An Urgent Call For Help
from Raymond Shadis, New England Coalition

Vermont Yankee Mission Accomplished?

mission accomplished

Who can forget President GW Bush touting the end of combat operations in Iraq from the deck of a Navy carrier? And the banner, “Mission Accomplished” hung from the command bridge behind him? As it happened, Iraqi partisan attacks increased and Mr. Bush called for a surge in US forces. Even more lives, bribes, and bullets were expended to quell vast areas between Baghdad and Syria.

And what of our little local conflict over the nuclear threat from Vermont Yankee?

If our mission was to eliminate the threat of nuclear pollution and environmental damage from Vermont Yankee, then contrary to wishful and popular perceptions, advocacy operations are far from over.

Here is the NEC v. Vermont Yankee situation (as they say) on the ground.

On March 28th, the Vermont Public Service Board issued an Order endorsing a State-Entergy Memorandum of Understanding (and accompanying Settlement Agreement) in which Entergy commits to:
(1) Direct installment funding of a site restoration account that would have otherwise waited accumulation in the decommissioning trust fund
(2) Funding of an economic recovery account for Windham County,
(3) Notice to the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission within 120 days of determination (by Entergy) of sufficient decommissioning trust fund growth that decommissioning will begin, to be completed as expeditiously as possible,

(4) Expeditious movement of spent fuel from the spent fuel pool to dry cask storage,

(5) No loading of new fuel or in any way supplementing fuel that is currently in the reactor. Most important in our book is that, when incorporated in the Board’s Order, this agreement becomes the first legally binding requirement, all other Entergy statements notwithstanding, to permanently shut down the VY reactor before the end of 2014 or shortly thereafter.

Mind you, many of the conditions in the MOU reflect issues that NEC and its intervenor allies planted with state regulators in twelve years of litigation so we do not oppose the MOU. But, as it is being played out, it has its strong, dark downside. By adopting the MOU without additional independent conditions, the Board effectively surrenders all operation and maintenance of Vermont Yankee through 2014 and all determination of the vital details such cost, timing, and quality of decommissioning and site restoration to the discretion of Entergy VY and Entergy Nuclear Operations, Inc.  Entergy promises to consult with the state in good faith, make good faith efforts to achieve certain goals; good faith and no more.

This from a company not well known for good faith anything.

On April 7th, NEC filed a Motion to Amend the Board’s Order seeking to strengthen the order, make it more protective of the environment, more responsive to public concerns of transparency and involvement, and affirmative of the Board’s authority regarding VY.

On May 1st the Board denied our motion but its reaction was entirely predictable … and not unexpected, except for its nuanced directions that the concerns we raised may still be raised again in proceedings going forward and the very strong claims that the public service board may withdraw its CPG or impose other penalties and conditions on Entergy if the company proves to be an unfair partner for Vermont or in other ways misbehaves going forward.

Since the Board’s Order of March 28th, Entergy has demonstrated its new, open, and improved self by stonewalling the Agency for Natural resources with refusal to consider one last season without the environmental insult of once-through-cooling.

It has unilaterally decided to apply to NRC for a reduction in the radius of its Emergency Planning Zone and has been furtive and disingenuous about its steam/tritium leak; providing no public information about the exact source, duration, flow-rate, and cause of the leak, the quantity of tritium-laced condensate leaked before a catchment was put in place, or the concentrations of tritium in the leak. All of this is so much more like the old unfair partner than the newly baptized fair partner.”

And, sad to say, Entergy has state agencies, with rare exception (like ANR)  walking on eggshells for fear that Entergy will exercise its discretion and dump the MOU before (at least) handing over the cash.

We expect that keeping its options open is likely the primary reason that Entergy structured its payments over time, well into the shutdown period, and beyond the anticipated conclusion of its heated litigation over relicensing and
once-through-cooling with the State of New York.

In any case our advice to the Public Service Board over the years has proven to be sound and in some instances prescient- In 2002, we advised the Board that approving the sale of VY to Entergy would likely lead to preemption roadblocks to state regulation; and in 2012 we warned in sworn testimony that Entergy had not provided a business plan that could show how VY was to be restored to profitability during the proposed period of extended operation, hence their application was simply not a viable proposition. In August 2013, Entergy proved us correct.

Now, we must focus on restoring safety margins through interactions with the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission during this most dangerous period of operation in Vermont Yankee’s history. Vermont Yankee is being pushed at 120% of its original licensed thermal capacity and well beyond the design life of many of its most critical components, components which cannot reason that they should not fail now because they have only seven or eight months to hang on. Coupled with thrift driven maintenance, avoidance of Fukushima-related safety upgrades, and a dumbed-down and demoralized workforce, VY presents the most frightening spectacle that I have seen in my thirty-five years of nuclear safety advocacy.

On the federal level, in 2012 NEC joined an ad hoc coalition of 24 federal intervenor groups litigating at NRC over standards for less dangerous nuclear waste fuel storage. We were granted a suspension of all licensing and license
renewal proceedings until issues raised in a new “Waste Confidence” rule -making are resolved. Also on May 1, we received word that the NRC has agreed to take-up a rulemaking proceeding based on our recent filing of new and emergent technical/safety waste fuel storage issues.

In 2013 and 2014 NEC has met twice with individual NRC Commissioners to discuss nuclear regulation and generic high-profile nuclear safety issues that are pertinent to Vermont Yankee. These federal actions may or may not affect
the VY decommissioning, but NEC is pro-active and we are ahead of the new waste rulemaking should the  opportunity to intervene arise at VY. We are now preparing to confront Entergy at NRC over its application to prematurely reduce the VY emergency planning zone.

Now the Pitch for a much needed SURGE

In giving its all, NEC has worn out its volunteers, depleted its resources, and gone deeply into debt. We simply cannot continue without a surge in volunteerism and the financial support of major and minor donors. Please send what you
are able as your May Day down-payment on moving to an accident-free shutdown and a “best practices”  decommissioning. Please also consider submitting a letter of interest if you wish to join NEC’s effective action team either as a volunteer or Board of Trustees member.

Thank you for all that you have invested in taking Vermont’s footsteps off of the poison-power path, let us pledge now to walk more lightly on this precious earth and to work more diligently to remove all traces of where we have heavily trod in the past. Ray Shadis – New England Coalition – Trustee since 1982

“NEC”  PO Box 545, Brattleboro, VT 05302.
NEC is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. YOUR GIFT IS TAX-DEDUCTIBLE.


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