Vermont Yankee (Nuclear Power Station)

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Vermont Yankee is a nuclear power station owned by Entergy Nuclear. It is located in the town of Vernon, Vermont and generates 640 megawatts (MWe) of electricity.

Thanks to energy market deregulation, Entergy purchased the plant in 2001 "for a mere $180 million. That's about half the price it would cost to build an equal-sized coal plant or wind farm." [1]

License extension

In March 2008, the Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards suggested to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission that Vermont Yankee's operating license be extended from the current 2012 limit to 2032. "This summer there will be a hearing on the issue and the commission will likely reach its decision by late this year or early 2009. ... Vermont has a requirement that the state Legislature vote to give approval if Yankee is to keep operating," reported Vermont's Rutland Herald. [2]

In April 2008, at "the last of four public meetings held by the [Governor Jim] Douglas administration on the future of the nuclear reactor," two officials with Vermont's Department of Public Service were "peppered ... with questions," reported Vermont's Rutland Herald. "People appeared to be the most upset when [state engineer Uldis] Vanags talked about the high-level radioactive nuclear waste produced at Vermont Yankee, and the fact that it would remain deadly for thousands of years. ... While the vast majority of the comments were against any future for nuclear power in Vermont, there was a small contingent of pro-nuclear residents, some of whom were employees from the nearby reactor." [3]

In March 2009, 25 towns voted to direct the Vermont state legislature to keep Vermont Yankee from operating past its 2012 license expiration. The votes came during a Town Meeting day in the state; 40 towns considered the issue. Other measures directed Entergy to full fund the plant's decommissioning fund. "Vermont is the only state with a law giving its legislature veto power over continued operation of a nuclear reactor beyond the expiration of its license," according to the Brattleboro Reformer. [4]

A review by Nuclear Safety Associates concluded that Vermont Yankee (VY) could operate safely past 2012, if Entergy invests needed resources. The report noted many management "weaknesses" at the plant, adding: "The panel recognizes VY's good historical performance but questions whether the transformer fire [in 2004] and the repetitive cooling tower failures [in 2007 and 2008] are indicative of declining performance that will result in unacceptable reliability. ... As nuclear plants age beyond the 40-year mark, the unexpected can occur, and VY is not immune." [5]

On February 24, 2010 the Vermont Senate voted 26-4 against S.289, a proposal that could have approved operation of the aging nuclear reactor continuing through 2032. This Senate vote denied the House side of the General Assembly and the then governor, James Douglas, from weighing in on extending operations past the scheduled closing date of March 21, 2012. The move was orchestrated by Senate President Peter Shumlin, D-Windham, [6] who on November 2, 2010 was elected to succeed Douglas as governor. [7]

Funds for closing the plant in doubt

What one Vermont paper called the "contentious debate" over whether Entergy has sufficient funds set aside to go through the process of closing, or decommissioning, the Vermont Yankee plant heated up in April 2008. That's when Entergy "asked for federal permission to use the plant's decommissioning fund to pay for storage of waste rather than for taking the plant apart." The Yankee plant fund "needs roughly to double from its current $420 million to pay for dismantling of the plant and it was discovered that the fund actually has shrunk recently by about $17 million." Entergy "responded that -- since it is seeking permission to continue beyond the 2012 expiration of its operating license -- there may be more time for the decommissioning fund to grow before it is needed." [8]

Safety concerns

In 2006, Entergy "received approval to increase power output at the plant by 20 percent. This 'uprate' means the plant operates with 20 percent more pressure, heat and flow," wrote Christian Parenti. "In just one year it earned Entergy $100 million in profits. Over the last decade, almost all US nuclear power plants have received uprates, but few match Vermont Yankee's full-throttle, 120 percent capacity." [1]

"Just after the uprate, one of Vermont Yankee's twenty-two cooling towers collapsed. ... Entergy officials said the collapse 'baffled' them. The plant's spokesman, Rob Williams, admitted that 'our inspections were not effective enough.' Reached by phone, Gregory Jaczko, a commissioner at the NRC, admitted that the collapse 'didn't look good.' But he went on to reassure the public that the plant is essentially safe." [1]

Not "carbon-emissions" free

In 2008, Vermont Yankee ran ads touting the plant as having zero carbon-emissions. The Vermont Public Interest Research Group filed a complaint, saying the ads were misleading. In March 2009, Vermont Attorney General William Sorrell agreed with the advocacy group, concluding that while "emissions generated by electricity production at nuclear plants are negligible, they occur when uranium is mined, processed and transported for use as fuel." Vermont Yankee spokesman Rob Williams called the wording of the ads "unfortunate," and said the plant wouldn't make similar claims in the future, without explaining them. [9]

Opposition

In April 2009, a new group called the "Clean Green Vermont Alliance" ran full-page newspaper ads critical of Vermont Yankee. The group's co-founders include "David Blittersdorf, a former president of the American Wind Energy Association and co-owner with his wife Jan of NRG Systems," and "Pamela Baker of Marketing Partners and Andy Perchlik, executive director of Renewable Energy Vermont." [10]

Articles and resources

Related SourceWatch articles

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Christian Parenti, "What Nuclear Renaissance?, The Nation, May 12, 2008.
  2. Louis Porter, "Vt. Yankee receives nod for longer license," Rutland Herald (Vermont), March 22, 2008.
  3. Susan Smallheer, "Brattleboro hosts boisterous nuclear forum," Rutland Herald (Vermont), April 3, 2008.
  4. "Voters in 25 towns give no-confidence vote to Vt. Yankee," Brattleboro Reformer (Vermont), March 3, 2009.
  5. Bob Audette, "Panel: VY safe but more resources needed," Brattleboro Reformer (Vermont), March 18, 2009.
  6. Galloway, Anne. "Permission Denied: In One Fell Swoop, Vermont Senate Blocks Yankee License Renewal," VTDigger.Org (Vermont), February 25, 2010.
  7. Curran, John. "Vt. GOP Gov. Candidate Concedes to Democrat," Washington Post (AP Vermont Bureau Chief), November 3, 2010.
  8. Louis Porter, "Vermont Yankee wants to raid decommission fund," Barre-Montpelier Times Argus (Vermont), April 26, 2008.
  9. "Sorrell says Vt. Yankee's emissions claim is false," The Associated Press, March 13, 2009.
  10. Bob Audette, "Group takes on Entergy in ad crusade," Brattleboro Reformer (Vermont), April 3, 2009.

External resources

External articles