Category Archives: editorial

Entergy scrambling to split off old nuke plants

Entergy has attempted another “special-of-the-day” offer to woo lawmakers into allowing one of their questionable business objectives to gain approval. On the eve of a discussion by New York’s Public Service Commission regarding Entergy’s devious plan to spin off its oldest, leaking nuclear power plants into a new and heavily debt-laden company (Enexus), Entergy offered  to reduce the amount of the new company’s initial debt load from $3.5 billion to a mere $3 billion. What a deal! With $500 million less debt, Entergy appears to be hoping that enough suckers will believe that this might cover the currenly-unknown costs of decommissioning a half-dozen toxic, old nuke plants before the corporation gets stuck paying their own bill.

Hey Entergy! Haven’t you heard? There’s no such thing as a free lunch.

wakethehellup.wordpress.com

As Katarzyna Klimasinska reports in BusinessWeek:

March 03, 2010

Entergy Offers Spinoff Debt Cut for N.Y. Approval

March 3 (Bloomberg) — Entergy Corp., owner of the second- largest group of U.S. nuclear power plants, proposed reducing long-term debt for a unit it plans to spin off, as it seeks New York’s approval for the transaction.

The New York State Public Service Commission is scheduled to discuss at a meeting in Albany tomorrow Entergy’s petition to separate six nuclear reactors into a new company.

Entergy, based in New Orleans, said in a filing dated yesterday that it would reduce the debt of the spinoff company to $3 billion from $3.5 billion. It is Entergy’s second offer to lower the unit’s debt since announcing the spinoff in November 2007.

The company, based in New Orleans, also proposed to contribute as much as $300 million to New York’s energy efficiency program, if power prices “exceed certain levels.”

The nuclear unit would own the James A. FitzPatrick and Indian Point power plants in New York as well as the Pilgrim plant in Massachusetts and Vermont Yankee reactor in Vermont.

Original article: http://www.businessweek.com/news/2010-03-03/entergy-offers-spinoff-debt-cut-for-n-y-approval-update1-.html.

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Massachusetts residents living downstream from Vermont Yankee tell Douglas to shut down the plant now

From: http://vtdigger.org/2010/02/11/massachusetts-residents-living-downstream-from-vermont-yankee-tell-douglas-to-shut-down-the-plant-now/

February 11, 2010

Dear Governor Douglas:

I believe the tritium leak at ENVY is a greater environmental disaster than you realize. Just one gram of tritium contaminates 500 billion liters of water up to the fed. limit of 20,000pCi/L. The leak has been allowed to continue at full speed for over one month. The level of tritiated water found in groundwater monitoring wells is now at 2.7 million pCi/L, near the level of the reactor water itself.  This represents a breach of containment, understood as the systems in the reactor and powerplant intended to isolate radioactive contamination from the public.

The groundwater belongs to the public, not to ENVY. ENVY’s leak has polluted our groundwater to the second highest level of all tritium leaks from reactors in the country. NRC rules have allowed contamination of groundwater resources at 27 leaking nuclear reactors. This is illegal in Vermont. Your agencies can stop the leak by shutting down the reactor, but they are waiting for you to give the nod. You must protect public trust resources. Please instruct your agencies (DPS, ANR, VDH) to act swiftly to turn off the reactor water that is contaminating the groundwater by shutting down the reactor.

It is not necessary to run the reactor at overpressure levels to find the leak. Drilling wells just maps the toxicity and extent of the plume, it does not find the leak. All power plants have design drawings, sophisticated gauges and flow meters on their pipes and engineers who can do mass balance calculations to detect leaks.  This has gone on far too long, is based on industry lies and incompetence and NRC tolerance of groundwater pollution, and MUST BE STOPPED IMMEDIATELY. Please do the right thing and act.

Thank you for your rapid consideration of my concerns.

Sally Shaw

Gill, Mass.

An 11th generation Vermonter and mother, living in the EPZ.

A letter from Sally Shaw’s husband, Bart Bales, follows.

Leak detection in plant systems with regard to the VT Yankee tritium leak.

By Bart Bales, P.E., M.S.M.E

February 9, 2010

This is an evaluation of the facts surrounding the VT Yankee tritium leak as reported in the press and to the public through the VT Dept. of Health’s website. It is the opinion of a registered mechanical engineer with twenty-five years of professional experience in energy engineering. It provides approaches to leak detection in power plant piping systems in general, and evaluates the approach being employed, according to public information, to find the tritium leak at VT Yankee.

1.    A plant operator should have up-to-date schematics for all piping and the expected pressures and flow rates throughout the piping network.

2.    Design pipe layouts and as-built pipe layouts are necessary elements for responsible operation and maintenance of a power plant.

3.    Use of design and as-built drawings and specifications along with gauge and instrumentation operating parameters should provide information sufficient to determine expected flow rates and pressures in the piping networks.

4.    The design documents at VT Yankee should enable plant personnel to identify a limited number of pipes that could contain tritiated water.

5.    Plant personnel should determine actual flows through and between elements and components of those piping networks that contain tritium, and determine quantities in various storage vessels by a mass balance calculation.

6.    These calculations can determine flows from within the plant enclosure to the piping network and storage vessels outside the enclosure and should provide information sufficient to identify the leaking pipe loop.

7.    Differences in flows into and out of parts of the network can help localize the leak as the mass balance will indicate a shortfall in expected values for the piping network containing the leak.

8.    This is a more prudent approach to leak detection that can allow the plant system to be operated at lower and safer pressures and flow rates until the leak is found and repaired.

9.    It is expected that there would be existing flow meters on all the various piping loops, especially those conveying radioactive liquids or gases. These should be calibrated, serviced or replaced and rendered reliably functional to determine flow rates and diagnose leaks.

10.     Maintenance of full pressure ratings throughout the power plant should not be necessary to accomplish leak detection. Maintenance of even moderate pressures in the piping will produce a sufficient gradient for leak detection.

11.     There is no justification for maintaining pressures at uprated or even original design conditions for leak detection.

12.     Fluid flow through holes in the leaking pipes erodes the edges of these holes.  Larger holes result in even higher rates of leakage.

13.     It should be recognized that the higher the pressure the greater the flow through leaks, and the faster the introduction of contaminants into the groundwater.

14.     A higher influx rate into the groundwater increases the rate of migration of the plume into adjacent areas and into the Connecticut River.

15.     A more responsible leak detection protocol would be to shut down the plant, evaluate and model analytically, prioritizing the pipe systems most likely to be leaking tritium, then test each system progressively in order of probability that it is the source of the leak.

16.     This approach to leak detection methods from inside the plant employs existing flow gauges or installation of mechanical measuring gauges, and use of ultrasonic or inflow measurements.

17.     For a plant operator or engineer to lack knowledge of location of piping networks and their contents is an unacceptable situation, especially in the handling of potentially hazardous fluids.

Entergy can’t be trusted

Big thanks go out to Gary Sachs for stating what so many of us believe… with clarity, logic and passion.

Published: August 6, 2009 by the Rutland Herald

http://www.rutlandherald.com/article/20090806/OPINION02/908060304

“Yes officer I was speeding, but it was an oversight.” This tactic generally doesn’t work.

“We measured the temperature but forgot to check the radioactivity,” says the largest radioactive emitter in the state.

“We agreed to a memorandum of understanding and then forgot to implement what we understood,” says the same company.

Entergy Nuclear Vermont Yankee forgot to measure the radioactivity coming off the dry cask storage installation. It is now August. The 2008 fence line dose monitoring data is still not available.

Entergy wants permission to operate another 20 years.

Entergy wants permission to expand their fence line boundary.

Entergy wants permission to spin off Vermont Yankee and a few other reactors into Enexus.

What is wrong with this picture?

In 1967 the Vermont state Legislature agreed to host an in-state nuclear reactor for 40 years, not 60. In 2006, Entergy won permission to store waste in dry casks as long as the radiation off the casks was measured. They forgot.

Where is the common courtesy, aka, compliance with the state that Entergy promised Chairman Dworkin of the Public Service Board in 2002 during the sale case?

Entergy does not show that they can keep their word to the chair of the regulatory board, and Entergy does not hold up its end of the agreements it signs with the Department of Public Service. Clearly one should not reward these poor behaviors with extended operation. Please encourage your state representative and senator to vote against continued operation beyond 2012.

GARY SACHS
Brattleboro

Words of fury, despair

Vermont Yankee is old and unsafe

Vermont Yankee is old and unsafe

An editorial published on RutlandHerald.com:

Vermont Yankee produces about 30 tons a year of the most toxic and long-lasting waste known to man, which will stay forever on the banks of the Connecticut River in casks that, over its half-life of 250,000 years, will crack every 100 years or so, leaving this unspeakable waste to thousands of generations of our children (if they live). Ray Shadis called it “the gift that keeps on killing.” Every minute of the day and night it releases radioactive material in the air, none of which is safe, and since children are most vulnerable, they, our children, have been and will continue to be, victims of cancers and leukemias as long as the reactor is rattling along like a broken down old car.

On top of all that there is a sneaky connection between nuclear reactors and the military, with “depleted” uranium (which is making the world for the world’s children a radioactive wasteland) and nuclear bombs, which are all part of the atom-smashing process. Helen Caldecott called Vermont Yankee a “cancer and a bomb factory that must be shut down.”

I understand completely why Sally Shaw placed compost (which she called “good waste”) on the table behind which Entergy’s officials and the NRC sat. Anyone who doesn’t understand, and because of that, not only condemns her, but in the Legislature, might vote to poison us and keep us in constant fear for our children and grandchildren for 20 more years, was never on the side of desperate parents and grandparents anyway, and care nothing about our children.

There are times when I am so tired of feeling sad, hopeless, and cynical in the face of corporate power, that I can hardly find the right words. However, criticism of Sally’s despair and fury, which I share, made me find some.

Thank you, Sally.

JANE NEWTON
South Londonderry

(Thank YOU, Jane. You are NOT alone!)

Vermont Yankee taking cues from Matt Groenig

This falls under the, “I shit you not” category. Help!

Yankee worker suspended after failing alcohol test

By BOB AUDETTE, Reformer Staff

Thursday, March 6 [2008]

BRATTLEBORO — A Vermont Yankee employee tested positive for alcohol after a fellow employee raised concerns about her fitness for duty. The employee, who had a blood alcohol content exceeding the threshold imposed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission of .04 percent, was suspended for two weeks following the test on Jan. 29.

A spokesman for Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant said the name and job title of the person who failed the test, and whether she had returned to work, was not available to the public.

“All who work in this industry are bound by fitness-for-duty programs,” said Rob Williams. “Confidentiality of the program is a key federal requirement which rightly protects people’s privacy.”

The employee will be required to participate in follow-up testing, he said.

“The program also makes available counseling and referral services,” said Williams.

Entergy, which owns and operates the nuclear power plant in Vernon, is required by the NRC “to provide reasonable assurance” that plant personnel can perform their tasks “in a reliable manner,” that they are not under the influence of alcohol or drugs, whether legal or illegal, and are notmentally or physically impaired from any cause that may adversely affect their ability to perform their duties, according to the NRC Web site. “All plants are required to have a behavioral observation component for their fitness-for-duty programs,” said Neil Sheehan, spokesman for the NRC. “In this case, it was behavioral observation that led to the testing of the worker, showing the program is doing what it should be.”

According to NRC regulations, if an individual has a blood alcohol content of .04 or greater, he or she is to be removed from his or her posts and referred to a plant operator’s employee assistance program.

It’s not limited to .04 percent though, said Sheehan. A company such as Entergy could institute an even lower threshold.

“Entergy abides by the .04 level,” said Williams.

“If this is a first-time offender, chances are good she will be able to take part in the company’s EAP, get the proper treatment and be restored to her duties,” said Sheehan.

A control room operator tested positive July 2007 for marijuana during a random fitness-for-duty test at Vermont Yankee. The 22-year employee of the plant claimed he had mistakenly eaten marijuana-laced brownies at a July 4 party.

The employee was removed from his duties and assigned to the plant’s training program and enrolled in Entergy’s EAP.

The plants are getting old. It’s really time to wake up.

I must say that after many years of reading the Brattleboro Reformer, I was never especially proud to call it my hometown paper. In fact, it isn’t even my hometown paper anymore. With my move to the big/little city four years ago, I traded the Reformer for what should have been the improved, edgy, urban version of a hometown paper. Unfortunately, it was the Cambridge Chronicle… which provided my first reason for gaining a certain level of respect for Brattleboro’s daily rag.

Not to digress too much, suffice it to say that in my 38 years on the planet, i have never come across a local weekly newspaper who seems to go so far out of its way to scandalize any city news it can get its manipulative hands on, with particular dramatics applied to any news related to the city’s public school system, as I have in the Cambridge Chronicle.

Having the opportunity to work within the walls of the city’s only public high school, I can say that all of the amazing and positive things that I see happening every single day are largely ignored by the Chronicle so that they can bolster their campaign to erroneously prove that there is little more than crime and corruption blanketing the school. The most poignant example was on the high school’s graduation day in the first year that I lived here. While every other paper in the United States published photos of caps in the air amidst stories focused on the unlimited potential of their graduates, the Chronicle headlined something about the 70-odd kids who failed to pass the state’s MCAS exam who wouldn’t be joining their classmates at the ceremony that day,

The Chronicle failed to mention the number of students who spoke one of the sixty or so non-English languages amongst their nearly 2,000 graduates… or when these non-graduating students began their education within the city. That was my first experience of disgust with a local newspaper… and the first time, in reflection, that I gained any measure of respect for the Reformer.

Since the spring of 2006, my friend (and partner in crime) and I have been submitting periodic press releases to the Reformer regarding the anti-nuclear photography project we’ve created (http://www.ChernobylVermont.com/). Not a single one was ever printed. Recently, a Letter to the Editor was published that said friend, John, had written in response to a previously published letter attempting to debunk the Chernobyl-Vernon connection with claims of superior technology and oversight in the Vermont Yankee plant. Due to its well-researched and highly technical nature, John’s response was printed in the paper… completely destroying all arguments made in the initial letter.

Due to a random stroke of luck, today I read the paper’s editorial of September 1st entitled, “Who’s Minding the Plant?” (http://www.reformer.com/editorials/ci_6778053) And today, I have recognized that, once in a while, even a small, local newspaper is capable of the courage necessary to let the truth override the politics of corporate contributions to the community and speak out about untenable situations that are otherwise being diminished or simply ignored by the larger media outlets.

Dear Brattleboro Reformer, you have gained my respect today. While your coverage of the plant has been mildly critical up to this point, I think you’ve finally managed to see the value of the contribution that you can make in terms of challenging the status quo of silence with regard to the impact that the nuclear plant has on the overall well-being of a wonderful and unique community. I applaud you for your decision to print this editorial, and welcome you to an elite group of intelligent individuals who recognize the NO-WIN situation regarding the extended licensing and increased output of an aging nuke plant that should, indeed, be moving towards decommissioning rather than these risky propositions.

You’ve made me miss Vermont all the more… a nuclear-free Vermont, that is. 

When John returned from the Ukraine with photos of the city surrounding the Chernobyl nuclear plant, it was immediately obvious that there were many similarities between that community (Pripyat) prior to the disaster and our own, beloved southern Vermont region. Upon seeing hundreds of images of the impact that the nuclear disaster had on the region surrounding the Chernobyl plant, I saw how urgent the need was to educate those who would be impacted most should the Vermont Yankee plant face a similar fate.