To the editor of the Northampton Gazette
We have several concerns with your recent editorial, in which you supported the process of SAFSTOR for the decommissioning of the nuclear reactor at Vernon, VT.
SAFSTOR puts dealing with the reactor into the future for up to 60 years. Now, there are workers who are familiar with the functioning of the reactor. Sixty years from now the experienced work force will be dead.
Entergy’s plan is to invest the current $620 million decommissioning fund into some unspecified financial scheme so that at some far time in the future there is enough money for decommissioning This scheme depends upon the hope that the growth of the fund will rise more rapidly than the cost of the decommissioning. Otherwise, the project is underfunded.
Vermont Yankee is a Limited Liability Corporation owned by Entergy. If, as your editorial says, Entergy will make decisions purely on economic basis, then they are warning that as soon as the money runs out they will declare bankruptcy and leave Vermont with the bill. Senior executives at Entergy are now selling off their stocks. Perhaps they have insider knowledge of what the financial future of Entergy is. 1 There seems to be little hope that the federal government is prepared to foot the bill.
Entergy plans to take $200 million from the decommissioning fund and spend it on storing the fuel rods in dry caskets for indefinite storage. During the time that Entergy has owned the plant, they have taken the profits and have made no investment into the cleanup fund. This should have been part of routine maintenance. Some of the fuel rods have been in wet storage for 40 years.
The editorial says that Vermont should hold Entergy’s feet to the fire. This is the crux of the issue. Entergy has not been a good corporate citizen. The state has sued them multiple times. According to David Deen, Connecticut River Steward, “filings with the Vermont Public Service Board showed that Yankee’s thermal discharge exceeded its permit 75 percent of the time during critical spring and fall American shad migration.” The courts have consistently sided with the corporations. The federal government’s regulatory agency, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, has consistently sided with industry when given a conflict between the public good and corporate goals.
There are early warning signs of what the NRC will allow. “Sixteen months after shutdown of the reactor at Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant, offsite emergency planning will no longer be needed, according to documents filed by Entergy with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.Therefore, offsite emergency response plans will no longer be needed for protection of the public …” Their computer models say that there is no way that there is danger with the wet storage pools, holding more than enough toxic radiation to ruin the environment for many miles around. By now we should be suspicious of computer models that say there should be no cause for alarm. After all, we were told that the disaster at Fukushima could not occur, until it happened. There remain some deniers, who say that Fukushima was a “ Japanese” problem.
The reactors that failed at Fukushima were GE Mark 1 Boiling Water Reactors, the same model as the one at Vernon. The nuclear technology and corporate culture was exported from the US to Japan. These cultures were developed in the secrecy of the cold war. US corporations were the models for the Japanese nuclear industry. There are 23 such Mark 1 Boiling Water Reactors on the East Coast of the United States. They have the same vulnerabilities as the ones in Japan. The diesel engines for back up are placed in the basement, where they are vulnerable to flooding. The spent fuel rods are stored in a pool 30 feet up in the air. The reactor at Vernon, built on a flood plain, is one that has been identified by the NRC as being vulnerable to flooding, if a dam upstream on the Connecticut River were to fail. There are no solutions to the problems of Fukushima. The US is lucky and not wise that a similar disaster has not occurred in the US.
There should be time to let the reactor fuel to cool on its own. There are reasonable concerns for the workers to avoid early exposure. But we also believe that there is a need for urgency on this matter. To allow a time table of decades, for a company that has not been a good corporate citizen, seems to be an invitation for disaster. If enough time is given, unlikely events WILL occur.