As regular readers already know, I have very recently joined Fairewinds Energy Education; nevertheless, the following represents my own personal opinions, which are shared independently.
The Nuclear Energy Institute is not to be confused with any objective regulatory body. An unapologetic interested party, The NEI is an industry association whose primary purpose is to further the interests of those businesses for whom nuclear energy and its products represent a significant portion of their worth.
So, anything that emanates from their central nervous system may be assumed to represent a strong bias.
Sometimes that narrow, almost oblivious focus betrays itself in funny ways. Take for instance this, clipped from an NEI press release:
Nuclear Energy Institute employees, along with members of Women in Nuclear and the North American Young Generation in Nuclear, facilitated a nuclear fuel cycle game during the Technology Student Association’s annual conference earlier this summer.
Visiting the NEI website, we discover that there is even a downloadable game, presumably a downsized version of the “facilitated” one, available for play by amateur engineers.
Touted as “A Plant In Your Pocket,” the concept produced gales of laughter all around our household.
What isn’t very funny is the fact that Entergy continues to play games with the communities surrounding Vermont Yankee.
Meeting with state and local representatives, VY’s Emergency Preparedness Manager, Mike McKenney, told them that Entergy is asking the NRC to reduce their responsibility for emergency planning to the perimeter of their own property, as of April 1, 2014
Asserting that, once the fuel is removed from the reactor and placed in the spent fuel pool at the end of December, all the associated risk is pretty much over, McKenney made the following remarks:
“Any offsite emergency support will be limited to local police and fire departments, ambulance services and hospitals,” he said. “At that point, we will become your typical industrial-type facility.”
In previous decommissionings around the nation, the NRC has allowed operators to reduce their emergency response obligations because the dangers associated with storing spent fuel aren’t as significant as those associated with an operating reactor, said McKenney.
“You no longer have the motive force and high temperature associated with the steam.”
Unfortunately, the difference between “not as significant as…with an operating reactor” and non-existent is rather substantial.
Whatever position the NRC has taken B.F. (Before Fukushima) must certainly be reconsidered in light of that unanticipated disaster.
Much of Entergy’s “confidence” that there will be no significant danger of radiation release from the spent fuel pool is based upon the assumption that a constant temperature will be maintained in the pool.
However many things could precipitate a loss of constant temperature, including but not limited to simple equipment failure, power outages due to extraordinary storm events, and malicious intent.
Most of these could be adjusted for by an alert and competent staff, but Entergy is also asking to reduce staffing; and what happens if several of these factors come into simultaneous play?
We don’t have to look any further than to Fukushima to observe the worst case scenario for an analogous spent fuel pool where, due to a catastrophic chain of errors and events, criticality proved unpreventable.
Entergy is looking to cut costs wherever it can, now that it’s rung the last bit of value from its VY cash cow.
The good people of the surrounding communities should take every reassurance of innocuousness from these people with a grain of salt…and maybe a bottle of iodine tablets.
“Ladies and Gentlemen, thank you for playing. Please leave your expectations at the door.”