Nuke Exec: Mean Vermonters Gave Me A Sad

Pity poor T. Michael Twomey, high-ranking executive at Entergy Nuclear, forced to make a dreary midwinter trudge from sunny Louisiana to snowy Montpelier and face questioning from the flannel-and-fleece-clad rubes collectively known as the Vermont Public Service Board. As reported by Susan Smallheer of the (unfortunately paywalled) Mitchell Family Organ/South, he was met by a show of impertinence:

“You’re asking us to trust you again,” said outgoing PSB member David Coen. “Why should we?”

We’ll get to Twomey’s response in a moment, but let us first assess the emotional and psychological repercussions of such harsh treatment.

Twomey said he had been personally insulted by the Department of Public Service’s filing in October 2014 attacking Entergy’s credibility and business track record in the state. But even with those insults, he said, he sat down with “those people,” he said, pointing across the room in the direction of the state’s Boston law firm, and negotiated an agreement.

Oooh, “personally insulted.” “Those people.” I do hope the PSB will deliver an apology forthwith, so as to ease the pain of Mr. Twomey’s butthurt. (“Tucks” would help, too.) Cue the tiny violins, and let us have a soothing serenade. Because it’s not as if Twomey and Entergy ever meant to do us any harm.

Twomey… said the company had “made mistakes along the way,” but the company “has been a good partner” to the state in its 11 years of ownership of Vermont Yankee.

“Mistakes.” (Cough.) “Mistakes,” you say. Let’s take a look at just a few of those “mistakes,” in hopes of gaining insight into the PSB’s lack of faith in Our Corporate Partner. In no particular order…  

— Entergy’s consistent failure to adequately build a decommissioning fund, with the result that we’ll be waiting as long as 60 years for the process to complete.

The attempted spinoff of VY to an undercapitalized shell corporation that would have assumed legal liability for plant operation and shutdown, without the resources to carry out either task.

— Those nonexistent underground pipes that turned out to, well, exist, and in fact, contained radioactive water.

— The persistent and mysterious leaks of radioactive tritium into nearby groundwater and the Connecticut River.

— Above all else, VY’s 30-year history of inadequate maintenance and ensuing trouble. This is usually framed in terms of recent incidents, but way back in the 1980s its track record was already poor enough that Vermont cartoonist Tim Newcomb started depicting the reactor as a bruised, bloodied and bandaged reactor tower.

— Then there are the notorious recent incidents, including a 2004 fire and the 2007 collapse of a cooling tower.

As The Atlantic summed it up in 2011:

…strings of jarring failures are what many… have come to expect from Yankee.

If that’s what Mr. Twomey thinks of as a “good partner,” I’m glad I’m not married to the guy.

And in case you doubt the goodwill of Our Partner, Twomey also delivered something of a threat to the PSB, which is considering an agreement between the state and Entergy over the closure of Vermont Yankee. An agreement widely panned as inadequate, and weakly defended by state officials as the best they could do under the circumstances. (“The circumstances” being defined as “the deck is stacked in favor of Entergy.”)

Entergy has said it needs an answer from the board by the end of March, after that it will withdraw its offer. Twomey said any significant or “material” changes to the agreement would also nix the deal.

“Good partner,” my ass.  

3 thoughts on “Nuke Exec: Mean Vermonters Gave Me A Sad

  1. The mind set of these guys is jaw dropping. Bernie Sanders grilled the NRC Commissioners last Thursday during a Senate oversight committee hearing, saying a thing or two about state’s rights. Next up was Senator Sessions of Alabama. His opening line: “The state of Vermont sued Vermont Yankee so many times it finally shut down.”

    Yup. they are the victims.

    Susan Smallheer’s article you refer to can be read here:

  2. “I do hope the PSB will deliver an apology forthwith….”  Twomey says he was insulted by DPS, not the PSB (though maybe Coen’s question has now added the PSB to his list).  These 2 entities (DPS and PSB) have been separate for decades now, though few Vermonters seem to have a clue which is which.

    That said, my gosh it’s nice to know that Entergy LA is so sensitive.  Who knew?

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