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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