In an article entitled "Vermont Yankee to cut about 30 jobs: Critics argue loss of work force could pose operation hazards," the Burlington Free Press reports that nationwide, Entergy will slash 800 jobs across its fleet of a "dirty dozen" atomic reactors (see map, left).
Vermont Yankee (VY) is an identical design to Fukushima Daiichi Units 1 to 4, namely, General Electric (GE) Mark I boiling water reactors (BWRs).
Of those 12 reactors in Entergy's fleet, 7 already have received U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) rubberstamps for risky 20-year license extensions: Arkansas Nuclear One, Units 1 & 2; Palisades, MI; FitzPatrick, NY; Cooper, NE; Vermont Yankee; and Pilgrim, MA.
In addition to VY, Entergy's FitzPatrick, Cooper, and Pilgrim reactors are also GE BWR Mark Is.
The rest of Entergy's fleet either has applied for license extensions, or plans to do so. Indian Point Units 2 & 3 in NY, as well as its Grand Gulf reactor in MS, have already applied for 20-year license extensions. Waterford and River Bend, in Entergy's home state of Louisiana, plan to apply for 20-year license extensions in 2015 and 2016, respectively.
In addition, NRC has also rubberstamped risky power uprates at the following Entergy reactors: FitzPatrick (a Mark I); River Bend (twice, for a total 6.7% uprate); Waterford (twice, for a total 9.5% uprate); Arkansas Nuclear One, Unit 2 (7.5% uprate); Grand Gulf (twice, for a total 14.8% uprate); Indian Point 3; Pilgrim (a Mark I); Indian Point 2 (twice, for a total uprate of 4.66%); Palisades; Vermont Yankee (a Mark I, with whopping 20% uprate, all in one fell swoop); and Cooper (a Mark I).
The article quotes Arnie Gundersen, Chief Engineer at Fairewinds Associates, as to the safety risks associated with such workforce reductions:
' “Thirty is a big deal,” said Vermont Yankee critic Arnie Gundersen, a former nuclear engineer who lives in Burlington. “It’s like a car. As a car gets older it needs more repair, not less and here they are cutting mechanics.”
Gundersen, who served on a 2008 state oversight panel that looked at Vermont Yankee’s operations, said he thought that cutting 30 jobs would have to affect the safe operation of the plant. He noted that the panel concluded that Vermont Yankee was understaffed at that time after increasing output by 20 percent without adding staff.'
FoxBusiness has reported that Entergy Nuclear CEO, Leo Denault, has admitted to investors that "all options are on the table" regarding its non-utility, "merchant" reactors, such as Palisades in MI and its fleet in the Northeast (including Mark Is at Vermont Yankee, Pilgrim, and FitzPatrick), in deregulated, competitive electricity marketplaces. Last February, Denault admitted in a Reuters interview that needed safety repairs were a major financial challenge for Entergy's age-degraded reactor fleet.
Vermont Public Radio also reported on this story, quoting Arnie Gundersen (photo, left), Chief Engineer of Fairewinds Associates, Inc., who disagreed with Entergy's conclusion that the workforce reductions would have no impact on the safety risks of operations:
Vermont Yankee is a GE BWR Mark I, identical in design and vintage to Fukushima Daiichi.
The Kalamazoo Gazette has reported that about 30 job losses will occur at Palisades in Michigan as well, about 4% of the workforce there. Further reductions than even that are expected in the operations and engineering departments. Gundersen has previously expressed concern about safety risks at Palisades, as well, as in this Fairewinds Energy Education podcast interview with Beyond Nuclear's Kevin Kamps.