After a long and challenging examination of the question, Vermont’s Agency of Natural Resources has issued what seems to be the final thermal discharge permit of Vermont Yankee’s operating life.
The decision navigates a narrow ledge of compromise, recognizing the flaw in the existing formula, which has allowed Entergy to represent themselves as compliant when they have not always been, but not replacing it entirely for the brief duration of VY’s operating life.
even though the agency concluded that the formula submitted in support of Entergy’s 2005 application was inadequate, because the plant will be closing at the end of the year, it will allow the plant to operate under the assumptions of the formula, but with conditions.
To put it simply (and I’ll leave it to the scientists to give a more accurate explanation) Entergy has been allowed to extrapolate an “average” water temperature from deep areas in the Connecticut River to represent VY’s overall discharge temperature.
Of course, shorelines, where the richest systems of life tend to be active, are also the shallowest areas. Thermal discharges to the river in general would result in increases to the temperature of those shallower and more biologically active regions that would exceed the temperature measured in a deeper zone. The difference might be as much as five to seven degrees, which is highly significant to sensitive river populations.
The ANR is acknowledging the error in Entergy’s thermal discharge model, but allowing it to remain in place for the remaining months until VY’s planned shutdown.
Entergy had requested that the limits established in its discharge permit be modified so that it might avoid the expense of powering its cooling towers. The ANR permit is tailored to give both sides of the argument a margin of victory.
New conditions of the permit included changes in allowable water temperature increases due to plant discharge in the spring and the fall… The summer limits were not changed, said (ANR Secretary) Markowitz.
She says that, under the circumstances, it is unlikely that Entergy will be forced to use its cooling towers; but the overarching verdict on the company’s science is clear:
“The draft permit upholds the Connecticut River Watershed Council’s contention that bad science underwrote the thermal discharge limits in the previous permits,” stated a press release issued on Wednesday.
It looks like the decision may be one that both sides can live with.
Though no one is saying so, faced with the likelihood that getting Entergy to do the right thing on decommissioning will be a long and expensive legal process, it appears that ANR is already shrewdly picking its battles.
This seems like an appropriate time to announce to my friends at Green Mountain Daily that, as of this month, I have the pleasure of becoming a part of the Fairewinds Energy Education team. I will continue writing on all kinds of topics on Green Mountain Daily; but, when I write on the subject of nuclear energy, I will be sure to remind my readers of that association.