One Quick Take on NDCAP 12.18.14

Last night’s meeting of the Nuclear Decommissioning Citizen Advisory Panel (NDCAP) was chock full of good news – and bad. First, the good news.

  • Chris Recchia, chair of NDCAP and Commissioner of the VT Dept. of Public Service, said that the state would be “actively opposing” Entergy’s request to the NRC for an exemption.
  • Two Massachusetts towns have taken action on the EPZ. Town officials in Gill and Greenfield are opposing the exemption request. Organize some friends, draft some language, and ask your town officials to sign a similar letter or pass a resolution. The letter submitted by Gill and contact info for Greenfield are in our “Towns take action of the EPZ post here.
  • The state’s Health Department, Agency of Natural Resources, and Public Service Department all submitted strong and thorough comments on Entergy’s Post Shut Down Decommissioning Activities Report (PSDAR). Our fears that the state would not have the time or resources to do so were put to rest. You can download the documents here. 
  • It is clear from the written comments, and intensity of the comments made at the meeting, that the state has woken up to how dangerous it will be as spent fuel is moved from the spent fuel pool into dry cask storage.
  • We were particularly surprised, based on decades of past experience, by the vigor with which Bill Irwin, state radiological health officer, criticized Entergy and the PSDAR. In detail, he noted the lack of radiological monitoring, need for an inventory of materials, and lack of attention to key issues such as fire risk while moving the spent fuel. He questioned what kind of oversight the state will have.
  • Both the state and Windham Regional Commission (WRC) are following changes by the owners of the Texas/VT low level waste facility, and propose that the Compact’s next meeting be held in Windham County, near Vermont Yankee.
  • Windham Regional Commission is  actively collaborating with its counterparts in NH and MA, and they were in attendance at the meeting. The WRC’s involvement over the years has been excellent and we hope MA and NH jump in with equal strength.

Now the bad news.

  • The NRC has set January 28 as the date of the public hearing in Vermont on the PSDAR. The clock starts ticking today on the 90 day public comment period, when Entergy submits the PSDAR to the NRC. Considering the complexity of the subject and volume of information, 90 days is little time, and January 28 is only 6 weeks away.
  • Entergy’s Mike Twomey said “thank you for your comments on the PSDAR” and made sure the Panel and State understood they were in no way obligated to use any of them and were simply acknowledging them out of respect. Out of about 500 comments, it made 42 changes to the PSDAR.
  • After four meetings, NDCAP is still disorganized and has no resources. It needs independent, third party experts to educate the members. It needs an administrative assistant to support communications and logistics; it is a misuse of the state nuclear engineer’s time and paygrade to be doing so. While the state committed to full participate in the NRC review process, without resources we question its effectiveness.
  • Vernon’s elementary school is 1500 feet from the reactor, and Hinsdale’s school is just across the river. The state gets how dangerous this is and some NDCAP members appeared horrified by potential consequences.
    • Steve Skibowski, retired Yankee worker and Town of Vernon rep on NDCAP, said Yankee workers have children in the schools and would not do anything to put them at risk. Vernon has an active emergency response group. and Entergy has been very helpful.
    • Deb Katz of CAN strongly urged action, and recommends that the children go to other schools while the spent fuel moves from the pool into storage.
    • Howard Schaeffer preached the industry gospel about how safe radiation really is, and that the real probelm is fear mongering.
  • Fairewinds’ Arnie Gundersen submitted comments, and is preparing a full report for the NRC public comment period.
    • There is no reason to wait more than 5-7 years to decommission – there is very little financial gain, the risk of underground contamination increases each day, and the radiation exposure risk to workers will be low enough by then.
    • Entergy did a bulk buy of cheap dry casks that probably can’t handle the high burn up fuel it started using with the uprate; the dry cask storage pad must be placed further from the river, or mud from a flood could plug up air cooling holes.
    • There is no reason to wait to clean up buildings and grounds that have previously been identified as contaminated, like the AOG building.
    • The evacuation plan needs to stay in place until all the fuel is moved out of the pool, even if we have to pay for it out of the trust fund.
  • Trust is still a huge issue.
    • Bill Irwin quoted an NRC official who said, about radiation, “it’s not about dose, It’s about trust.” One bad day at Vermont Yankee and regardless of dose, the economies of Vermont, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts could be ruined.
    • Senator Mark McDonald reminded us of the many times since buying the reactor that Entergy lied and mislead VSNAP (predecessor to NDCAP). He sees nothing different in Entergy’s pattern now. “Entergy has a record of not telling the truth, and they make money every time they lie.”

The next meeting is scheduled for Thursday, January 22 (one week before the NRC Public Hearing on the PSDAR).

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