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.



Environmental coalition meets NRC's "Nuclear Waste Confidence" DGEIS public comment deadline

Environmental coalition attorney Diane Curran

(Mark Cooper of Vermont Law School, expert witness on behalf of this environmental coalition, has estimated that storage and disposal of irradiated nuclear fuel could add $210 to $350 billion onto the costs of nuclear-generated electricity in the U.S. In addition, the once-per-century replacement of dry cask storage across the U.S., assumed by NRC in its "Nuclear Waste Confidence" DGEIS, would add another $100 billion per replacement, Cooper estimates. Cooper asserts that NRC cannot ignore such "staggering" costs in its EIS on the costs and risks of generating irradiated nuclear fuel in the first place -- that is, approving new reactor construction and operating licenses, and old reactor license extensions.

Of course, such costs, risks, and liabilities associated with the "indefinite storage" of irradiated nuclear fuel at reactor sites would greatly complicate, and long delay -- perhaps forever -- the ultimate completion of decommissioning at nuclear power plants. In fact, a number of atomic reactors that have "completed" decommissioning -- such as Big Rock Point in MI, Maine Yankee, Yankee Rowe in MA, and Fort Saint Vrain in CO, just to name a few -- still store their high-level radioactive wastes on-site, in dry cask storage, with no end in sight. Another lingering issue is the remaining radioactive contamination of soil, groundwater, flora, fauna, etc., despite NRC releasing such sites for "un-restricted re-use.")

An environmental coalition of nearly three dozen groups, including Beyond Nuclear, has submitted comments on the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission's (NRC) "Nuclear Waste Confidence" Draft Generic Environmental Impact Statement (DGEIS). The coalition is represented by a team of attorneys, including Diane Curran (photo, left) of Harmon, Curran, Spielberg, and Eisenberg, LLP, Washington, D.C.; Mindy Goldstein, Director, and Jillian Kysor, Fellow, Turner Environmental Law Clinic, Emory University, Atlanta, GA; and Phillip Musegaas, Hudson River Program Director, and Deborah Brancato, Staff Attorney, Riverkeeper, Ossining, NY.

The coalition is also represented by a team of expert witnesses, including Dr. Arjun Makhijani, President, Institute for Energy and Environmental Research, Takoma Park, MD; David Lochbaum, Director, Nuclear Safety Project, Union of Concerned Scientists, Chattanooga, TN; Dr. Gordon Thompson, Executive Director, Institute for Resource and Security Studies, Cambridge, MA; and Dr. Mark Cooper, Senior Research Fellow for Economic Analysis, Institute for Energy and the Environment, Vermont Law School, South Royalton, VT.

The environmental coalition's comments, as well as its expert witnesses' declarations, have been posted on the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE) website, as well as at the bottom of a press release featuring the work of Dr. Cooper on the economic costs of irradiated nuclear fuel management. The coalition's comment and expert witness declarations are also posted at the NIRS website.

Curran, on behalf of three environmental groups (Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League, Riverkeeper, and SACE), in alliance with Natural Resource Defense Council, as well as four state attorneys general (CT, NJ, NY, and VT) won a landmark legal victory on June 8, 2012. The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that NRC had to carry out an environmental impact statement on its "Nuclear Waste Confidence" policy and rule, including the on-site storage risks of irradiated nuclear fuel in pools and dry casks. The Dec. 20th public comment deadline on the DGEIS is a part of that court-ordered process.


Experimental Saxton atomic reactor site released for unrestricted re-use by NRC in 2005

Saxton Nuclear Experiment StationAs reported in this 1998 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article, the former site of the Saxton Nuclear Experimental Corporation's 7 Megawatt-electric, experimental atomic reactor has been declared re-usable, for un-restricted re-use by the NRC. 7 MW-e is only enough electricity for 100 homes.

The reactor pressure vessel was shipped by heavy haul truck, then rail, to South Carolina for burial in a ditch at the Barnwell "low-level" radioactive waste dump. Numerous other reactor pressure vessels -- including from Big Rock Point, MI; Yankee-Rowe, MA; and CT Yankee -- were buried at Barnwell before the dump's closure to 36 of 39 states which previously had dumped there. In recent years, only SC, NJ, and CT are allowed to dump radioactive wastes at Barnwell.

(In 2003, protestors -- including Kevin Kamps, now with Beyond Nuclear, along with Mike Ferner of Veterans for Peace -- were arrested for committing a non-violent civil resistance action against the Big Rock Point RPV shipment bound for Barnwell.

Years earlier, Citizens Awareness Network of the Northeast conducted a "Caravan of Conscience" tour from Yankee-Rowe, MA to Barnwell, SC, to educate transport corridor communities about the risks, as well as to apologize to the dump's "hosts" -- surrounding residents, disproportionately African American, an environmental injustice. Yankee Atomic "public relations" officials shadowed the "Caravan of Conscience," conducting satellite phone interviews with the media to rebut and counter CAN's work.)

Local residents, whose own children died due to leukemia, found a very high leukemia rate in the area's small population. The nuclear utilities, and even state government officials, scoffed at the findings.

Wikipedia has some additional information about the Saxton atomic reactor, including that NRC released the former SNEC site for unrestricted reuse, although questions remain about radioactive contamination, as from radioactive releases and leaks that went unreported for many years.


Nov. 25th Forum on the Decommissioning of Vermont Yankee in Montpelier

A message from Debra Stoleroff of Vermont Yankee Decommissioning Alliance (VYDA):

After more than 40 years, our efforts have paid off and the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant is closing in 2014 and will be decommissioned. There are many ways to decommission a nuclear power plant; some more safe than others.

So, what does deliberate, thorough and responsible decommissioning mean?  What does it look like? And how can Vermont (and we) advocate for deliberate, thorough and responsible decommissioning with a greenfield when Vermont does not have a legal say in the process?

Deb Katz of the Citizens' Awareness Network (CAN) and Chris Williams of VCAN and VYDA will address what will happen to Vermont Yankee when it closes in 2014.  They will discuss transition, clean-up, long term waste storage and what role citizens can play In the process.

Join VYDA for a forum on The Decommissioning of Vermont Yankee with Deb Katz, Executive Director of Citizens' Awareness Network  and Chris Williams, Director of VT Citizen's Action Network and member of VYDA

Monday, November 25,6:30 pm, at the Unitarian Church, 130 Main St., Montpelier
Sponsored by the Vermont Yankee Decommissioning Alliance

For more information call: 476-3154


Making VT Yankee Accountable

WHEN:  Monday, November 25, 6:30 pm

WHAT:  Forum with panel discussion and Q&A to address what will happen when Vermont Yankee shutters in 2014. A two-person panel will talk about transition, cleanup, long-term waste storage and what role citizens can play in the process.

WHERE:  Unitarian Universalist Church, 130 Main St., Montpelier, VT

WHO: Deb Katz, Executive Director of the Citizens Awareness Network; Chris Williams, Organizer for Vermont Citizens Action Network


Citizens must remain engaged and demand continued legislative action to support a successful transition to sustainable energy and stricter decommissioning and operational standards going forward. How Entergy will address the issues of transition, closure, and decommissioning is more significant than ever. Recently questions have been raised about how the local community will be affected as well as the state and even the region. 

Can citizens play a role in assuring that 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 Vermont Yankee Decommissioning Alliance and The Citizens Awareness Network are sponsoring a forum to discuss the issues surrounding the decommissioning, clean up, and accountability of Vermont Yankee.  CAN 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 Chris Williams of Vermont Citizens Action Network. “We will have one, and only one, opportunity to get it right."

For more information about this event contact: Debra Stoleroff , 802.476.3154

For more information contact Deb Katz 413.339.5781. Panelists will be available for interviews before the event.

Citizens Awareness Network, instrumental in the closures of Yankee Rowe, Ct Yankee and Millstone Unit 1 reactors, & intervened in the NRC Atomic Safety and Licensing Board hearings on Yankee Rowe and Ct Yankee reactors. CAN won a lawsuit against the NRC in the first circuit Appellate Court over the illegal decommissioning of the Yankee Rowe reactor, the violation of citizen hearing rights and EPA regulations; Represented nuclear worker's health and safety interests before an NRC Atomic Safety and Licensing Board; Participated in an NRC workshop - Site Specific Advisory Boards for Decommissioning, presented a model for public participation; Organized a “Peoples’ Hearing” on Decommissioning Presenters included  representatives from Union of Concerned Scientists, Nuclear Information and Resource Service, and Radioactive Waste Management Assoc; Organized Caravan of Conscience Tours to accompany waste shipments from Yankee Rowe And Ct Yankee to Barnwell, SC to high light issues of environmental racism and to alert transport communities about the shipments.  CAN commissioned a seminal paper by Dr. Gordon Thompson on the vulnerability of reactor fuel pools to terrorism in a post 9/11 world that focused on Vermont Yankee and Indian Point.

See the poster for the event here.


Will the Vermont Yankee decommissioning cost $1.2 billion and take 60 years?!

The tritium leak at Vermont Yankee -- first admitted in 2010, and containing other radioactive poisons as well -- will undoubtedly add significantly to the decommissioning costs for radiological de-contaminationAs reported by the Rutland Herald, Entergy Nuclear and the State of Vermont are already butting heads over the timetable and thoroughness of the decommissioning -- dismantlement and clean-up -- of the Vermont Yankee atomic reactor when it permanently shuts down in October, 2014.

As the article reports:

"The announcement that Entergy would be closing the plant has spawned a whole new set of questions for lawmakers, including when Vermont Yankee will be decommissioned, whether Entergy has sufficient money to pay for the process, and the degree to which the site will be restored to its pre-plant condition.

Comments out of both camps Tuesday suggest that Entergy and Vermont politicians may already be on a collision course when it comes to those issues."

Vermont political leaders, from the Governor to the Speaker of the State House, as well as the state's united U.S. congressional delegation, have called for the site to be restored to "greenfield" status as soon as possible. In that regard, they are echoing calls made for many years by grassroots environmental groups like Vermont Yankee Decommissioning Alliance (VYDA).

However, Entergy is indicating its preference is to mothball the plant for as long as 60 years, under a U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) approved method dubbed "Safstore."

Less than half of the estimated $1.2 billion decommissioning price tag is currently present in the reactor's decommissioning fund, however.

As reported by the Bennington Banner:

'...In 2011 Senators Patrick Leahy and Bernie Sanders [as well as] Rep. Peter Welch wrote to the NRC expressing their concerns about the SAFSTOR approach as it might be applied to Vermont Yankee.

Their letter said, in part:

"SAFSTOR would let Entergy off the hook for clean-up, waste disposal, and remediation of the plant site in Vernon for years, or even decades."

On Tuesday, Leahy noted that moving quickly to full decommissioning and cleanup would have the added advantage of using the plant’s current highly skilled and experienced workforce, rather than trying to train a new generation of workers with the plant and its older technology decades from now.

Sanders agreed with Leahy.

"Entergy must go through a decommissioning process as soon as possible, a process which will require many workers," he said.

"Clearly there are no people who know the Vermont Yankee plant better than those who are currently employed and they should be given top priority for those new jobs."

Leahy is also concerned about who will eventually foot the bill.

"The full cost of this decommissioning needs to be paid by the plant owner and must not become a burden for Vermont or for the federal government."...'

In other words, those Vermont Yankee workers who have made, on average, $90,000-$100,000 annual salaries, as well as who have made the radiological mess at the Vermont Yankee site, should be the ones responsible for cleaning it up, as well!

As Beyond Nuclear's Kevin Kamps said in a Common Dreams interview:

"It is going to be necessary to have accountability going forward," Kevin Kamps of Beyond Nuclear told Common Dreams. "The regulations surrounding decommissioning in this country are woefully inadequate, and we are facing leaks of radioactive poisons into groundwater systems. Entergy has not put a single penny into [the Vermont Yankee decommissioning fund]. The fight is on to make sure the cleanup is comprehensive."


San Onofre decommissioning fund $300 million short -- utility seeks to further gouge ratepayers over shortfall

Image by J. DeStefano, 2012As reported by Bloomberg in a June 7 article entitled "Edison Faces Regulatory Battle Over San Onofre Shutdown Cost," regarding decommissioning costs:

'...The cost to customers may not be settled until late next year, Edison said. The company has already asked for a $16 million a year increase to cover the cost of decommissioning the reactors, Scilacci said on today’s call. The decommissioning fund is about $300 million short of what’s needed, he said.

Both reactors at the San Onofre plant, about 45 miles (72 kilometers) southeast of Long Beach, were shut in January 2012 after a radioactive leak and the discovery of unusual wear on tubes that transfer reactor heat to power-generating turbines.

Edison may recover some investment costs from Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. (7011), maker of the failed plumbing, and from its nuclear insurer, Craver told reporters. The company has asked Mitsubishi for $139 million and $234 million from the insurer, according to a filing...'