Safe & Green in DC

On Tuesday, Safe and Green members brought your voice to Washington, DC. Our message: the state and the public must have a real role in decommissioning planning, which currently is simply between the corporation and the captive regulator, the NRC. Our timing could not have been better. The Vermont delegation will meet with state officials next week to discuss the negotiations with Entergy. Aides for Senators Markey and Sanders have also been engaged in the NRC’s Waste Confidence rule making. Just two days after our meetings, the NRC’s Senate Oversight Committee had a hearing with the five NRC Commissioners. They were grilled by Sen. Sanders. His opening remarks were classic Bernie:

“The people of VT have wanted to shut that plant down for a long time and feel pretty good about the decision to shut it down this year. The rules allow the NRC to negotiate a decommissioning process – there is no role for the state in the process. On the face of it that just doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. The people have a right to have a place at the table. Decommissioning could take SIXTY years – SIX ZERO – 60! Imagine having a hulking mass in Southern Vermont deteriorating for 60 years.”

He told the NRC that either they write a rule creating a “real role” for states, or he would introduce legislation to do so. Sen. Barbara Boxer, the chair, said she will co-sponsor. [Watch the two hour hearing here.] [Watch just Bernie here]

Nancy Braus and Leslie Sullivan Sachs had individual meetings with the energy staffers for Senators Warren and Markey of Massachusetts, Senators Leahy and Sanders, and Rep. Welch of Vermont. From the depth of knowledge staffers had on the myriad of issues relating to Yankee and nuclear reactors in the US, we are confident that Senators Markey, Leahy and Sanders are well informed and engaged. However, we pointed out that we had heard nothing from Leahy, Welch and Sanders since the closure announcement. We asked the Vermont delegation to follow Senator Markey’s example — to become more vocal on where they stand on the issues and what actions they are taking, keep an up-to-date web page, and comment on nuclear news. Today, Bernie’s webpage has a photo of Yankee on the home page, linking to a new section, “What Happens After Nuclear Plants Close?” .

Jacob Smith, policy advisor to Senator Sanders, was excited by our description of Entergy as a poster child for the corporate takeover of democracy – massive federal subsidies for an old technology, a captive regulator, lying executives, pollution that lasts for generations all make it a perfect fit for Bernie’s messaging. Jacob said he would pass it along to the senator’s communications advisor. It’s probably coincidence, but it is still gratifying to see a press release and related stories in today’s papers on Sanders and the NRC.

Coverage included this article in the National Law Journal, on Sanders’ invitation to Republicans to eliminate the Price Anderson liability limits.

‘ Republicans had given “speech after speech” arguing that that it is government that is preventing industry from succeeding.

“I wonder if any of my conservative friends would co-sponsor with me legislation to repeal Price Anderson so that we can leave the nuclear power industry alone and not get involved with government,” Sanders said. “I look forward to working with Senator [David] Vitter [R-La.] or Senator Inhofe on getting the government out of the nuclear power industry. Any volunteers at this point?” ‘

Silence.

 

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Voices before the PSB

Forty citizens testified to the PSB Tuesday night on Vt Yankee’s future and we’ve posted a lot here to inform and inspire you. Now its your turn. If you missed the hearing, go ahead and write comments and then mail or email them to the Public Service Board. Those of us who spoke only had two minutes to do so but go on and write as much as you need to.  The PSB has an online comment form here specifically for this case. If you fax (802) 828-3351 or Email psb.clerk@state.vt.us or Mail a letter — put Docket 7862 on it.

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

We’ve compiled public comments into a synopsis, here. A few highlights:

The briefest testimony came from David Bradshaw of Lyndonville. “To permit Vermont Yankee to operate is like allowing a drunk to drive after his license has expired.”

“Let’s face the facts,” said Dick Brigham of Cuttingsville. “The easier that the Public Service Board is on Entergy, the more that Vermonters will have to pay. Vermonters will be shish-kabobbed.”

“You, the Public Service Board of Vermont, are just about all we have left to make sure that our interests are protected in the process of operating and decommissioning Vermont Yankee. I don’t know what your legal limits are …. But this is not an exercise in legal abstractions. This has to do with our lives and our communities.

“Do not let Entergy shift financial responsibility onto the backs of Vermont taxpayers. Do not allow Entergy to leave behind a sacrifice zone, permanently contaminated by corporate malfeasance.”

“Send Entergy back to Louisiana. Entergy’s persistent unscrupulousness is not the Vermont way.”

“We were assured the waste would be taken away every 5 years. We were made promises that have been broken every step of the way.”

“remember that the regulators in Russia and Japan did not care for their land and loved ones any less than you do.”

“it is shameful and a sad testament to our current political framework when a multi-billion dollar corporation can so easily dictate the terms of negotiations. This should not be a negotiation.” Entergy must be held to the highest standards possible, without compromise for public health and safety.

“When negotiations began, people hoped the result would be a fair and equitable agreement …with both parties committed to the same goals. This settlement does not achieve that. Critical to what is missing is deadlines that commit Entergy to doing what it says it will do.”

“Money exists to start prompt decommissioning after shutdown. So why wait? The $606 million in the decommissioning trust fund is not far from the $630 million Entergy once estimated it needed, and in a year it could be even closer. What might happen to the funds if the stock market crashes again.  The money is there now, let’s use it now.”

“The courts may be our only recourse with this rapacious corporation… Every additional minute VY runs, the fuel in its core creates more deadly Cesium 137, Strontium 90, Cobalt 60 and the other hundreds of radioactive products that future generations will have to contend with.  We know this.”

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PSB Hearing Tues 1/14: Talking Points

This coming Tuesday, the Public Service Board (PSB) wants to hear from citizens like you. There are many details — but if we look at the forest, not the trees, the question is a simple one: do you trust Entergy?
This could be our last opportunity to speak to the PSB about Vermont Yankee. On the table is whether or not a Certificate of Public Good (CPG) should be granted to Entergy Vermont Yankee through December 31, 2014. The state and Entergy have come to an agreement; questions from the PSB have been answered. There are many details — but if we look at the forest, not the trees, the question is a simple one: do you trust Entergy?In order to come to any kind of agreement, the state had to put aside a dozen years of Entergy manipulating facts, covering up accidents, and lying to state officials. The state’s wrists are tied by NRC regulations which look out for corporate interests, implied threats of more law suits, and a clock which is running out. Once the reactor is no longer generating electricity and waste, the state’s role is severely limited, by NRC rules.Although our legislator’s tongues are tied by threats of preemption, and state regulators by the NRC, we can point out the obvious. We can tell it like it is, plainly.  Somebody has to speak out when the emperor is wearing no clothes.

So: do you trust Entergy? Tell the PSB.

Here are a few talking points (and questions) which we hope will be helpful.

1. Entergy cannot be trusted just because management has changed. Or because we ‘need’ to trust them.
Just ten weeks ago, the state would have recommended denying a CPG if Entergy had not announced closure. “They can’t be relied on for the next 20 years to operate in a manner that fulfills the conditions of any certificate,” said Chris Recchia of the Dept. of Public Service. This deal trusts Entergy for just one year of operating – but it also lays the foundation for decades of decommissioning and what to do with 900+ tons of nuclear waste.

2. Any site assessment performed by Entergy cannot be trusted. We need an independent site assessment — and predict Entergy will scream “Preemption!” – but as citizens we should point out the obvious and demand it. The site assessment includes costs and tasks for (1) radiological decommissioning (2) spent fuel management (3) site restoration.  The state should require that an independent company will perform the site restoration study, at least.

Entergy lied to the Public Oversight Panel in 2009; lied to the PSB about underground pipes in 2010; Entergy’s 2012 decommissioning report left a whole lot out and was called “seriously flawed” by the state. We need an independent company, not a subsidiary of Entergy, to perform professional site assessment and financial audits.

4. Entergy Corp. had 2012 revenues of $11 Billion and profits of $1.3 Billion.  It will give $10 million for economic development in Windham County and $25 million for site restoration. Sure feels like a drop in the bucket. Entergy’s 2012 estimate for site restoration was $47 million; the state’s 2012 estimate was between $94 to $126 million.

5. There are over 900 tons of spent fuel in the fuel pool. Most of it is old and cool enough to move into dry cask storage. The state and Entergy agree only that the spent fuel will be moved “in a timely manner” – much too vague. Any spent fuel management plan approved by the PSB must require Entergy to move the old fuel into dry cask storage immediately upon shut down.

6. Decommissioning won’t start until there is enough money in the decom trust fund. There is roughly $600 million in it now; estimates range from $840 million to $1 billion to decommission. How will we know that Entergy is playing the stock market wisely? When decom starts, how do we know Entergy will spend the fund wisely?  There will be three funds set up, (decom, waste management, site restoration,). Will the state regularly audit the three funds?

7. Four years of evidence before the PSB could be overshadowed by a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) based on a behind-the-scenes settlement between the state and Entergy. Clean energy advocates and parties to the PSB such as Conservation Law Foundation, VPIRG, Windham Regional Commission, and New England Coalition were not part of making this deal. They have very little time to respond and lack the financial resources of Entergy.

8. Vermont, and the rest of the country, will be left with NY Court of Appeals decision: a state legislature cannot even talk about nuclear safety. This squashes freedom of speech for legislators crafting laws on any issue. Yet at the same time:  in approving the deal between Entergy and the state, the PSB must agree that  “Entergy VY retains the right to challenge any state law requirement on preemption grounds.” Entergy used “federal preemption” to challenge everything from aesthetics to tourism at the last PSB hearings. Entergy even said the tower collapse was preempted – but when the tower collapsed, it claimed the accident was not safety related.

9. Entergy doesn’t have to use closed cycle cooling while it operates for another year. The permit that lapsed 12 years ago stands. ANR continues to do nothing but say it’s working on it while it waits for the feds to re-write the law. Read the Conn. River Watershed Council reaction and new report.

10. Nothing in the settlement or MOU refers to setting up a Community Advisory Panel.  How will the voice of Vernon and all living in the evacuation zone be heard?

Whatever your thoughts are whether or not a certificate of public good should be granted, please come and speak. It may be the last opportunity the public has to speak to the state on Vermont Yankee.

Thank you for all the work you’ve done to shut down Vermont Yankee. Now let’s see it shut down promptly, properly, and for the public good.

 

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Public Hearing Jan. 14

Yesterday there was a status conference at the Public Service Board on the Certificate of Public Good for Vermont Yankee, based on the deal made between the state and Entergy. There will be a statewide Public Hearing on January 14 via interactive tv. The last time public hearings were held was November 2012: nine months before Entergy announced Vermont Yankee was to close and a year before this deal. We sponsored a workshop to inform citizens on the issues, and the turn out to all the hearings was overwhelming.

We need to turn out in force again, folks!

Here is the PSB announcement; locations are in the Notice at the end. “An additional public hearing related to the MOU will be held on Tuesday, January 14, 2014, at 7 P.M., using the facilities of Vermont Interactive Technologies in Bennington, Brattleboro, Johnson, Lyndonville, Middlebury, Montpelier, Newport, Randolph Center, Rutland, Springfield, St. Albans, White River Junction and Williston, Vermont.   Public Hearing Notice.” [Download]     PSB weblink

Here is our Event post with a list of all hearing sites. Check out the deal here and  our analysis of the issues here.

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Still NO State Permit: Not in 2012 … Not in 2013 … 2014 ?

The closing of VT Yankee is on the region’s top ten news stories for 2013, and the new year begins with much fanfare about the state’s “grand bargain” with Entergy.  According to our handy website counter, it’s been 652 days that Yankee has run without a state permit so who knows when and if this deal with pan out.

The negotiations between the State and Entergy are being hailed as a model for the country, and Windham County is thrilled by the pennies from heaven over the next five years. But we are skeptical: Entergy has distracted decision makers from the real issues with money before, and has broken many a promise. One Safe & Green member’s opinions are published here:  The Commons: Spin vs. Substance 

Bye Bye VY CakeThe Public Service Board is kicking off the New Year with a status conference this Thursday, January 2 at 10am; perhaps we will get an insight into their frame of mind. One upside to the incessant delay: YOU can still comment to the PSB … even if you’ve written before, there’s plenty of new food for thought. Go here if you need some background on decommissioning and the state deal.

We have posted 2013′s photo album on our Facebook page (it is open to see by non-Facebook friends).  Click here for a narrative recap of our actions in 2013

The latest news articles and OpEds on VT Yankee are posted daily by our friend at www.evacuationplans.org  He provides an excellent service keeping up with the latest.  Thanks for your 652+ days of service!

 

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State & Entergy Come to “Agreement”

On December 23, the State and Entergy held a press conference to announce that they have reached an “agreement” about closure and decommissioning Vermont Yankee. The State has also filed two Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs) with the Public Service Board (PSB), and a formal “Settlement Agreement” (which we have not read yet). The agreement is contingent upon the PSB granted a Certificate of Public Good by March 31, 2014. (Settlement Agreement and MOU).

An article can be found here at the Wall Street Journal Market Watch. At first glance, there is good news and bad news in the agreement.

The good news is mostly economic; Entergy will provide some funds for the Clean Energy Development fund and economic development in Windham County, and a transitional tax monies.

Some good news / bad news:

Having a separate Site Restoration fund overseen by the state is good news. But in October, the State asked for at least $60 million for a site restoration fund. Today, Entergy agreed to $25 million “plus an additional parent guaranty, to ensure that separate funds are available if needed to return the site to a greenfield so that the site is available for re-use without restriction.” So if you believe parent Entergy will come through, it’s good news. If you’re skeptical that Entergy’s future, post-decomm stockholders will want to deliver greenfielding to Vermont, it’s business as usual.

It is also good news that Entergy will do “a site assessment and cost study by the end of 2014, two years earlier than NRC rules otherwise would require, to help provide greater certainty regarding the plant’s decommissioning and related activities.” But here’s the bad news …..

  • Entergy will perform the site assessment – not an independent expert.
  • The site assessment is for the purposes of site restoration, not for radiological health and safety. So we will not learn where and how much tritium, cesium, and other contaminants are in the soil and water.

And more bad news:

  • Spent fuel will be moved “in a timely manner” into dry cask storage. While “a timely manner” may be better than 50+ years in SAFSTOR, the fact is old fuel could be moved out of the pool into casks tomorrow. The Entergy spokesman said it intends to have “a plan in place that should make it possible to have the necessary approvals to move the spent fuel to dry cask by the end of 2021.”
  • The old zombie permit for discharge into the Connecticut River remains in place for now. So thermal pollution continues, with no necessity to use the cooling towers, and ANR can continue to pretend they are working on the issue.
  • Work begins only  after there is enough money in the decommissioning fund, not before. So Entergy will still be playing the stock market, risking the fund, and hoping for the best.
  • There is only a “commitment to negotiate terms”  about the “removal of structures and level of radiological exposure after site restoration is complete.” So there is no requirement to dig below three feet of the surface of strutures or to deal with pipes, tritium and other toxins deep in the soil.
  • Dismissal of all federal law suits – including the federal ruling which says state legislators cannot speak about NRC issues. This is a blow for freedom of speech by state legislatures across the country.

Entergy has not proven themselves to be trust worthy. They are doing what they’ve done before: thrown a lot of money at the state in exchange for conditions. Later, they turned their back on those same agreements. We’ll see how long this “Settlement Agreement” lasts.  The last dozen points in the Settlement Agreement – roughly one-third of the document – are all about trust.

Once again, it is now up to the Public Service Board to determine if Entergy has earned it’s trust and deserves a Certificate of Public Good.

Just one citizen’s opinion, written from the evacuation zone. Peace,

Leslie Sullivan Sachs, Safe and Green Campaign

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State of VT & Entergy Talks Fail

Time to for us to get pushy, since Entergy and the State were unable to come to a negotiated agreement on closure and decommissioning Yankee. They say talks will continue. In the meantime, the Public Service Board should make a decision on a Certificate of Public Good. [Times Argus 12-17-2013]

Since the bureaucrats and businessmen have failed, time for citizens to take the lead. We have posted notes and an action handout from our “Cleaning Up VT Yankee” panel here. Write to the PSB, the Governor, and those negotiating for the State, and send copies to your local newspapers and blogs. The PSB could decide any day now, and Vermont’s legislature starts meeting in January but ends in the spring. This will be the last chance we have to impact what occurs – before the electricity stops flowing next fall.

 

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Talks Continue

This evening, Dec. 3 Safe & Green hosts a free educational panel on decommissioning, “Cleaning Up Vt Yankee: 3 Perspectives” from 6:30-8:30pm at SIT in Brattleboro. Yesterday, confidential talks between the state and Entergy continued during an eight hour meeting in Montpelier. Chris Recchia, commissioner of the Department of Public Service, said “It was constructive and productive,” in the Rutland Herald. “Believed to be part of the discussion is the $5.4 million legal bill that Entergy is trying to collect from the state over the federal lawsuit Entergy filed against the state over two laws. Entergy won a decision in U.S. District Court in Brattleboro and in the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals in New York City, but the appeals court struck down the portion of the earlier ruling that allowed Entergy to recoup its legal costs. Recchia said both sides agreed to continue talks.”

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Dec. 3rd: Cleaning Up VT Yankee

Just in time for for you to do a little background reading before our panel December 3rd, Dave Lochbaum has added a primer of decommissioning to Activist Toolkit. We’ve posted it on our Decommissioning Resources. Safe & Green Campaign will present a panel and discussion on decommissioning Vermont Yankee, from 6:30-8:30pm on Tuesday, December 3 at the School for International Training (SIT) on Black Mtn. Road in Brattleboro, Vt. “Cleaning Up Vermont Yankee: 3 Perspectives”panelists include Tom Buchanan, Windham Regional Commission (WRC); Deb Katz, Citizens Awareness Network (CAN); and Dr. Marvin Resnikoff, Nuclear Waste Management Associates (NWMA).  

Cleaning up VY 2013Since Entergy announced that it would stop producing power at the end of 2014, there has been much speculation about the best process and time line for decommissioning and decontaminating the site. Entergy has stated it will use SafStor, mothballing the reactor for up to 60 years before beginning decommissioning. Under NRC rules, there are other options which could begin within five years of closure and which would lessen the economic and environmental impacts to the region.  

Each panelist will each offer a perspective on options other than SafStor. Tom Buchanan is the chair of the WRC’s Vermont Yankee Study Committee. Since 2007, the WRC has taken a neutral stand on Vermont Yankee while researching and reporting on the issues, and representing the interests of the Commission in pending dockets before the Public Service Board, state government agencies, and the public. Deb Katz, Executive Director of CAN, has worked on nuclear power issues since 1991. CAN was instrumental in the closure and decommissioning of Yankee Rowe and the closure of Connecticut Yankee and Millstone Unit 1. Dr. Marvin Resnikoff , Senior Associate of NWMA, has assisted public interest groups and state and local governments across the US in identifying and creating solutions for radioactive waste storage.

Following the presentations, the panelists will discuss common themes and differences and answer questions from the audience.

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NRC Collusion with Entergy; VSNAP & SAFSTOR

Two items for today: VSNAP and NRC corruption. US Senators Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Edward Markey (D-MA) wrote to the NRC demanding answers to why the NRC capitulated to Entergy’s request that the NRC stay out of Entergy’s finances. In May, groups petitioned the NRC to shut down 4 Entergy reactors (including Yankee) due to their concerns that Entergy’s precarious finances would result in poor maintenance. This collusion between the NRC and Entergy is outrageous. Markey and Sanders warn that it is a “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”policy which endangers public safety.

At a VSNAP meeting last night, Entergy reiterated that it will choose SAFSTOR (mothballing the reactor for up to 60 years) which allows it to leave the spent fuel in the fuel pool, and delays decommissioning. Entergy also said it may not take up to 60 years, but would delay at least ten years. It also took responsibility for lack of oversight of the seals reported on Nov. 8.According to the Rutland Herald, ‘Panel member Jim Matteau of Westminster maintained that Entergy’s decision to postpone decommissioning was a violation of public trust. The public had a clear understanding and expectation that Vermont Yankee, when it was shut down, would be cleaned up, Matteau said. He said that the company had a “moral commitment,” and shouldn’t retreat behind “legal parsing, it’s not just right.”’

 

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