Zombie World of Vermont Yankee

All those arguments about how Vermont “needs” Vermont Yankee?  Not even Entergy can make that claim with a straight face now.

According to Reuters:

Entergy Corp’s Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant is no longer needed to maintain power reliability in New England because local electric companies have bolstered the region’s transmission infrastructure, the region’s power grid said

Ignoring the odd phrasing for a moment; the point is that the ISO has agreed to delist Vermont Yankee from the annual forward-capacity power auctions for 2013-2016…because it simply isn’t needed.

This development comes on top of the Public Service Board‘s refusal to grant Entergy a delay in its requirement that a new certificate of public good be obtained for the relicensed plant to continue operating.  

The PSB is expected to rule on the question of Public Good in August of next year.  Meanwhile,  the New England Coalition is asking the Vermont Supreme Court to simply shut VY down, once and for all.  

So much storm und angst; just because Entergy wants to continue its game of “hot potato” long enough to wring a little more value from VY, and perhaps slide out from under its liability for decomissioning.

In the year and a half since Fukushima briefly brought the nuclear debate front and center here at home, U.S energy consumers may have left that lesson largely unattended while focussing on political dramas; but other nations are actively pursuing ways to extract themselves from dependence upon an aging nuclear energy “fleet” that looks more and more threadbare every day.  

Japanese consumers in particular have learned how corrupt and irresponsible have been the very agencies and individuals that were entrusted with regulation of that nations’ nuclear grid.

There are indications that our own Nuclear Regulatory Commission, in what appears to be a long established effort to diminish public anxiety, has been considerably less than candid and has deliberately dampened the lessons from Fukushima.

We learn, for example, from internal NRC memos, that even back on March 17, of  2011 they knew that not all spent fuel pools at U.S. reactor sites had been built to withstand the rigors of earth tremors:

Some US spent fuel pools are simply not ‘seismically qualified.’

And speaking of spent fuel pools in seismically active regions, Fairewinds Associateshas issued a new educational podcast that explains the consequences of locating nuclear reactors in seismically active areas, and takes a look at the issues associated with moving spent fuel from the damaged reactors at Fukushima.

We don’t really know how Vermont Yankee would fare if a significant seismic event had its epicenter near that facility.  Despite known design flaws and an age approaching the outer limits of its original life-expectancy, the NRC rushed to approve a twenty-year license extension of the aging VY facility before the dust had even settled at Fukushima.  Following NRC practice, a physical inspection of VY was not even required for relicensing!

I still find that pretty unbelievable.

Even the NRC seems to have partially gotten the point (although too late for VY), and as of August 2012, has suspended all new licensing of nuclear facilities until it puts together new regulatory conditions in response to a court ruling on spent fuel storage.

Unfortunately, the half-life of Vermont Yankee goes on and on.

About Sue Prent

Artist/Writer/Activist living in St. Albans, Vermont with my husband since 1983. I was born in Chicago; moved to Montreal in 1969; lived there and in Berlin, W. Germany until we finally settled in St. Albans.

5 thoughts on “Zombie World of Vermont Yankee

  1. NRA? Don’t you mean NRC? Both are shills for deadly industries, both claim safety first! But only the NRC can hides beneath the cloak of the US government.  

  2. Your article says NRA a number of times.  I assume this is supposed to be NRC, i.e. the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

    Also,the VT Public Service Board is expected to rule on the Certificate of Public Good NEXT year, i.e. 2013, not this year as stated.

    The ISO-NE question is slightly different from the question as to whether Vermont “needs” VY.  A few years ago, based on industry-standard transmission tests, ISO refused to allow VY to “delist” from its auction, stating that until changes were made in the grid, system reliability COULD be jeopardized if VY were no longer online.  Those changes having been made, ISO is now allowing the delist.

    Granted Entergy did cite this whole kerfuffle in its court filings, but its big push for Vermont’s supposed “need” was even more specious: namely, that without VY, we’d freeze in the dark.  In fact, New England has had a surplus of power for years, and will continue to do so into the future.  As reported today — http://www.burlingtonfreepress… — New England’s electricity demand is now expected to be flat through 2021 thanks to successful efficiency efforts in the region.

  3. Thanks for pointing that out.  It was late; I was tired; and so on (choose the excuse you like best!)  It now stands corrected.

  4. Good point about the significance of the ISO decision; but it did seem emblematic of VY’s declining relevance.

    Those efficiency efforts are always given short-shrift in arguments favoring ramped-up energy production; but they should, in fact, represent a significant component of our energy strategy because they can make the biggest difference in the long run.

  5. The equivalent agency for nuclear regulation (which is totally corrupt) in Japan is the “NRA.”  

    I had been reading that reference over and over again on Enformable’s website and I guess it just crept into my diary.

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