VTEP Blog

Nuclear Decommissioning Citizens Advisory Panel to meet November 16 in Brattleboro

Posted by: Vermont Energy Partnership Staff    Posted date:  November 29, 2017

On Thursday, November 16, the Nuclear Decommissioning Citizens Advisory Panel will hold their next meeting at the Brattleboro Area Middle School, 109 Sunny Acres, Brattleboro, from 6-9 PM. A full agenda can be accessed here. I will attend the meeting and look forward to seeing many of you there.

The NorthStar plan is receiving lots of letters of support through the Brattleboro-area papers. Most recently, Patty O’Donnell, a member of the Vernon Planning and Economic Development Commission, was published in The Keene Sentinel, Brattleboro Reformer and The Commons with an excellent letter citing the economic potential of the sale. Her letter can be read below.

Why wait 60 years for economic benefits?

Those of us who live in Vernon have experienced the effects of Vermont Yankee’s closure firsthand. Thanks to NorthStar’s proposed purchase of Vermont Yankee, Vernon has a chance to rebuild Windham County’s economic foundation sooner.

However, the state’s latest demands to require NorthStar to adhere to “residential standards” when decommissioning the site may force additional, pointless delays on the deal.

While constructive vetting is useful to ensure NorthStar’s ability to complete the job, endless roadblocks such as this will only delay the economic benefits that our region needs. Even worse, these objections could lead NorthStar to throw up its hands and quit, leaving us with a 60-year delay to receive the economic benefits Windham County needs.

If the NorthStar deal is successful, Vermont Yankee can be decommissioned in as soon as 10 years, opening up the site to a new employer who will bring jobs and economic stability to the community. The state should consider the alternative — decades of waiting for the decommissioning of Vermont Yankee per the original plan — before delaying NorthStar’s CPG process even further.

Sincerely,

Patty O’Donnell

Yes Vermont Yankee – Rubble at Vermont Yankee

Posted by: Vermont Energy Partnership Staff    Posted date:  November 9, 2017

Meredith Angwin, a well-known advocate for nuclear energy and publisher of Yes Vermont Yankee blog, has recently been featured in an excellent letter about the importance of rubblization in NorthStar’s decommissioning plan.

This week, she shared her letter, as well as many other letters in support of the rubblization plan, on Yes Vermont Yankee. I encourage you to check out the whole blog here and read Meredith’s letter, below.

Framing the Discussion

I am well-known as an advocate for nuclear energy. I lost most of my interest in the Vermont Yankee plant after it closed down, and I devoted myself to writing a book about pro-nuclear advocacy. However, in the past six months, I began looking at the issues surrounding the proposed sale of Vermont Yankee to NorthStar.

Since NorthStar’s announcement about the proposal to purchase Vermont Yankee, I have attended several public meetings and community briefings, and heard NorthStar CEO Scott State speak. In these meetings, Mr. State has answered the hard questions about about NorthStar’s plan to decommission Vermont Yankee in a safe, well managed process over relatively short time frame. State has responded to questions with candor and transparency. For example, I hadn’t really understood that the nuclear opponent slogan of “no rubblization” would lead to huge amounts of truck traffic taking rubble away from the site. (Yes, I should have realized this myself.) Mr. State noted that, without rubblization, heavily-loaded construction trucks would constantly pass the elementary school. This would be a safety hazard for parents and children.

Nuclear opponents have effectively framed the discussion to their own personal definitions of safety: their definitions ignore traffic safety and children’s safety. Similarly, nuclear opponents are now speaking of letting the site “heal.” In other words, they want to remove the Vermont Yankee site from possible use as a commercial site (with jobs) until such time as it meets their non-measurable criteria for “healing.”

I’m hopeful the Public Utilities Commission recognizes the tangible safety, economic and environmental benefits of NorthStar’s proposal.

Residential standards for nuclear plant site make little sense

Posted by: Vermont Energy Partnership Staff    Posted date:  October 25, 2017

By Guy Page

If some in agencies of the Scott Administration pursue their  dream to restore the Vermont Yankee site to “residential standards” (Oct. 18, “Changes could endanger Vermont Yankee sale”), they will be responsible for a deal-killer that makes little sense from the standpoint of past agreements and likely future use.

If required to restore the Vermont Yankee site and spent fuel storage facility to a contrary use, NorthStar CEO Scott State confirmed that the company will drop the plant purchase and decommissioning project. If that happens, current owner Entergy says it must mothball the site in SAFSTOR for 25-50 years.  SAFSTOR is an acronym used by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission to describe the longterm shutdown of a closed nuclear plant site, deferring decommissioning and site restoration until many, many years down the road.

As planned, NorthStar would return the site to a green field. It would move all contaminated structures and material, as well as all structures to a depth of four feet below grade (one foot deeper than required by regulations and previous agreements). It would replace all removed material with clean fill, then grade and seed the entire property. The land could be returned to farming, with background radiation levels almost half as much under the federal minimum levels.

But the Town of Vernon has bigger plans than farming. A few acres with material four feet below grade works just fine for the kind of new high-tech employer the town wants: for example, a data center, large manufacturer, or another power plant. (The power plant concept has particular appeal for many town residents who are proud of their community’s century-long legacy of hosting cutting-edge power generating facilities like the Vernon Dam and Vermont Yankee.) For such a project, any competent site designer can work around a handful of in-ground obstacles.

Housing is a different story. The term “residential standards” presumably means what it sounds like: a restored site sub-divided into building lots with potential basements and leach fields.  For this purpose, four feet isn’t deep enough.

And who would build housing on the Vermont Yankee site, anyway? The Town of Vernon envisions a new tax-paying, job-creating clean industry on the Vermont Yankee site. There’s plenty of housing for sale in and around Vernon, and plenty of land on which to build new housing, but there is only one uniquely-advantaged industrial development site – Vermont Yankee. No one is even considering the site for housing. From out of the proverbial left field, the State has introduced a new requirement that is as unnecessary as it is certain to kill the project.

It’s not clear why the State of Vermont would pursue standards not needed for industrial development. Perhaps the gambit is to negotiate the best deal for Vermont by pushing the envelope. That’s good for Vermont as long as we don’t kill the proverbial golden opportunity that the sale to NorthStar provides – an opportunity to regain some of the jobs and revenue lost when Vermont Yankee closed. According to an October 23 article in E&E News, Vermont Yankee’s total annual payroll when operational was $66 million, with a regional economic impact of almost $500 million.

Hopefully, the Public Utilities Commission knows what’s real and what’s not; for example, a housing development on the VY site. For the long-term wellbeing of Vernon and Windham County, let’s hope so.

(The author is a Berlin, Vermont resident and the communications director for the Vermont Energy Partnership, a coalition of more than 90 members in support of policies for clean, safe, affordable, and reliable power. Vermont Yankee is a VTEP member.)

Community Briefing brings Brattleboro, Vernon residents together to hear NorthStar CEO

Posted by: Vermont Energy Partnership Staff    Posted date:  October 12, 2017

On September 28, about 30 Brattleboro and Vernon business leaders came together for a Community Briefing & Luncheon, featuring NorthStar CEO Scott State who touched on key issues of NorthStar’s proposed decommissioning plan, including rubblization, spent fuel and the project timeline.


Brattleboro and Vernon business leaders listen to NorthStar CEO Scott State

Following a brief introduction by Vermont Yankee site manager Joe Lynch, Mr. State answered several questions from the audience. The main focus of NorthStar’s decommissioning plan is safety, he said, and that extends to all aspects of the plan. Safety is also the main reason for promoting rubblization, the recycling of clean concrete onsite rather removing all rubble, contaminated and clean. All-rubble removal would increase truck traffic by 3,000 to 5,000 a year, which would put Vernon schoolchildren and local drivers at risk.

All audience members, both pro-NorthStar and long-time Vermont Yankee opponents seemed pleased with Mr. State’s remarks. The Partnership looks forward to hosting more Q&A events with Mr. State in the future.

NorthStar Process: Due diligence with a hopeful outcome

Posted by: Vermont Energy Partnership Staff    Posted date:  September 19, 2017

By: Brad Ferland, President, Vermont Energy Partnership

Vermont has an excellent opportunity for new economic development, thanks to NorthStar’s plan to decommission Vermont Yankee. Historically, Vermonters have worked hard to preserve our natural resources, and the cost of doing business here is reflected in those values. To succeed in a global economy, it is also imperative that our process for business development is fair, reasonable and timely. 

 

Over the past several months, the Nuclear Decommissioning Citizens Advisory Panel has provided an excellent forum for community leaders and citizens to voice concerns about the NorthStar process. However, in all the meetings dedicated to the topic, there hasn’t been one voice opposed to an accelerated decommissioning.


Even prior to the plant’s shutdown in 2014, a small, vocal group of anti-nuclear opponents called for a quick decommissioning to return the site to green field conditions within a shorter timeframe. This is exactly what NorthStar proposes: begin decommissioning once the NRC and PUC grant approval, with a completion date as soon as 2030. The alternative is keeping the site in SAFSTOR for another 60 years, which would lead to economic and environmental stagnation. 

 

NorthStar’s plan gives Vernon the opportunity to turn a “minus” – a dormant nuclear power plant – into an exciting plus. In the early 20thcentury, a forward-thinking Brattleboro business community employed cutting-edge hydro-electric turbine technology to build the Vernon Dam, which provided electricity for many decades and is still licensed today. In the 1960’s, Vernon and Windham County stepped up again to host Vermont Yankee, a generator of low-cost, emissions-free electricity that at one point contributed a third of Vermont’s power with plenty left over for the rest of New England. Vermont’s future-minded acceptance of Vermont Yankee provided cleaner air in the smoggy 1970’s, and carbon-free power in the era of climate change. 

 

To continue its historic legacy as a regional power-producer, the Town of Vernon has already announced its intention to utilize the site for another cutting-edge industry, such as a micro-grid or solar facility, should the plan be approved. If we have the chance now to replace and rebuild industry here in Windham County, why slam the door on NorthStar and wait another 60 years?

 

NorthStar’s credentials proves that they are more than prepared to take on Vermont Yankee. The company has successfully completed thousands of projects across the country – many of them more complicated than Vermont Yankee. I am confident that the PUC and NRC’s review of the company will result in a well-deserved Certificate of Public Good.


Unfortunately, our state has a well-earned reputation for being unfriendly to business, and if the review process is too long and costly, we could ultimately see NorthStar withdraw its bid for this project. While the review process is necessary and good for Vermont, it’s important that it’s not drawn out by unnecessary roadblocks, lest Vernon lose out on a brighter economic and environmental future.


Early decommissioning offers many benefits to Windham County, both immediate and down the road. Our local stores, hotels and restaurants can expect a business boom from hundreds of NorthStar workers as onsite demolition begins. Also, under the proposed plan, a new employer could be established on the Vermont Yankee site within the next ten years, bringing jobs, tax dollars and charitable giving to the region. That’s an example of the kind of economic development that Vermont needs.

 

NorthStar’s purchase of Vermont Yankee is just one economic development project in Vermont, but it’s a significant one. Vermonters throughout the state will be watching to see how this process plays out. We should all works towards making it an opportunity and not a regret. 

Clean Up VY Without Delay

Posted by: Vermont Energy Partnership Staff    Posted date:  September 8, 2017

This morning, the Brattleboro Reformer ran an excellent letter by Peggy Farabaugh of Vernon, citing the many benefits of NorthStar’s plan to decommission Vermont Yankee now, rather than waiting another 60 years. The letter can be read here and below.

Also, please mark your calendars for the Vermont Yankee Nuclear Decommissioning Citizens Advisory Panel meeting on September 28, from 6-9 PM in the Multi-Purpose Room at Brattleboro Middle School, 109 Sunny Acres, Brattleboro. A full agenda can be accessed here.

The latest environmental site assessment at Vermont Yankee (“No new pollution at Vermont Yankee,” Aug. 30) is good news for Windham County. It provides even more documented evidence that the site is ready for decommissioning. This readiness, combined with NorthStar’s proposed purchase of Vermont Yankee, provides an opportunity to help rebuild our community’s economic foundation.

Your headline says it all — No new pollution. Since 2001 there have been three non-radiological environmental site assessments performed at Vermont Yankee. All three have given a green light for operations and/or decommissioning. This industrial site is ready to be decommissioned and restored. While constructive vetting is useful to ensure NorthStar’s ability to complete the job, there’s no legitimate reason to delay the project and the economic benefits our region needs. On the other hand, the 60-year decommissioning plan provides an additional five decades of uncertainty and exposure to environmental risks that are out of our control (such as hurricanes, tornadoes and floods).

If the NorthStar sale is approved, Vermont Yankee can be decommissioned in as little as ten years, opening up the site to new possibilities for jobs and economic stability for Vernon and throughout Vermont. While adhering to its mission of protecting environmental health and safety, the state must consider the potential economic and environmental losses of unduly delaying NorthStar’s CPG.

NDCAP to hear NorthStar CEO at September 28 meeting in Brattleboro

Posted by: Vermont Energy Partnership Staff    Posted date:  September 8, 2017

The Nuclear Decommissioning Citizens Advisory Panel (NDCAP) recently released its agenda for their September 28 meeting. The meeting will be held from 6-9 PM in the Multi-Purpose Room at Brattleboro Area Middle School, 109 Sunny Acres, Brattleboro.

In addition to an update from Vermont Yankee on recent site activity, NorthStar CEO Scott State will be present to deliver a presentation and answer questions. A full agenda for the meeting can be found here.

I look forward to seeing you there as we learn more about NorthStar’s plan to decommission Vermont Yankee.

Governor Scott to be keynote speaker at NE-ISO meeting in Woodstock, September 7

Posted by: Vermont Energy Partnership Staff    Posted date:  August 31, 2017

Learn more about the future of Vermont and New England electricity transmission at the ISO-New England Consumer Liaison Group (CLG) informational session and luncheon on September 7, from 12-3:30 PM at the Woodstock Inn and Resort, on the Green, Woodstock, VT.

The meeting will feature a free lunch, a keynote speech by Governor Phil Scott and will host a panel of regulatory, utility and industry experts to address the controversial FERC Order 1000 to enhance regional transmission of distributed power. A representative from Vermont Electric Company (VELCO), the state’s transmission utility, will also be featured on the panel.

VTEP Communications Director Guy Page, one of Vermont’s two coordinating committee members, will moderate the panel discussion. Meredith Angwin, a longtime nuclear power advocate and author of a recent book on grassroots activism, will also be present as a Vermont representative on the coordinating committee

The ISO-CLG holds quarterly luncheons across New England, in an effort to bring together energy consumers and policy makers in an informal, informational setting. The entire event is free and open to the public, but pre-registration is necessary. For more information, contact Mary Louise Nuara at (413) 540-4481 or mnuara@iso-ne.com.

Vermont Yankee continues to benefit schools, environment, economy through $5.2 million contribution

Posted by: Vermont Energy Partnership Staff    Posted date:  August 24, 2017

For four decades, schools and schoolchildren in Windham County have benefited from having a major electric power producer right in their own backyard at Vermont Yankee. Despite the plant’s closure, it is encouraging to see that, via the Vermont Clean Energy Development Fund (VCEDF), the plant’s owner continues to deliver benefits to the local community (“Vermont Yankee settlement money to be used for wood boiler projects,” 8/21).

Fortunately for local schools and for Vermont’s forestry and renewable power economy, a multi-million dollar commitment by Vermont Yankee to the VCEDF has helped fund the installation of new wood-burning furnaces and infrastructure for three area schools, with five more in the works.

Many Vermonters have been helped by the $5.2 million contribution as part of the 2013 master settlement agreement that paved the way for a smooth decommissioning. They include not only local taxpayers and schoolchildren, but also the not-for-profit organizations planning and facilitating the work, and the contractors turning the wrenches and installing the equipment.

The benefit of building wood-fired heat in public schools extends beyond Windham County to the entire Vermont economy and to our state’s contribution to reducing greenhouse gases. Vermont’s logging industry faces serious problems, including an aging workforce, prohibitive workers’ compensation costs, and dwindling pulpwood demand from our increasingly paperless society. For an industry yearning for hope, the cost-effective transition of public buildings to pellet-stove heat creates a large potential market.

When it was making electricity, Vermont Yankee’s contributions to clean, safe, affordable, reliable energy and a strong statewide economy were immense. It is heartening to read that almost three years after the plant shut down for the final time, Vermont Yankee is still promoting a strong economy and a cleaner environment.

Learn about regional transmission in Woodstock, September 7, 12-3:30 PM

Posted by: Vermont Energy Partnership Staff    Posted date:  August 17, 2017

Learn more about the future of Vermont and New England electricity transmission at the ISO-New England Consumer Liaison Group (CLG) informational session and luncheon on September 7, from 12-3:30 PM at the Woodstock Inn and Resort, on the Green, Woodstock, VT.

The meeting will feature a free lunch, a keynote speech by a Vermont energy leader and will host a panel of regulatory, utility and industry experts to address the controversial FERC Order 1000 to enhance regional transmission of distributed power. A representative from Vermont Electric Company (VELCO), the state’s transmission utility, will also be featured on the panel.

VTEP Communications Director Guy Page, one of Vermont’s two coordinating committee members, will moderate the panel discussion. Meredith Angwin, a longtime nuclear power advocate and author of recent book on grassroots activism, will also be present as a Vermont representative on the coordinating committee

The ISO-CLG holds quarterly luncheons across New England, in an effort to bring together energy consumers and policy makers in an informal, informational setting. The entire event is free and open to the public, but pre-registration is necessary. For more information, contact Mary Louise Nuara of ISO-NE at (413) 540-4481 or mnuara@iso-ne.com.

 
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