Vermont Yankee to close, 12/14 !

In a press release today  (h/t to AG member Donna Riley) Entergy announced that they would close the plant at the end of the current fuel cycle, in !2/14.

The decision to close Vermont Yankee in 2014 was based on a number of financial factors, including:

  • A natural gas market that has undergone a transformational shift in supply due to the impacts of shale gas, resulting in sustained low natural gas prices and wholesale energy prices.
  • A high cost structure for this single unit plant. Since 2002, the company has invested more than $400 million in the safe and reliable operation of the facility. In addition, the financial impact of cumulative regulation is especially challenging to a small plant in these market conditions.
  • Wholesale market design flaws that continue to result in artificially low energy and capacity prices in the region, and do not provide adequate compensation to merchant nuclear plants for the fuel diversity benefits they provide.

This is very exciting news.   The Burlington Press had a story, and reported:

Regarding decommissioning, assuming end of operations in fourth quarter 2014, the amount required to meet the NRC minimum for decommissioning financial assurance for license termination is $566 million. The Vermont Yankee decommissioning trust had a balance of approximately $582 million as of July 31, 2013,

Despite all the financial subsidies the reactor at Vermont Yankee is not economical in the current environment.  Fracking has brought down the price of energy.  We await to hear about the environmental impact on the nation brought on by fracking.

Although Entergy plans to shut down the reactor late next year, the fundamental issues remain.    The health risks are the same for the next year.   The question of decommissioning remains.    There are some reports that Entergy plans to use “safe-store;” the reactor will be left alone for 40-60 years.  Other people are arguing that the entire contents should be placed in dry storage instead of wet storage.   The plant is not shut down until it is completely decommissioned.

A recent report in the Burlington Free Press stated:

Entergy will likely need decades to finalize the decommissioning of its Vermont Yankee nuclear plant, according to information on the plant’s website. Workers will remain at the plant until it completely shuts down. Used nuclear fuel will be stored on-site, as its removal is the responsibility of the U.S. government.

The prospects are that reactor will be dangerous for decades to come.

Finally, the Hampshire Gazette ran the following editorial on August 29, 2013:

The fight to close the aging and unsafe Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant shifts now to a cleanup that could last longer than the 41 years the plant has generated electricity.

The surprise many felt Tuesday over news that Entergy Corp. of Louisiana will take the plant off-line for good late next year, when its fuel runs low, may be turning to shock at the enormity of the environmental challenge posed by decommissioning.

Raymond Shadis, technical adviser to the New England Coalition, observed Tuesday that his group and other environmental and public safety advocates must remain involved with the fate of Vermont Yankee. That’s because by next year the plant will no longer be a money-maker for Entergy, but a liability, impure and simple. “Just a nuclear waste pile … from which the public and the environment need to be protected,” Shadis said Tuesday.

The company plans to move the reactor into the “safe store” status outlined by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. By one estimate, it could take 70 years for levels of radiation to subside to levels safe enough to dismantle the structure.

Spent nuclear fuel will be entombed in concrete casks on the site because the nation has no waste storage system for this industry, a problem that has dogged its prospects for decades. A Vermont Yankee decommissioning fund holds nearly half a billion dollars, but even that is expected to fall well short of the costs of safeguarding the public from the residue of its operations.

Plant opponents long argued that Entergy, which bought Vermont Yankee for $180 million in 2002, could not operate it safely. Strong evidence of that came in early 2010, when it was learned that radioactive tritium had been leaking into the ground at the plant from pipes that Entergy officials had repeatedly insisted, in testimony to Vermont regulators in 2009, did not exist. Two years before that, a cooling tower partially collapsed, raising worries about the overall integrity of the facility.

Plant opponents long argued that Entergy, which bought Vermont Yankee for $180 million in 2002, could not operate it safely. Strong evidence of that came in early 2010, when it was learned that radioactive tritium had been leaking into the ground at the plant from pipes that Entergy officials had repeatedly insisted, in testimony to Vermont regulators in 2009, did not exist. Two years before that, a cooling tower partially collapsed, raising worries about the overall integrity of the facility.

Even as it faced huge costs, including a $150 million expense to replace a 40-year-old steam condenser, Entergy spent heavily on its legal battles with the state of Vermont to protect its viability. It had won many of them, particularly a U.S. District Court case in which Judge J. Garvan Murtha decided last year that only the federal government, not Vermont, held the authority to compel the plant to close. The month before, the NRC awarded it a new 20-year license. Things seemed to be going the company’s way. But the rise of relatively cheap natural gas proved a big competitor.

And, significantly, the state of Vermont kept the pressure on. And in the end, though Entergy’s chairman and CEO said Tuesday a changing energy market forced “an agonizing decision and an extremely tough call,” the state of Vermont’s sustained campaign to hold Entergy accountable for environmental hazards must have figured in as well.

Residents of the Valley who live in the evacuation zone, or downwind and downriver, owe a debt of gratitude to Vermont officials who took unpopular stands related to Vermont Yankee. The closing will cost southern Vermont more than 600 jobs — a workforce that will likely never be replicated, even through investments in renewable energy. Hundreds of plant employees live in Massachusetts, whose border is but five miles from the plant.

Though most people reading this will not be alive to see the cleanup be completed, the plant’s closing next year means the Connecticut River will no longer receive millions of gallons of heated water — a form of thermal pollution that degrades habitats and endangers fish populations.

Despite that immediate gain, the call to activism will continue to sound. There is little doubt that Valley residents who have protested the plant’s operation virtually since its opening in 1972 will remain vigilant.

They deserve credit for putting environmental ideals and the public’s well-being ahead of their own interests.

Officials are already promising to press the NRC to see that the Vermont Yankee decommissioning moves along as quickly as possible and that, in time, the hazards it posed to human health fade away.

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2 thoughts on “Vermont Yankee to close, 12/14 !

  1. Harvey

    Andrew- it is important to know that the cost of decommissioning Yankee Rowe was $750 million and it was a much smaller plant than VY. It has been estimated that the cost of decom of VY may be $1 billion!

    Harvey

    Reply

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