2015: Year One of Shut Down

Happy Anniversary! And Congratulations! It has been one year since Vermont Yankee stopped producing highly radioactive waste.

It has been a busy year since VY shut down on December 29, 2014, although the “action” has been in meeting rooms rather than marching to the gate. For a bullet list of Yankee-related news, visit our VT Yankee Timeline for 2015 . Review our news posts for the year for opinion. Here are a few highlights:

The best news is the simplest:

The ice returned to the Connecticut River last winter.

The shad returned this spring in record numbers.

2015 has not been kind to the nation’s 2nd largest nuclear corporation. Entergy is closing two more reactors, Pilgrim in Plymouth, MA and Fitzpatrick in NY. Entergy’s profits were down 30% at the end of the 3rd quarter this year; their two Arkansas nukes plus Pilgrim sit dead last on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s safety list; and the NRC discovered that Entergy workers had faked 10 years of fire safety records at its Waterford nuke near New Orleans.

In Vermont, Entergy is under constant pressure from the State and from you and me, and we are starting to see some results. Entergy will begin moving the radioactive fuel out of the fuel pool two years earlier than it had planned. It will not use the decommissioning trust fund to move and manage the fuel. It will use a line of credit in anticipation of being reimbursed by the US Dept. of Energy.

The Nuclear Decommissioning Citizen Advisory Panel (NDCAP) got a new chair and co-chair, both citizens, and the neophytes on the panel got educated. The panel has come a long way; a few Entergy stunts woke folks up. NDCAP is now actively advising the State and is working with its counterparts in other states and with the US Congressional delegations from the region to influence the NRC.

There is even good news if you look at the big picture. Despite heavy lobbying by some big names, nuclear power does not appear in the agreement which came out of COP21 in Paris.

On the other hand … there is the NRC.  In an August story on overheating the Cape Cod Bay caused by Pilgrim, the NRC admitted that it had not studied the effect of climate change on nuclear facilities. Since nuclear power (ab)uses more water than any other energy production except hydro, you would think this is something the NRC might want to take a look into.

But denial is the NRC’s best friend.  It cancelled studies of cancer around 7 nuclear reactors in the US, claiming the public health data would not be worth the price of $8 million. Sound like a lot to you? Compare it the NRC’s nuclear reactor research & development budget. Last week, Congress approved “$986 million in fiscal 2016, an increase of $80 million, or 9 percent, over the requested budget.”

What will 2016 bring?

Citizens across the US and the world will continue to fight for their voices to be heard in the face of extreme energy projects built (and later abandoned) by corporations which put profits first.

The town of Vernon is desperate for tax money now that Yankee has shut down. This March, the town will vote on whether to host a new gas plant. It would hook up to the Kinder Morgan pipeline and compressor station proposed for neighboring Northfield, MA.

VT’s Public Service Board will act on Entergy’s application for a new dry cask storage pad. The fight is on: Entergy wants the PSB to ignore any testimony by the New England Coalition’s Ray Shadis, a twenty–year veteran of Yankee cases before the PSB. Windham Regional Commission thinks the pad is in the wrong place, and a lot of us agree with them that the DOE can’t be trusted to take away the waste in a timely manner.

The NRC is drafting new rules for decommissioning nuclear power plants. Bowing to pressure from all sides, it has extended the public comment period to March 18, 2016. [More on our website with a link to the NRC comment page.]

A Final 2015 Memory

One of the most difficult, but certainly memorable events of 2015 for me was when the NRC came to Brattleboro in February to get feedback from the public on Entergy’s decommissioning plan.

Bert Picard to the NRC: “So what are you? You are a government of occupation, right?”

Betsy Williams’ indignation: “When you tell me the casks will be adequate, that does not give me great assurance. I’m looking for a hell of a lot more than adequate.”

Kevin Kamps’ comments to the NRC are a fitting close to 2015.

“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.”

Peace, and No Nukes,

Leslie Sullivan Sachs

For the Safe & Green Campaign

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