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Decommissioning

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.

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Wednesday
Feb112015

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   

BACKGROUND:

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?

The 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.

[See the Safe & Green Campaign's Decommissioning Resources]

Wednesday
Feb112015

Entergy threatens to simply walk away from VY decommissioning after 60 years!

An aerial view of the known extent of the tritium contamination in soil and groundwater at the VY site, on the banks of the Connecticut River in southeastern Vermont.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.

Wednesday
Feb112015

Carcinogenic Sr-90 detected in VY monitoring wells

This map shows the location of Vermont Yankee groundwater sampling wells.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...'.

Sunday
Jan252015

Battle lines drawn over Vermont Yankee decommissioning: "A Herculean task ahead"

In an email action alert with the subject line "A Herculean Task Ahead," Leslie Sullivan Sachs of the Safe and Green Campaign in Brattleboro, Vermont has written today:

"Dear Friends of the Safe & Green Campaign,     

Listen to Kevin Kamps of Beyond Nuclear:

"I can point out to people that shutting down Vermont Yankee was a miracle, right? We weren’t, as the people, supposed to have that power. And people did it anyway. They insisted on it and they saw it through and made it happen. And so the same kind of courage and vision will have to be applied now to the decommissioning process. People have to stay in there, attend all the meetings, read all the documents. It’s a Herculean task and if anybody can do it, it’s the folks who have already forced the shutdown of Vermont Yankee." [Nuclear Free Future Yankee Post-Mortem 01.06.15]

It’s time – again - to show up and create a miracle. We need your courage and vision for the next month, while the focus is on Entergy’s decommissioning plan for Vermont Yankee. There are a lot of inspiring stories in this newsletter, most created by our own folks. First, mark your calendar with these events:

  •       Jan. 28  NDCAP Meeting
  •       Feb. 5   NRC Webinar on Yankee Decommissioning
  •       Feb. 9   Forum to prep for NRC Public Hearing (Safe & Green and CAN)
  •       Feb. 19 NRC Public Hearing on decommissioning plan

All the above, as well as events planned for March and April, are on the agenda of the Safe and Green Campaign steering committee’s next meeting on February 2nd. We meet once or twice a month on Mondays at 5:30pm, and it’s always a pot luck supper. Email safeandgreencampaign@gmail.com if you’re interested in more info.

NDCAP January 28: Vermont's Nuclear Decommissioning Citizens Advisory Panel will meet next Wednesday, January 28 at the Quality Inn (Putney Road, Brattleboro) from 6-9pm. (This is a change from the Jan. 22 date set at the December meeting). All NDCAP meetings are open to the public, and there is time after each Agenda item for public comment. We will post an agenda on our website once it is available.

NRC webinar on VT Yankee on February 5 at 3:00pm “to provide key facts about the decommissioning process and how the NRC regulates such activities through on-site inspections and other reviews… view slides prepared by NRC staff and ask questions in writing via a web page set up to host the session. Online registration is required to take part.” Click here to register.

Arnie Gundersen and Deb Katz will speak at a Forum on Entergy’s decommissioning plan on February 9th, from 6-9pm at Marlboro Graduate Center, downtown Brattleboro. The Safe and Green Campaign and the Citizens Awareness Network will co-host. The presentations, with time for Q&A, will help you prepare remarks for the one and only NRC hearing, and to write your comments to the NRC (March 23 deadline). Forums before the NRC public hearing are also planned for Montpelier and Greenfield. Please visit to our Decommissioning Resources page for issues we have identified to date and for info how to comment.

NRC public hearing on decommissioning Vermont Yankee - February 19, 6-9pm at the Quality Inn in Brattleboro).  Details on the hearing and how to submit written comments are on our website here..."

Friday
Jan092015

Beyond Nuclear on "Vermont Yankee: Post-Mortem," on Ch. 17/Town Meeting T.V. in Burlinton, VT

On Jan. 9th, Beyond Nuclear's Kevin Kamps joined Fairewinds Energy Education's Chief Engineer, Arnie Gundersen, on the program "Nuclear Free Future" hosted by Margaret Harrington Tamulonis on Channel 17/Town Hall Meeting Television in Burlington, Vermont. The program was shown repeatedly throughout the month across Vermont.

The title for the installment is "Vermont Yankee: Post-Mortem," referring to the permanent shutdown of Entergy Nuclear's controversial Vermont Yankee atomic reactor at 12:12pm on Dec. 29, 2014.

Fairewinds Energy Education has posted the full video, as well as the audio-only, and the full transcript.

Channel 17/Town Hall TV has also posted the program.

The Vermont Yankee shutdown means the plant carcass must be safely decommissioned as quickly as possible. With full spent fuel pools, we hope Vermont Yankee rests in peace, not in pieces like Fukushima Daiichi. In this video, CCTV Nuclear Free Future Host Margaret Harrington discusses the economic, environmental, health and safety implications that the recent closing of Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant will have on New England with Beyond Nuclear’s Kevin Kamps and  Arnie Gundersen, chief engineer of Fairewinds Energy Education. - See more at: http://www.fairewinds.org/vermont-yankee-shutdown/#sthash.mHAU2bNH.dpuf

The discussion is wide ranging, with a focus on the upcoming challenges of decommissioning at Vermont Yankee, including clean-up of the radioactively contaminated site, as well as management of the forever deadly high-level radioactive waste stored there.