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Decommissioning Costs

Decommissioning costs - the funds needed when a reactor is shut down and the site needs to be dismantled, removed and cleaned up - are sky-rocketing. Worse, many utilities have invested these funds in the now troubled stockmarket, meaning decommissioning funds may not be available when needed.

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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.

Friday
Dec202013

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.)

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.

Tuesday
Dec172013

Expert to NRC: Hidden costs of reactor waste storage & disposal make nuclear power less attractive than wind, solar, efficiency

Mark Cooper of Vermont Law SchoolOn Thurs., Dec. 19th at 11 AM Eastern, Diane Curran and Mark Cooper (photo, left), attorney and expert witness, respectively, representing a coalition of dozens of environmental groups, including Beyond Nuclear, will hold a press conference entitled: EXPERT TO TELL NRC THAT HIDDEN COSTS OF REACTOR WASTE STORAGE & DISPOSAL MAKES NUCLEAR POWER LESS ATTRACTIVE THAN WIND, SOLAR, AND MORE ENERGY EFFICIENCY; Do High Costs of Nuclear Now Make Licensing and Re-Licensing Indefensible in Terms of the Economics?; Comments to NRC From Economist Mark Cooper State Federal Agency Must Consider Full Cost of Nuclear Waste Storage and Disposal.  Cooper serves at the Vermont Law School. Curran serves at Harmon Curran Speilberg + Eisenberg LLP in Washington, D.C. See the Hastings Group's press advisory, with instructions on how to listen-in to the press conference, either live in real time, or to the audio recording afterwards.

Saturday
Nov232013

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 Yankeewith 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: (802) 476-3154

More.

Thursday
Aug292013

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."