Although it is imperative that we shut down nuclear plants, they remain dangerous, and expensive even when closed. Radioactive inventories remain present on the site and decommissioning costs have been skyrocketing, presenting the real danger that utilities will not be able to afford to properly shut down and clean up non-operating reactor sites.
Dear Friends of the Safe & Green Campaign,
“The NRC & You” Video of presentations made by Arnie Gundersen and Chris Williams at the “NRC & You” forum held in Montpelier on Feb. 11. Following the video, Leslie Sullivan Sachs of Safe & Green will facilitate a discussion on the issues raised in the video, and those issues you bring to the discussion, to prepare for the NRC Public Meeting two days later.
WHEN: Tuesday, February 17, 6-:00pm-8:30pm
The news that strontium-90 has been discovered in the groundwater at Vermont Yankee, and that Entergy would rather engage in litigation than pay for any cost over-runs in decommissioning, make it even more important that citizens show up at the NRC's Public Meeting on February 19, prepared to have their voices heard.
NRC PUBLIC MEETING will be Thursday 2/19 at 6pm at the Quality Inn, Putney Road, Brattleboro, VT. Take Route 5 North coming from I91 Exit 3; go1/2 mile. Quality Inn is past the Panda North Restaurant, on the left.
Leslie Sullivan Sachs
The NRC & You How Can Citizens Hold Entergy Accountable for Cleaning Up VT Yankee? (Montpelier, VT, Feb. 11)
This just in from our friends and colleagues in Vermont:
WHEN: Wednesday, February 11th 6:00-8 PM
WHAT: Forum with Panel discussion and Q&A to address Entergy’s cleanup of Vermont Yankee. A two-person panel will talk about fuel transfer, clean-up, long-term waste storage and what role citizens can play in the process.
WHERE: Bethany Church, 115 Main Street, Montpelier, VT
WHO: Arnie Gunderson, Fairewinds Energy Education
Chris Williams, Vermont Yankee Decommissioning Alliance and Citizens Awareness Network
For more information contact:
Debra Stoleroff, Vermont Yankee Decommissioning Alliance, 802-476-3154
Chris Williams, Citizens Awareness Network, 802-767-9131
With the closure of Vermont Yankee, questions remain concerning safety and the responsible cleanup of the highly contaminated site. How Entergy will address VY’s closure, emergency planning, loss of institutional memory with the firing of 1/3 of the skilled workforce as well as dry cask storage and fuel transfer? How will cleanup affect the local community as well as the state and even the region? Decommissioning issues are more significant than ever. With NRC holding a public meeting to discuss the Post Shut Down Report that Entergy submitted to the agency on February 19 in Brattleboro, the Vermont Yankee Decommissioning Alliance and Citizens Awareness Network are sponsoring a forum to provide citizens with relevant information concerning cleanup.
Vermont Yankee's power has already been replaced. But questions remain. Can citizens play a role as Vermont Yankee is properly dismantled, cleaned-up and radioactive waste safely stored? With the slow motion Fukushima disaster highlighting the vulnerabilities of Mark 1 reactors, how will the state deal with the increased vulnerability of this aged reactor?
forum will discuss the issues surrounding the decommissioning, clean up and accountability of Vermont Yankee. Citizens Awareness Network has been intimately involved with closure and decommissioning of reactors in New England. “Nowhere is the colossal failure of nuclear power more evident than in decommissioning with its extensive contamination, ballooning costs, limited oversight, and lack of solutions for its contaminated wastes,” said Deb Katz executive director of the CAN. “Added to this is the inability to trust a systemically mismanaged corporation.”
The choice to hold the forums was based on a lack of relevant information on what decommissioning entails, what choices Entergy is making and what has been the industry standard on decommissioning until now. “The decommissioning of the Entergy Vermont Nuclear Power Plant will be one of the most significant undertakings in Vermont’s history,” said Debra Stoleroff. “The NRC public hearing on Entergy’s decommissioning plan on February 19 is a rare opportunity for citizens to make their voices heard.”
A panel discussion will be followed by an open Q&A discussion. Refreshments will be served.
Entergy Nuclear is infamous for its arrogance. Now, reports the Associated Press, the country's second biggest nuclear utility, with one less than a dirty dozen atomic reactors in its fleet (Vermont Yankee -- VY -- was forced into permanent shutdown on Dec. 29th under intense public pressure), is threatening the State of Vermont to simply walk away from the radioactively contaminated site after 60 years, if the decommissioning is not yet completed.
The threat was made by Entergy Vice President Michael Twomey, to State of Vermont legislative committees. Under the Orwellian policy "SAFSTOR," the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) allows nuclear utilities to simply sit on permanently shutdown reactors, without doing radiological clean up or facility dismantlement.
Entergy only has about $666 million in the VY decommissioning fund -- only about half what is projected to be needed. The agreement to not require Entergy to put a single penny into the decommissioning fund, from when it took over VY in 2002 till now, was approved by Gov. Howard Dean's (D-VT) administration, well over a decade ago.
Entergy's plan is to keep the $666 million invested in the stock market, so its value can grow to the needed $1.25 billion. What happens if the money is lost in another stock market crash, Entergy is not saying.
The dilemma is, if Entergy withdraws funds from the $666 million decommissioning kitty, that lessens the investment in the stock market, which it hopes will double the funds value.
The State of Vermont is urging Entergy to begin VY decommissioning within 15 years. But Entergy has given no date certain for when decommissioning will begin. It has only pledged to transfer high-level radioactive waste from the storage pool to dry cask storage by 2020.
But Entergy has also reneged on its pledges in the past, such as to honor the State of Vermont's decision on approving or disapproving VY's 20-year license extension. When, in Feb. 2010, Vermont State Senators voted 26 to 4 to block VY's license extension, Entergy reneged on its agreement, and instead sued Vermont in federal court! In fact, Entergy V.P. Twomey just threatened to sue the State of Vermont again, this time over decommissioning liabilities after the 60-year SAFSTOR cut off!
Despite its plan to continue to store high-level radioactive waste in the pool till 2020, Entergy is seeking to end its support for emergency preparedness in the 10-mile radius surrounding VY, as early as next year. The State of VT is pressing for Entergy to maintain emergency response capability, so long as irradiated nuclear fuel remains in the storage pool.
The $1.25 billion price tag on decommissioning is itself dubious. Just a few days ago, the State of Vermont announced that hazardous Strontium-90 -- a bone seeker -- has been discovered in VY monitoring wells. The extent of the tritium contamination revealed in 2009 and 2010 is likely not comprehensively known (see photo, above left). That, and the presence of such radioactive hazards as Sr-90 in the soil, groundwater, and Connecticut River sediment contamination, could easily mean the decommissioning price tag will significantly increase.
As reported by Olga Peters at The Commons Online, the Vermont Department of Health (VDH) has reported that carcinogenic Strontium-90 has been detected in groundwater sampling and monitoring wells near and around Entergy Nuclear's Vermont Yankee atomic reactor for the first time. Some of the samples contained levels of Sr-90 nearly halfway to U.S. EPA Safe Drinking Water Act limits.
Unfortunately, VDH has resorted to such phrases as "no immediate danger," however. This phrase, or very similar ones, has often been used by nuclear industry and even government officials, to downplay radioactive risks, even during and in the immediate aftermath of the Three Mile Island meltdown, and even the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear catastrophe. In response, Dr. Rosalie Bertell entitled her iconic, revelatory book No Immediate Danger?
As shown in this chart of radionuclides and the human organs they concentrate in, Sr-90 is a human bone-seeker, where it "has been linked to bone cancer, cancer of soft tissue near the bone, and leukemia," as the article reports.
Sr-90 has a half-life of around 30 years, and thus a hazardous persistence of 300 to 600 years.
Remarkably, the article reports, Sr-90 was detected in monitoring well water some five miles north of Vermont Yankee.
The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), unsurprisingly for a rogue agency captured by and colluding with the industry it is supposed to regulate, downplayed this alarming development:
'...The NRC suspects the test from these wells are false positives, said [NRC spokesman] Sheehan.
“There’s just no physical way Strontium-90 can migrate five miles north — upstream,” said Sheehan.
Same for the well south of the plant, he said: There is no evident physical pathway for the isotope to travel...'.
However, David Lochbaum, Director of UCS's Nuclear Safety Project, explained:
'...In regard to the two respective wells where the isotope was detected north and south of the plant, Lochbaum said those results might not be false positives. The Sr-90 might have come from fallout from above-ground testing of nuclear weapons in the 1960s, he said, or it could have also been released from VY into the atmosphere through the plant’s tall stack...'.