel which will ensure “timely and relevant information is gathered and shared with the local and state communities” and to press for adequate financial resources to support NDCAP. So far, meetings have been dominated by Entergy, the NRC and the State. Citizen reps have been kept in the dark in between meetings; there was no orientation, no tour of the plant, no workshops by independent experts to the panel – all of which are listed in the charter.

Keeping the EPZ is an uphill battle. NRC has always let nukes shrink the zone after shut down. The State of Vermont — and all of us — have been pressing the NRC to keep the EPZ in place. Last week the NRC “established an Atomic Safety and Licensing Board panel to review Entergy’s application and the state’s request for a hearing.”  Entergy will give a presentation on the EPZ at the NDCAP meeting Thursday, so we need to show up, ask questions, and demand accountability. Our valley will not be turned into a nuclear sacrifice zone.

In case you missed it, Entergy wants to:

 “… reduce the 10-mile emergency preparedness zone around the plant to its actual footprint as well as its financial contributions to emergency management organizations in the EPZ. Entergy is also asking for a reduction in its offsite emergency notification system, elimination of hostile-action scenario planning and remove the state from participating in emergency response exercises. The change in the notification system would increase notification time from 15 to 60 minutes…”  State demands hearing on EPZ 2.20.15 Reformer

SOLIDARITY

On Wednesday, 7pm at the Northfield (MA) Elementary School, learn “how the 80,000 HP natural gas compressor station Kinder Morgan proposes to build in Northfield would impact our town and surrounding areas. Video & discussion by Stephen Wicks. Presentation by Rosemary Wessel of No Fracked Gas in Mass. Q&A.”

SAVE THE DATE — Saturday March 14 — an afternoon in Solidarity with the evacuees in Fukushima, Japan.

Email us if you want to help with our walk, vigil or presentation.

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We Are Stakeholders

Tonight may be our last chance to look the NRC staff in the eye and tell them what we think of Entergy & the NRC’s nuclear regulations. So come on over at 6pm to the Quality Inn in Brattleboro Putney Road, Route 5 north from I-91, within spitting distance of the Old Ferry Road Energy “HQ”.
We are STAKEHOLDERS in decommissioning VY.  On Tuesday, twenty of us had excellent info sharing and brain storming on tonight’s meeting, in addition to “hearing” from Arnie Gundersen & Chris Williams on video. Bouncing off the words of an NRC staffer who said SAFSTOR or immediate DECON were a decision made between Entergy and “stakeholders”, we decided to identify ourselves tonight as Stakeholders. We’ll have name badges saying STAKEHOLDER for those who want to wear them, and when it’s your turn to talk you can introduce yourself as a Stakeholder.
I searched for Stakeholder in the NRC Glossary – doesn’t appear. But the NRC and other government agencies use the term Stakeholders liberally. We do fit the definition in a business dictionary, which also notes that “Not all stakeholders are equal.” No surprise there. But in 40 years, they don’t pay much attention to Citizens; perhaps they will to Stakeholders. It’s so close to “Shareholders,” who certainly garner attention.
Latest press on decomm & the NRC meeting:
– Brattleboro Reformer Feds Hold Last Public Meeting on VY

Events Coming up:
Lovejoy’s Nuclear War” film showing, a No-Pipeline fundraiser, will be held  Sunday, Feb. 22, 3-5:30 at the Arts Block  in Greenfield. We’re among the co-sponsors. Lionel Delevinge will also show photos, and local historian Ed Gregory has updated his booklet on Sam Lovejoy’s action, trail, and other events around the Montegue Plains successful fight to keep nukes out of the valley. 

EVACUATION PLANS are on the Agenda for the next Nuclear Decommissioning Citizen Advisory Panel, February 26 (6pm at Marlboro Graduate Center in Brattleboro). The new chair, Kate O’Connor, a citizen rep from Brattleboro, also put on the Agenda how the panel will move forward in the future. So far NDCAP has been as inactive and ineffective between meetings as VSNAP was; this is an opportunity to see if NDCAP and citizen participation can become meaningful.

March 14, Saturday: 4 years of nuclear disaster. Four Years. we will honor the victims of Fukushima — people, Pacific, mammal, aquatic, land and air — with a walk, vigil and program. Save the date — more to come.

 

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NRC & You Forum: Tuesday, Feb. 17

“The NRC & You” event originally scheduled for Monday, February 9 has been moved to Tuesday, February 17 at 6:00pm in Room 2C, Marlboro Graduate Center, Brattleboro. We will watch a video of presentations at the “NRC & You” forum held in Montpelier on Feb. 11, addressing Entergy’s cleanup of Vermont Yankee, followed by a facilitated discussion on issues for the February 19 NRC Public Meeting on Entergy’s Post Shut Down Decommissioning Activities Report.

This week’s news that strontium-90 has been discovered in the groundwater at Vermont Yankee, and that Entergy would rather engage in litigation than pay for any cost over-runs in decommissioning, make it even more important that citizens show up at the NRC’s Public Meeting on February 19, prepared to have their voices heard.

Contamination Fence photoThe NRC & You: How Can Citizens Hold Entergy Accountable for Cleaning Up VT Yankee?

 WHEN: Tuesday, February 17, 6-8:30pm

WHERE: Marlboro College, Room 2C, 28 Vernon Street, Brattleboro, VT

WHO: Video: Arnie Gunderson, Fairewinds Energy Education & Chris Williams, VT Citizens Awareness Network.  Discussion facilitated by Leslie Sullivan Sachs, Safe & Green Campaign.

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Sr-90 + Sue = SOS

Strontium-90 has been found in groundwater at Vermont Yankee. Entergy threatens to sue. And with those bombshells this week, we are reminded that the message is simple: NO SAFSTOR.

The state says no SAFSTOR. The state “believes decommissioning could begin within the next 15 years if Entergy adopts an aggressive schedule.” [Times Argus 02.12.15].

The PSDAR — Entergy’s decommissioning plan – was critiqued by  three state agencies. A consistent comment is that Entergy omitted much of the State’s rights to oversight.  The VT Dept. of Health and Agency of Natural Resources should be receiving data and performing radiological monitoring, as they were when the reactor was operating.  Although its the first time Strontium-90 has been detected in groundwater, we knew it was in the soil: cesium and Strontium-90 were found with the tritium leaks in 2009 and 2010.

Entergy’s response is that the Strontium-90 is below the EPA’s Safe Water Drinking Act standards. But standards change — what will the standard be in 60 years?  In 2009, Bush raised the radiation levels 1,000 fold. That didn’t stick, but Obama’s EPA kept the bulk of Bush’s proposals to weaken standards, including “dramatically raising permissible radioactive levels in drinking water and soil following ‘radiological incidents,’ such as nuclear power-plant accidents … a win for the nuclear industry which seeks what proponents call a ‘new normal’ for radiation exposure among the U.S population.”

Forget safety, then. What everyone cares about is the money.

Under SAFSTOR, there is a 17 year gap between the time all the spent fuel is moved into dry casks, and when Entergy starts cleaning up the site. During those 17 years, the strontium-90, tritium, cesium and whatever else is in the radioactive soup will spread.  Meanwhile, the decommissioning fund will only creep up an additional $3 million. $3M is all that stands between Entergy and public health, Entergy and sooner than later economic development, Entergy and a new use for the site.

Strontium-90 was found at Connecticut Yankee after it shut down. Cleaning it up to “unrestricted use” doubled the decommissioning costs, from $410 million to $831 million. Connecticut’s electricity customers paid the difference over ten years. If the contamination in Vernon spreads and the costs double that, who will pay, if Yankee, as a merchant plant, runs out of money?

The NRC said at the latest NDCAP meeting,  “Ultimately, it is a parent guarantee and legal responsibility, Watson told Nancy Braus of Putney. He said he guessed Entergy will ultimately have to contribute to the decommissioning fund, which currently amounts to about half of the $1.24 billion needed. “They are legally responsible for the safety of the plant,” he emphasized. [Rutland Herald 01.30.15 “NRC Vows VY Clean Up is Locked In”. Subscription only].

Entergy obviously disagrees with the feds. Mike Twomey, Entergy VP, told the legislature on Tuesday that they would sue if there is a shortfall. Sue. As usual.

Another merchant plant, Kewaunee, is in SAFSTOR for 60 years. But its owner, “Dominion has also committed $60 million from its Virginia-based parent company toward the project, in the event funds in the decommissioning fund run short.”

So cough up the measly $3 million our fund is supposed to grow over 17 years, Entergy. Cough it up and start decontaminating the site in 2020, as soon as you are done moving the spent fuel.

From the day Entergy announced Yankee’s retirement, the state, its citizens and all who live in the shadow of Vermont Yankee have said: NO SAFSTOR. Then came the negotiations on the Settlement, the formation of the citizen advisory panel, the Site Assessment and the PSDAR. we have gotten lost in the weeds.

Strontium-90 was an SOS. Entergy’s threats to sue was a reminder of who we are dealign with here.

So it’s simple: NO SAFSTOR. That’s one message the NRC should hear February 19th at its public meeting, simple, loud and clear. NO SAFSTOR.

Reports:

“Entergy: Costs Not Covered Past 60 Years” Times Argus 02.12.15

“Entergy Makes First Withdrawl from Decomm Fund”  VtDigger 02.11.15

“Contaminent Found in Groundwater” Brattleboro Reformer 02.10.2015

“Radioactive Contamination Found…”  VtDigger 02.09.2015

Fairewinds 2009-2010 Summary report to legislature on decommissioning, including impact on strontium-90, cesium and tritium found at VY in 2009-2010.

Common Dreams 2009, on Bush relaxing radiation exposure limits 

Public Employees for Env. Responsibility (PEER) “White House Approves Radical Radiation Clean Up Roll Back” April 2013

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The NRC & You

CANCELED FOR MONDAY, FEB. 9.

Our speakers are not available again before the NRC Public Meeting on Feb. 19. We may be able to reschedule for the last week of February, which would be too late for the NRC Public Meeting on February 19 but before the end of the public comment period on March 23.

How Can Citizens Hold Entergy Accountable for Cleaning Up VT Yankee?

WHEN: February 9th 6:00-8:30 PM. Free.

WHAT: Educational forum with Arnie Gundersen of Fairewinds and Deb Katz of the Citizens Awareness Network to address Entergy’s cleanup of Vermont Yankee. Presentations, Q&A and discussion about Entergy’s decommissioning plan and what role citizens can play in the process. Prepare for the NRC Public Meeting on February 19 (6pm, Quality Inn, Brattleboro).

WHERE: Marlboro College, Room 2East, 28 Vernon Street, Brattleboro, VT

Small Feb 9 WkshopBACKGROUND:

With the closure of Vermont Yankee, questions remain concerning safety and the responsible cleanup of the highly contaminated site. How Entergy will address VY’s closure, emergency planning, loss of institutional memory with the firing of 1/3 of the skilled workforce as well as dry cask storage and fuel transfer? How will cleanup affect the local community as well as the state and even the region? Decommissioning issues are more significant than ever.

Vermont Yankee’s power has already been replaced. But questions remain. Can citizens play a role as Vermont Yankee is properly dismantled, cleaned-up and radioactive waste safely stored? With the slow motion Fukushima disaster highlighting the vulnerabilities of Mark 1 reactors, how will the state deal with the increased vulnerability of this aged reactor?

The Citizens Awareness Network and the Safe and Green Campaign are sponsoring a forum to discuss the issues surrounding the decommissioning, clean up and accountability of Vermont Yankee. CAN has been intimately involved with closure and decommissioning of reactors in New England. “Nowhere is the colossal failure of nuclear power more evident than in decommissioning with its extensive contamination, ballooning costs, limited oversight, and lack of solutions for its contaminated wastes,” said Deb Katz executive director of the CAN. “Added to this is the inability to trust a systemically mismanaged corporation.”

The choice to hold the forums was based on a lack of relevant information on what decommissioning entails, what choices Entergy is making and what has been the industry standard on decommissioning until now. “The decommissioning of the Entergy Vermont Nuclear Power Plant will be one of the most significant undertakings in Vermont’s history,” said Leslie Sullivan Sachs. “The NRC public hearing on Entergy’s decommissioning plan on February 19 is a rare opportunity for citizens to make their voices heard. Through this forum we hope to be able to encourage informed citizen participation designed to protect Vermonter’s interest, as opposed to the interests of Entergy’s stockholders.”

About the Speakers

arnie-gundersenArnie Gundersen is chief engineer for Fairewinds Energy Education. He has more than 40-years of nuclear power engineering experience. He attended Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) where he earned his Bachelor Degree cum laude while also becoming the recipient of a prestigious Atomic Energy Commission Fellowship for his Master Degree in nuclear engineering. Arnie holds a nuclear safety patent, was a licensed reactor operator, and is a former nuclear industry senior vice president. During his nuclear power industry career, Arnie also managed and coordinated projects at 70-nuclear power plants in the US. In 1981-82, he was invited to co-author the first DOE Decommissioning Handbook. Arnie is the co-author with his wife, Maggie Gundersen, of many reports on Vermont Yankee. He has testified on Vermont Yankee to the state legislature and in 2008 was appointed to the Vermont Yankee Public Oversight Panel.

Deb KatzDeb Katz and the Citizens Awareness Network, instrumental in the closures of Yankee Rowe, Ct Yankee and Millstone Unit 1 reactors, intervened in the NRC Atomic Safety and Licensing Board hearings on Yankee Rowe and Ct Yankee reactors. CAN won a lawsuit against the NRC in the first circuit Appellate Court over the illegal decommissioning of the Yankee Rowe reactor, the violation of citizen hearing rights and EPA regulations; Represented nuclear worker’s health and safety interests before an NRC Atomic Safety and Licensing Board; participated in an NRC – Site Specific Advisory Boards for Decommissioning workshop, presented a model for public participation; Organized a “Peoples’ Hearing” on Decommissioning Presenters included representatives from Union of Concerned Scientists, Nuclear Information and Resource Service, and Radioactive Waste Management Assoc; Organized Caravan of Conscience Tours to accompany waste shipments from Yankee Rowe And Ct Yankee to Barnwell, SC to high light issues of environmental racism and to alert transport communities about the shipments. CAN commissioned a seminal paper by Dr. Gordon on the vulnerability of reactor fuel pools to terrorism in a post 9/11 world that focused on Vermont Yankee and Indian Point.

 

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Emergency Planning Update

Emergency planning in the evacuation zone: Entergy wants to stop paying for it in April 2016 – even with tons of radioactive fuel in the fuel pools, and while the dangerous work of moving the fuel from the pool into dry cask storage takes place. There are two issues in play:

1. Beginning April 2016, Entergy wants to limit emergency planning to the footprint of the reactor site. But highly radioactive fuel will continue to be moved through 2020 from the over-packed spent fuel pool high above the reactor, into dry cask storage. We need to be protected.

2. A related issue is how quickly state and town emergency planners are alerted that something has gone wrong at Yankee. After Three Mile Island, the NRC required ERDS – Emergency Response Data System — real-time, live data links between the nuclear reactor, the NRC, and the state. With the reactor closed down, Entergy says the danger is reduced and there is no need for immediate communication. It has been 15 minutes. Now it will be 60 minutes. Entergy says with the reactor shut down, that’s enough time.

State Response

VT Dept. of Public Service has again gone to the NRC, saying shrinking the EPZ to the footprint of the reactor site would “significantly hinder the State’s ability to coordinate and execute an effective response to an emergency situation at the station.” It is asking the NRC to hold “evidentiary hearings” on the matter. [Reformer 02.20.15]

As to real-time monitoring, the Dept. of Public Service’s first salvo was denied Feb. 2 when “Atomic Safety and Licensing Board has rejected a move by the state to force Entergy Nuclear to keep a real-time communication link alive that monitors various systems at the now-closed Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant.”   [Rutland Herald 01.29.15] But the State has appealed the ASLB decision to turn off the emergency response data system. “The idea that that would be shut off now is unconscionable,” Department of Public Service Commissioner Chris Recchia said. ” [VTDigger 02.26.15]

Emergency Staffing

The NRC approved a reduction in staffing to handle emergencies at Vermont Yankee, from 13 staff to 5,  now that all the fuel has been moved out of the reactor. [Brattleboro Reformer 02.06.15]

David Lochbaum of the Union of Concerned Scientists explains how emergency planning works from within the nuclear facility, including staffing. Emergency Planning for Nuclear Power Plants 01.27 15

Public Service Board

Citizens Awareness Network has a suggestion. Entergy intends to end the emergency planning zone in April 2016 – while tons of radioactive fuel is still in the spent fuel pool, and while those tons are moved into dry cask storage. CAN points out that Entergy needs to receive a Certificate of Public Good from the Public Service Board for the new dry cask storage pad. That Certificate should include a condition requiring the emergency planning zone remain in effect until all the waste is secured in storage.

From CAN’s newsletter:

Entergy announced its plan to end the Emergency Planning Zone (EPZ) when Vermont Yankee closes in 2014. The corporation’s justification for asking NRC to end EPZ planning: with the fuel removed from the reactor, there is no credible accident that could effect the tri-state community.

This is far from true. The danger at Vermont Yankee does not end with closure. It will end or be considerably reduced with the removal of the high level waste from the fuel pool into dry cask storage.

Vermont Yankee is a sister reactor to the Fukushima Mark 1 reactors with its fuel pool suspended 7 stories in the air. The National Academy of Science has acknowledged the Mark 1 reactor fuel pools are the most vulnerable to acts of malice or accident. A fuel pool fire could release millions of radioactive curies into the environment. There are estimates that the plume from a fuel pool fire could travel 90 miles in 24 hours.

 The EPZ is needed to protect our communities.

 Contact the Vermont Public Service Department as well as the Public Service Board to express your concern. Ask them to make it a condition for Entergy to receive a Certificate of Public Good from the Board for the second dry cask storage pad.

 The Vermont Department of Public Service Contact Info:

112 State Street Third Floor • Montpelier, VT • 05620-2601 

General Phone Number: 802-828-2811

Fax: 802-828-2342

Vermont Public Service Board Contact Info:

Vermont Public Service Board
112 State Street
Montpelier, VT 05620-2701

Phone: (802) 828-2358
Fax: (802) 828-3351
TDD (VT Relay): (800) 253-0191

psb.clerk@state.vt.us

 NRC COMMENT PERIOD CLOSED: The NRC extended the deadline to comment to February 9, 2015 on Entergy’s plan to stop supporting the 10-miles Emergency Planning Zone.  Click here for more information  Mail comments to: Cindy Bladey, Office of Administration, Mail Stop: 3WFN-06-A44M, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Washington, DC 20555-0001.

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February: A Month for a Miracle

I can point out to people that shutting down Vermont Yankee was a miracle, right? We weren’t, as the people, supposed to have that power. And people did it anyway. They insisted on it and they saw it through and made it happen. And so the same kind of courage and vision will have to be applied now to the decommissioning process. People have to stay in there, attend all the meetings, read all the documents. It’s a Herculean task and if anybody can do it, it’s the folks who have already forced the shutdown of Vermont Yankee.

Kevin Kamps, Beyond Nuclear, Nuclear Free Future Yankee Post-Mortem 01.06.15]

It’s time again to create a miracle. Your courage and vision are needed for one more month. Whats one more month after 40 years of activism?  February’s focus is on Entergy’s decommissioning plan for Vermont Yankee and the evacuation plan.  Mark your calendar with these events. Click on the links for details:

 

HERE IS A MIRACLE: The Connecticut River is iced over from Vernon south to Holyoke, for the first time in decades! Thank you – everyone who wrote, testified, marched, and paddled in flotillas! Check out more photos by Cate Woolner on her website: www.catewoolnerphoto.com/.   For the past few years, Dr. Andrew Larkin of Northampton has been watching the lack of ice in the winters.  A former Olympic rower and one of the organizers of the 2012 & 2013 SAGE Flotillas, Andy writes on his blog, Vernon Radiation Safety, about the Vermont Yankee / thermal pollution connection and celebrates the ice.

Arnie Gundersen and Deb Katz will speak at a THE NRC & YOU: a citizen forum on Entergy’s  decommissioning plan on February 9th, from 6-9pm at Marlboro Graduate Center, downtown Brattleboro. The Safe and Green Campaign and the Citizens Awareness Network will co-host. The presentations, with time for Q&A, will help you prepare remarks for the one and only NRC hearing, and to write your comments to the NRC (March 23 deadline). Forums before the NRC public hearing are also planned for Montpelier and Greenfield. Please visit to our Decommissioning Resources page for issues we have identified to date and for info how to comment.

NRC public hearing on decommissioning Vermont Yankee – February 19, 6-9pm at the Quality Inn in Brattleboro). Details on the hearing and how to submit written comments are on our website here.

SOLIDARITY: Entergy’s Pilgrim Reactor in Plymouth, MA

Southern Vermont and Franklin County missed the blizzard earlier this week that did serious damage on the Massachusetts coast. One victim was Entergy’s Pilgrim nuke plant. While the full truth about its sudden shut down is still unknown, the official story is that frozen power lines caused the scram, and for three days the reactor relied on back-up diesel power. Here’s some details.

This took place one day after the NRC rejected Entergy’s band-aid fixes to the plant and kept Pilgrim on its list of worst-performing reactors.

Last week, a half dozen activists from Cape Downwinders traveled to Brattleboro for two meetings with the Safe and Green steering committee. The Downwinders have been fighting Entergy’s Pilgrim reactor in Plymouth, MA since 1988. In the near future we will send a report specifically on Pilgrim and how we can support efforts to shut it down. We’ll include details on new legislation to hold Entergy accountable. Read more about that here: Cape Cod Times: 01.21.15

 INFO & INSPIRATION

Need some data to counter the moaning in Massachusetts blaming the closure of Yankee for high electric bills? The Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) points the finger at poor decision-making by utilities, not plant closures. “After big power plant retirements, the system is working well, and the forward prices that will set future retail electric rates are also down. Unfortunately, many customers’ bills remain extremely high thanks to poorly timed energy buys by electric utilities, but rates are already falling. The new, calmer reality we are seeing this winter should force rational policymakers to dial back the energy crisis hysteria.” CLF has the charts and data to back it up.

Nina Keller of Millers Falls had a letter published in the Greenfield Recorder in response to complaints by nuke workers, businesses and the town of Vernon about losing Yankee’s revenue. In “Adapting to Change,” she writes “In our changing environmental society, we can adapt and diversify, create different ways to use our skills, or belly ache when we don’t know how to fit in to a changing economy.” Read the whole letter on our website.

Nancy Braus of Brattleboro penned an OpEd for the Brattleboro Reformer, “Storage of Nuclear Waste Threatens Our Future.” It is a critique of the NRC regulations on storing fuel, Entergy’s plans, and what our options might be. “Far more technically sophisticated casks are used in Germany, France, and Japan — casks with a thicker metal wall, and allowing for real time remote monitoring to alert those in charge of the waste should there be a pressure change, or another worrisome development. Why are these casks not even in use in the United States?”

The Keene Sentinel published an Editorial on spent nuclear fuel including a look at storage at Maine Yankee and Yankee Rowe. Including the Vermont Yankee spent fuel, “…there are nearly 6,000 spent nuclear fuel rod assemblies sitting around in New England from shuttered nuclear plants. And that doesn’t even count the waste from the active Millstone, Pilgrim and Seabrook plants.” You can read more about the spent fuel issue on our website here.

WCAX-TV ran a piece called “VT Yankee’s Long Road to Retirement” [01.20.15 watch or transcript]. It featured Arnie Gundersen of Fairewinds and Howard Shaffer, a retired nuclear engineer. Arnie concludes, “Nuclear power was supposed to be a pay-as-you-go kind of system, where the people that got the benefit also took the risk. But what we’re doing now is the people that got the benefit of the power will be long dead and the risk will still be there, and that’s not fair.”

On its GreenWorld blog, NIRS detailed how the “Nuclear industry goes hysterically ballistic over Yankee shutdown.” That column prompted an onslaught of comments from pro-nukers, which NIRS shares with us in “Vermont Yankee-The Other Side Speaks.” There are two common themes: those who just don’t get that the whole grid is changing, and those in pain, who feel betrayed by Entergy’s decision to close Yankee but can’t admit the corporation chose profit over people.

REACTORS TO WATCH

POWER Magazine, a utility publication, gives its state-by-state prediction of the next reactors to shut down. US Faces Wave of Premature Nuclear Retirement opens with “The nuclear renaissance has turned into a nuclear retirement party.” YES! Among those on the potential chopping block are Entergy’s Palisades in Michigan and Pilgrim in Plymouth, MA.

At Palisades, Entergy is in a battle with the NRC over worker safety. The NRC claims that in one month, workers got more than half the yearly allowed radiation dose. “Entergy Corp. acknowledges it didn’t follow some radiation safety monitoring procedures during a refueling … some workers lacked one of the required body radiation monitors. It says that had no effect on the public’s or workers’ health.” [MI Public Radio 01.09.15]

Zion, an Exelon reactor in Illinois closed in 1998, is now running out of decommissioning funds. Ratepayers put $800 million into the fund. Originally, EnergySolutions, the decommissioning company, said it would make a 15% to 20% profit on decommissioning. Recently, it told the owner “the Zion fund is projected to run out before the company can remove all the buildings at the site.” EnergySolutions claims it will finish in the black, but the town is worried and the NRC doesn’t seem to be paying attention. The last of the waste will be moved out of the fuel pool and into dry cask storage on-site this weekend. [Chicago Tribune 01.09.15]

How to pay for decommissioning is a challenge everywhere. Japan has decided that all ratepayers – even those who do not get electricity from nuclear power – will bear the cost of decommissioning in the future. [Kyodo News 01.14.15] German utilities are committed to shutting down their nukes by 2024, but currently the fall in nuclear power profits due to boost in renewables means less money is going into decommissioning funds. “Some politicians fear the utilities may eventually leave the state to shoulder the problem, and that the largest – like the banks judged “too big to fail” – could have to be nationalized.” [Reuters 01.19.15]

RECOMMENDED

Vermont Yankee Post Mortem” is the topic on Nuclear Free Future, a series on Burlington’s cable access TV. Arnie Gundersen of Fairewinds and Kevin Kamps of Beyond Nuclear talk about how and why Yankee shut down, what prompt decommissioning would look like, the short cuts Entergy is trying to use in decommissioning, and what we as citizens can do. It is informational and inspiring. Watch or read the transcript on Fairewinds website here. We will close with words from Kevin and Arnie:

Kevin: “It was really the grassroots activists in Vermont, many of whom were at it for four decades …I really love this op-ed that Bob Bady of the Safe & Green Campaign put out just after Entergy announced its decision to permanently close Vermont Yankee…It was titled What Killed the Beast and he had a King Kong metaphor going. And his answer was it was the beauty of people power that killed the beast. Because what forced Entergy to have to compete on the spot market. Well, it was the people of Vermont and western Massachusetts and nearby in New Hampshire who got elected officials in the State of Vermont in the right place on this issue. And that led to the utilities of Vermont having a very strong stand when they negotiated with Entergy. Not one watt of electricity from Vermont Yankee has been used or sold in Vermont itself for years now. And that was people power in action. Arnie:

 “I think it was not just because of activism, but we are smarter because of activism in Vermont. The nuclear issues have constantly been raised and the populace in Vermont is very smart and the political office holders are also very smart. So we just didn’t get pushed around by Entergy like they seem to be able to push people around in other states.” [Nuclear Free Future Yankee Post-Mortem 01.06.15]

We’ve got one more month to show Entergy they can’t push us around. History is made by those who show up. Let’s make history … again.

Peace,

Leslie Sullivan Sachs

For the Safe and Green Campaign

PS This is an UPDATE to the email newsletter sent to our list on January 20th. To be added to the email list, fill out our Contact Us form. This newsletter-style email is sent out once every two or three weeks. Short reminders of Safe & Green events are sent once or twice prior to the event.

All the above, as well as events planned for March and April, are on the agenda of the Safe and Green Campaign steering committee’s next meeting on February 2nd. We meet once or twice a month on Mondays at 5:30pm, and it’s always a pot luck supper. Email safeandgreencampaign@gmail.com if you’re interested in more info.

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NDCAP Meeting, Jan. 28

Vermont’s Nuclear Decommissioning Citizens Advisory Panel will meet next Wednesday, January 28 at the Quality Inn (Putney Road, Brattleboro) from 6-9pm. (This is a change from the Jan. 22 date set at the December meeting). All NDCAP meetings are open to the public, and there is time after each Agenda item for public comment. Details are on our calendar.

The Agenda was posted today (1.27.15). Click on the image to make it larger.
NDCAP 01.28.15

 

 

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Nuclear Waste Threatens Our Future

Nancy Braus of the Safe & Green steering committee has an excellent editorial in today’s Brattleboro Reformer. It is useful reading for anyone (hopefully YOU) planning on making a comment to the NRC Public Hearing on decommissioning on February 19.

You can read Nancy’s OpEd in full here.  She opens:

As Vermont Yankee is closing, local people are learning the ugly truth of nuclear energy — that the sites hosting nuclear reactors for four or five decades will probably be hosting high-level waste forever Those of us living in the region around the reactor should have a voice in the manner in which this waste is stored. However, according to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Entergy, a corporation with no long-term commitment to our region, will be making all the choices.

She goes on to explain the limited choices available to US nuclear sites and their disadvantages. It is discouraging that other countries have more secure methods.

Far more technically sophisticated casks are used in Germany, France, and Japan — casks with a thicker metal wall, and allowing for real time remote monitoring to alert those in charge of the waste should there be a pressure change , or another worrisome development. Why are these casks not even in use in the United States?

Entergy isn’t even using the best available US technology. Arnie Gundersen of Fairewinds Associates and Leslie Sullivan Sachs of Fairewinds and Safe & Green included a critique of Yankee’s dry casks in their comments on Entergy’s decommissioning report:

Entergy had the opportunity to buy earth bermed canisters. To save money, Entergy did a “fleet buy” of canisters that are designed to sit aboveground.  When Vermont Yankee Uprated its power, the fuel enrichment increased from 3-4% enriched fuel up to 5+%, higher enrichment fuel. In both cases, Entergy profited, but Vermonters were and will be impacted by higher radiation risks. High burn up fuel presents serious storage problems that were not analyzed when Entergy bought the cheapest casks.

The canisters Entergy has are not strong enough for HBF fuel rods to ride out an accident. If they leak, or if the DOE doesn’t pick them up in 30 years, there is no way to move spent fuel rods into new canisters without using a fuel pool. We would love to knock that building down but it may have to stay. What is Entergy’s Plan B if containers leak and there is no fuel pool?

The Keene Sentinel Editorial, Spent Nuclear Fuel is a Costly Proposition, looks at spent fuel in New England. With VT Yankee closing, “…there are nearly 6,000 spent nuclear fuel rod assemblies sitting around in New England from shuttered nuclear plants. And that doesn’t even count the waste from the active Millstone, Pilgrim and Seabrook plants.” And there is still no long term plan from the DOE for its final disposal.

onedaysonallthiswillbeyoursDry cask storage DONE RIGHT is one of Safe & Green’s talking points for Yankee Decommissioning. This is from our list of issues:

  • Getting the best dry casks available for the long term for the 910 tons of waste in the fuel pool and reactor core. Two others nukes are also looking at dry cask storage, San Onofre in California, and Pilgrim in Mass. They determined that a superior system is used in Germany, France, and Japan.
  • See SanOnofreSafety.org Reports: Dry Cask Storage Issues, and Top 10 Reasons to Buy Thick Casks; and
  • a presentation to the NRC’s Waste Conference 11.19.14 (YouTube video) comparing the thin canisters we’re stuck with to the German version, which are monitored for radiation 24/7 and are fully enclosed in a secure building – not left out on a pad in the flood plain.
  • CAN info on waste storage: http://www.nukebusters.org/learn-waste.shtml

 

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Adapting to Change

Nina Keller, a long-time anti-nuclear activist, is the author of this letter published in the Greenfield Recorder last week. We have heard the same questions and sentiments in the movement, but few have expressed them publicly. Thanks for getting it in print, Nina!

October 2012Letter: Adapting to change

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

On the same day, the Vermont Yankee Reactor was “unplugged,” the train through Greenfield was re-enstated. This is interesting irony.

When I read of Vernon officials, nuke workers and business owners complaining about how to adapt to the anticipated loss of revenue, I object. A judicious parent will teach a child to economize even a small allowance and how to plan spending and saving for some desired treasure.

We have known the reactor was to shut down for years. Can the town of Vernon plead innocent of that fore-knowledge? After 40 years of tax bounty, have the financial master minds of that town not planned ahead with rainy day funds? Have nuclear workers, paid far above the minimum wage, not done the same with their savings accounts and considerations of job changes? Farmers confront the unpredictability of crops and seasons every day. They have learned how to diversify so a chicken farmer begins to think creatively and opens a farm stand, initiates a compost service, a petting zoo, maple syrup products, woodworking talents, catering business …

In our changing environmental society, we can adapt and diversify, create different ways to use our skills, or belly ache when we don’t know how to fit in to a changing economy.

I truly empathize with any family that must relocate when they have established ties and comfort in a community. It is far easier to invent a new logo for a local T-shirt than to bemoan the loss of a radioactive logo currently sold at a Vernon shop. They have had a long time to think creatively. I hope they will not boast “High Level Radioactive Waste Capital of Vermont.”

NINA KELLER

Millers Falls

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