Archive for the ‘Vermont Yankee’ Category
Friday, March 11th, 2011
March 11, 2011
Five years after the initial application, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has voted to conclude the legal proceedings on Vermont Yankee’s application for a license renewal, which will allow the reactor to operate through 2032.
“This is the final step in the NRC’s detailed technical and legal process of examining whether it’s appropriate to issue a renewed license,” said NRC Chairman Gregory B. Jaczko in a press release. “Since there are other approval processes outside the NRC, we’ll continue to ensure Vermont Yankee is meeting the appropriate public health and safety standards regardless of the reactor’s ultimate status.” The current operating license, issued in 1972, is due to expire a year from now.
The processes “outside the NRC,” of course, are the state proceedings, in which the Vermont Legislature and newly elected Governor Peter Shumlin have vowed to close the reactor when its current license expired this year. Although NRC jurisdiction trumps state regulation, Vermont has a unique arrangement with Entergy that allows it to veto the license renewal. The deal was struck when Entergy bought Vermont Yankee in 2002.
The decision is sure to set off renewed efforts to have the state legislature vote to close down the facility. After tritium leaks were found in the reactor last year, the Vermont State Senate voted 26-4 to instruct the Vermont Public Services Board to close down the reactor but the measure was never approved in the State Assembly. Governor Shumlin, who led the effort in the Senate, was elected last year mainly on the basis of his campaign against the reactor.
Since then, however, many people are having second thoughts. The move would cost the state two-third of its electric power and would require the purchase of much more expensive sources, probably hydroelectric power from the James Bay, in northern Canada requiring new power lines. IBM, the state’s largest employer, has said it will close its giant chip manufacturing plant in Essex Junction if it is forced to pay higher costs for electricity. On Thursday, however, Shumlin said he will continue the effort to close the plant.
Vermont Yankee has suffered its own difficulties in recent years. In 2007 a cooling tower collapsed and 2009 produced the tritium leaks that kicked off the current controversy. Although it took several months to pinpoint the source of the leaks, they never reached the Environmental Protection Agency’s “level of concern” for tritium.
Plans to offer “green” alternatives have quickly run into roadblocks of scale and their own environmental impacts whenever they have materialized. Replacing only a small portion of Vermont Yankee’s 660 megawatts would require erecting windmills across large portions of the state. When a local entrepreneur proposed building a 30-MW wood-chip-burning plant in neighboring Massachusetts, environmental groups immediately overwhelmed it with objections. It would take 20 such plants to replace Vermont Yankee.
Residents of Vernon, where the plant is located, still remain almost unanimous in their support for relicensing the plant.
Read more about it the NRC
Thursday, February 10th, 2011
February 10, 2011
All eyes in Washington are fixed on the national debt ceiling and the brinkmanship involved when it has to be extended in the next two months. Will the government shut down or won’t it? But by next March the same attention may be focused Vermont Yankee and the brinkmanship over whether or not New England is going to end up without any electricity.
Senators James Inhofe of Oklahoma and David Vitter of Louisiana pointed to the coming showdown this week when the charged the Nuclear Regulatory Commission reviewing license renewals under a “dual standard,” granting them quickly where there is no political opposition but delaying them indefinitely where controversy has arisen. Although they did not mention any specific reactors, House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton last week specifically cited the Vermont Yankee and Pilgrim license renewals as having been delayed for five years.
"In cases where local opposition has been minimal or non-existent, the NRC has indeed kept to the average 22-month review schedules,” NRC spokesman Scott Burnell said in a response. “In the cases of Vermont Yankee, Pilgrim and Indian Point, local residents have exercised their ability to legally challenge the renewal applications. The NRC respects their right to do so."
Local residents are indeed campaigning to close down all three reactors, since anti-nuclear sentiment is strong in the Northeast and the area is populated by the kind of professional amateurs who have no idea where electricity comes from or how it is generated. The Vermont governor’s election last year was essentially decided on the issue of Vermont Yankee (the candidate who wants to close it won) and in New York the state attorney general’s office has been laboring long and hard to close down Indian Point. Naturally, the NRC is afraid of being accused that it is “in the pocket of the industry” by relicensing. But at some point somebody’s going to have to figure out how to generate some electricity as well.
The New England Independent Systems Operator, which does know how to generate electricity, has been issuing warnings that losing Vermont Yankee’s 600 megawatts will destabilize the entire New England grid. "Without Vermont Yankee in service, potential reliability issues could include thermal overloads on high-voltage transmission lines and voltage instability, either of which could damage equipment, compromise grid stability, or cause uncontrolled outages," said the ISO in a report last August. The loss would require "emergency generation brought into Vermont temporarily, more expensive generation from outside Vermont and demand side resources" and ultimately new transmission line construction.
Even then, the drama over Vermont Yankee next March will be only a preview to the bigger show as the deadline for Indian Point 2 and 3 approaches in 2014. The two Hudson River plants produce one-quarter of New York City’s electricity. That’s an awful lot of windmills to throw up in so short a time.
Read more about it at Platt’s
Friday, January 28th, 2011
January 28, 2011
The first indication that the 112th Congress will give a high priority to nuclear energy has come from the new Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton, who knocked the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in a statement for taking five years to decide on license renewals.
"Today marks an unfortunate milestone for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission as the timeline for the reactor renewal process has now doubled without explanation,” said the chairman. He noted that the renewal applications for the Pilgrim and Vermont Yankee reactors “eclips[ed] 60 months with no end in sight. “Gone are the days of reasonable expectations for a stable and predictable regulatory process," continued Upton. "This uncertainty and lack of transparency in the process is needlessly putting plants and thousands of jobs at risk.”
According to the NRC’s own website, “License renewal is expected to take about 30 months, including the time to conduct an adjudicatory hearing, if necessary, or 22 months without a hearing.”
Both Pilgrim and Vermont Yankee are hot-button issues and any decision will be met with huge opposition. A renewal is likely to end up quickly in court.
But the real question said one industry source is "if license renewals seem a problem, what about new licenses?”
"Upton is hitting the right buttons, however, Nuclear energy will never resurge in the U.S. until the NRC licensing process become more accountable and transparently predictable."
Read more about it at the Energy and Commerce website
Thursday, December 9th, 2010
December 9, 2010
From the Editorsâ€¨ â€¨
Exelon finally succumbed to pressures from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and announced it will close Oyster Creek, the nation’s oldest operating reactor, in 2019, ten years ahead of schedule.
â€¨The reactor is one of three older installations that has come under intense political pressure to close down in the past year from politicians who also claim to be highly concerned about global warming. Vermont Yankee and New York’s Indian Point, both owned by Entergy, are in similar crosshairs, much for the same reasons.â€¨
Exelon’s decision is hardly a win for hysterical anti-nukes, since the reactor will remain open another nine years. The time lag will give both Exelon and New Jersey officials plenty of time to reconsider. The 600-megawatt plant, originally licensed in 1969, supplies 8 percent of New Jersey’s electricity. The state has three other 1000-MW installations – Hope Creek and Salem I and II – and altogether gets 50 percent of its electricity from nuclear, the 10th highest ranking in the nation.â€¨
After operating efficiently for 36 years, Oyster Creek applied for a 20-year license extension in 2005. Opposition groups filed a petition arguing that corrosion in the plants drywall container posed a safety problem. The Atomic Safety Licensing Board dismissed the claim. Then in 2007, the state Department of Environmental Protection weighed in with an argument that the plant was not safe from airplane attacks. The ASLB also rejected this petition. Nevertheless, the relicensing went right down to the wire, with the renewal issued only a few days before the old one was about to expire. Opposition groups continued to file petitions long afterwards but to no avail. In 2008, Oyster Creek experienced small tritium leaks of the kind suffered by Vermont Yankee. The ASLB said they did not pose a public hazard and the leaks were quickly fixed.â€¨
â€¨While Oyster Creek passed all the federal tests, however, it finally ran aground last year when the ever-diligent New Jersey DEP came back with an announcement that it would require the plant to build cooling towers in order to avoid raising temperature in Barnegat Bay. DEP said that the warm water from the once-through cooling cycle was adversely affecting fish life. Exelon disputed the claim and said that spending billions to build the towers it would not be economically feasible. If the state persisted, it would close down the plant. Yesterday’s decision appeared to fulfill that promise.â€¨
â€¨Although the announcement may bring hosannas from the anti-nuclear crowd, there is probably less than meets the eye. The plant will remain open another nine years, long enough to reap a few billion in profits while fending off the state’s environmental demands. Many nuclear engineers may breathe a quiet sigh of relief, since there are inherent risks in running a 50-year-old plant.
â€¨Most of all, the loss of 8 percent of its electricity will give New Jersey officials the chance to deliver on their promise to replace Oyster Creek with thousands of 40-story windmills planted along the 125-mile New Jersey coastline. When the state drew up a long-term energy plan in 2006, nuclear expansion was given a big role. Environmental groups quickly beat up on Governor John Corzine, however, and by the time the plan was finalized in 2008 wind had replaced nuclear. New Republican Governor Chris Christie may have different plans but minus 600 MW of electricity the state will have to come up with something. Maybe a new nuclear reactor?
Tuesday, October 26th, 2010
Vermont Public Radio, ever with its ear to the ground over Vermont Yankee, has picked up another report that Entergy is trying to sell the plant that the state legislature is trying to close down because of tritium leaks.
“The latest report comes this week from a British business news web site, SGAM. It says Entergy retained the Morgan Stanley financial services firm to help shop Yankee around,” said NPR’s John Dillon in a radio report Monday. “In August, the Energy Daily newsletter cited sources in the nuclear industry who said Entergy had put its Vermont plant up for sale.”
Industry sources suggest that the rumor is probably true. Entergy claims it doesn’t even make money on Vermont Yankee . But with construction costs long retired, it’s hard to see how Entergy isn’t making money selling 600 MW onto the New England grid, but that’s a bookkeeping puzzle.
In any case, Entergy isn’t issuing any denials. “As any company would, we continuously look at all our operations and evaluate them, looking for ways, potential ways, to create additional value,” Entergy spokesman Michael Burns told NPR.
The real mystery is how the New England grid is ever going to get along without Vermont Yankee. Electrical consumption hit an all-time high last summer and VY’s 600 MW was the equivalent of peak consumption for the whole state of Massachusetts.
Whoever buys Vermont Yankee better have a good public relations department to deal with the misinformation and innuendo from the region’s anti-nuclear legions. But any new owner will also have the whole region over a barrel when it comes to looking for electricity.
Hear more at Vermont Public Radio
Monday, October 4th, 2010
While Vermont officials play Russian roulette with the state’s electricity supply, officials and business leaders in nearby Connecticut have suddenly realized that they will be affected as well.
“The political and regulatory fight in Vermont over the continued operation of the 650-megawatt nuclear power plant in Vernon will have lasting impacts on New England’s electricity pricing and the reliability of the regional power grid,” writes the Hartford Business Journal in an analysis of what the move would mean to the rest of New England. ”As Connecticut is an importer of electricity, these out-of-state battles further cement the state’s notorious reputation for high electricity costs, which rank the second highest in the nation.”
“This system is not in the interest of Connecticut ratepayers,” State Sen. John Fonfara, D-Hartford told the Business Journal. Fonfara has been sponsoring legislation to try the change the New England grid’s pricing system to benefit his state.
To date the only other reaction to Vermont’s plans came from the New England Independent Systems Operator, which forbid Vermont Yankee from dropping out of an auction to supply power to the region in 2013-2014. The ISO said Vermont Yankee’s power was vital to the reliability of the grid. All of New England is on a single grid with prices set by supply and demand.
Removing Vermont Yankee’s 650 megawatts will have a large impact throughout the region. “Connecticut would have little control over the effects of the Vermont power drain,” writes Brad Kane, of the Business Journal. “The loss of Vermont Yankee would drop the grid beneath the reliability standards established by Congress in the wake of the August 2003 blackouts.”
Vermont Yankee’s 30-year license expires in 2012 and will have to be renewed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Because of an arrangement struck when Entergy bought Vermont Yankee in 2002, the Vermont State Legislature has veto power over the relicensing. Last February the state senate voted 26-to-4 to close the reactor due to tritium leaks – but who knows what it will do when the day of reckoning arrives?
Meanwhile, citizens of Brattleboro will have the opportunity to vote in a non-binding referendum on November 2 to condemn Entergy’s corporate offices in the city – although the company could probably move to another location. The reactor is located in the neighboring town of Vernon, where support for Vermont Yankee is the strongest in the state
Read more at Hartford Business
Friday, September 3rd, 2010
Some Vermonters may not like living with nuclear energy, but they’re sure going to have a tough time living without it.
According to a report released this week, the Vermont Independent Systems Operator refused to allow Entergy to withdraw from a 2013-2014 forward capacity auction last month because of uncertainty over the fate of Vermont Yankee.
The state legislature has already voted to veto renewal of Vermont Yankee’s operating license when it expires at the end of 2012. Although federal law usually prevails, the state entered a unique contract when Entergy bought the plant in 2002. Tritium leaks at the plant over the last year caused the legislature to take action.
As a result, Entergy tried to withdraw from the auction until it could resolve the uncertainties over the fate of Vermont Yankee. However, the ISO was having none of it. It insisted Vermont Yankee must stay in the mix. “With or without Vermont Yankee, the system in Vermont has reliability issues that must be addressed,” said Ellen Foley, an information officer for the ISO.
Since Vermont Yankee provides one-third of the state’s electricity – and makes it the nation’s lowest carbon-emitting state in the process – it’s good somebody is thinking about these things.
Read more at Brattleboro Reformer.
Thursday, July 15th, 2010
Special to Nuclear Townhall
It was called a “stakeholders meeting” but the only stakeholders present were the pony-tailed men in business suits, the cheerful young attorneys from the Naderite Public Interest Group and the legions of well-dressed, well-spoken women who can’t for the life of them imagine why anybody would ever want to invent nuclear power.
Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman Gregory Jaczko ventured into the vortex yesterday morning in Brattleboro, confronting more than a hundred passionate nuclear opponents (plus a dozen TV cameras) at the Ramada Inn on Route 5. If you’d taken a vote at 11 a.m., it would have been 125-0 in favor of closing Vermont Yankee that afternoon.
Jaczko took a lot of heat. The man who heads the commission that just shut down site clearance for two days at Plant Vogtle in Georgia because one of the contractors hadn’t turned in written statements from prospective employees about drug abuse was characterized as negligent, indifferent to public safety and in the pockets of giant, malignant corporations who are ‘only in it for the profit.”
The key moment occurred, however, when Jaczko made the casual and seemingly indisputable remark that “what the offshore oil industry is going through now the nuclear industry went through thirty years ago at Three Mile Island – except there was no off-site damage.”
To any objective observer, this was a simple reference to the “worst accident in American nuclear history” in which, fortunately, no one was hurt. To this crowd, however, it was red meat.
“What about the radiation monitors that blew out!” “What about all those cancer studies?” They are all steeped in the lore that Three Mile Island was in fact a health catastrophe that has been diligently covered up by the powers that be.
Nuclear community voices were already complaining yesterday that business interests were excluded from the Brattleboro session and that only one side was represented. But Jaczko’s method did seem to serve a purpose. It allowed the anti-nuclear side –- a sizable contingency in this community -– to vent its anger. Of course they still weren’t satisfied. The main theme at the end of the meeting was Jaczko’s refusal to allow the press to accompany him on his afternoon tour of the plant –- another alleged cover-up in the making.
And so the “Close Vermont Yankee Now” crowd had their day. The question that wasn’t asked, however -– and which the NRC, the state legislature and even the anti-nukes are eventually going to have to face –- is how in the world can the state possibly replace the 600 MW generated on the banks of the Connecticut River? “Close it now” advocates argue that “only 270 MW is consumed in Vermont” with the rest going onto the New England grid. But subtracting 330 MW from the grid would mean all of New England would be scrambling over those few fossil-burning plants that are supposed to make up the difference.
It goes without saying that Citizens Awareness Network, Vermont Public Interest Research Group, Nuclear Free Vermont by 2012, the Safe & Green Campaign, the Conservation Law Foundation, the Vermont Yankee Decommissioning Alliance and the New England Coalition have a simple answer –- “conservation and renewables.” Citizens Awareness even features a bevy of windmills surrounding the challenged reactor on its website.
Given that at this very moment public officials and environmentalists in the Great Lakes region around Niagara County, NY are passionately protesting the erection of 166 wind turbines on the Lake Ontario shoreline as part of the New York Power Authority’s effort to bring renewable energy to western part of the state, one has to ask how renewables of any scale can ever expect to fly in Vermont?
Monday, June 21st, 2010
As Vermont prepares to see what it’s like living without nuclear
power, the reports continue to come in that renewable substitutes are not prepared to shoulder the load.
Meredith Angwin’s excellent “Yes Vermont Yankee” blog features a guest column today by Guy Page, communications director of the Vermont Energy Partnership and author of a recent survey, “Renewable Energy Sources in Vermont: A Status Report, May 2010.”
Page reports that renewable sources now provide only 84 MW of the 600 MW the state requires on an ordinary day (1000 MW at times of peak demand). Vermont Yankee –which the legislature is currently trying to close – provides one-third of the Granite State’s current power while Quebec Hydro – which the legislature has now sanctified as “renewable” – provides another one-third. The remainder comes from conventional sources.
Moreover, 83 percent of current “renewables” comes from two plants in Burlington and Ryegate that are burning wood chips instead of coal. Wind and solar – the conventional “renewable resources” – provide almost nothing. If investors managed to complete four planned wind farms – an ugly blemish on the Green Mountains – and if a proposed feed-in tariff persuades people to decorate their rooftops with solar collectors – then renewables might produce another 95 MW at best. But that still leaves the state about 200 MW short of present production.
Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders likes to brag that Vermont is “leading the country down the road to a world run on wind and solar energy.” In fact, the Granite State may be travelling down the same trail that California blazoned toward the Great Electrical Shortage of 2000.
Read more at Yes Vermont Yankee
Monday, May 10th, 2010
As Vermont pushes closer to the edge of abandoning nuclear power, reasonable voices are starting to emerge taking account of the consequences.
Gary Silverstein, a personal and global health educator who taught at the University of Vermont for 22 years, has written just such a levelheaded piece for the Burlington Free Press. In a calm, rational manner, he points out what Vermont will be facing if it tries to close Vermont Yankee:
“Complete replacement of the one-third of Vermont’s electricity that comes from VY (about 2.5 billion kilowatt) every year would require about 833 solar farms, each occupying 30-40 acres of open space, one of Vermont’s most precious resources. The cost increase a year for complete replacement of VY’s power by solar farms would be about $600 million dollars.”
“The cost of energy (sold to utilities) associated with the solar farm would be about $900,000 a year. The cost of an equivalent amount of electricity supplied by VY at the new proposed 6.1-cent a kilowatt rate would be $183,000.”
The comments in response to this approach are favorable:
“More objectively written articles like this one should be written to benefit the correct choice of alternatives available.”
“Thank you for this article. Information like this is essential to making logical, not emotional, decisions about the future of renewable energy.”
Slow but sure wins the race.
Read more at the Burlington Free Press
- William Tucker