Look ahead to NorthStar for Vernon Funding

Posted by: Vermont Energy Partnership Staff    Posted date:  July 5, 2018

The following post is written by Vernon resident Peggy Farabaugh.

How lucky are we? Vermont Yankee support for our community is the gift that keeps on giving. Windham County is still benefiting long after VY shut down (BDCC gets $150,000 grant for high school Pathways Project, June 28).

But sadly this flow of money from Vermont Yankee to the community will eventually come to an end. The Vernon local government has known this for years and I thank them for enthusiastically backing NorthStar’s decommissioning as the best way to transition our town to a prosperous future.

As a Vernon resident and businessperson, I am grateful for every dollar Vermont Yankee continues to put back into the community and am looking forward to Vernon’s economic future. Our Select Board, Planning Commission & other civic-minded volunteers deserve a hand for all they’ve done to make this possible.

Article of Interest: Towns see gold in storing nuclear waste

Posted by: Vermont Energy Partnership Staff    Posted date:  June 7, 2018

WASHINGTON EXAMINER: Towns see gold in storing nuclear waste
by Josh Siegel  | May 22, 2018 12:01

If there ever was a place meant to store the nation’s commercial nuclear waste, at least temporarily, it’s southeastern New Mexico, some local residents say.

John Heaton, a 78-year-old retiree from Carlsbad, belongs to the Eddy-Lea Energy Alliance, a coalition of volunteers that owns land in Lea County it intends to sell to a company proposing to build an underground storage site to temporarily house waste from the nation’s 99 nuclear reactors.

The alliance includes representatives from Eddy and Lea counties, and the cities of Carlsbad and Hobbs, which together sit in the heart of the Permian Basin natural gas fracking boom. The commissions of both counties, and councils of each city, have passed resolutions that support hosting nuclear waste storage.

“The tragedy of it all is when somebody mentions nuclear or plutonium, people have this image in their mind, especially older people who went through Hiroshima,” Heaton told the Washington Examiner. “There are groups of people who continue to promote non-factual information that just creates hysteria and all these ideas. We have been fortunate to become educated about it, which is why you see this kind of acceptance here.”

The alliance’s embrace of the concept is a stark contrast to sentiment in Nevada, where opposition to being a “dumping ground” for the nation’s commercial nuclear waste has stalled a 30-year effort to develop Yucca Mountain, 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas, as the nation’s permanent repository for nuclear waste.

Interim storage is not authorized under federal law. But a bill passed by a wide bipartisan margin in the House this month would direct the Energy Department to create a temporary storage program until Yucca Mountain is approved by regulators and funded by Congress, if it ever is.

Finding communities willing to take the radioactive waste has always been a difficult task for the U.S. government, and only two sites have been proposed for interim storage.

Holtec International, a New Jersey-based equipment supplier, is seeking a 40-year license for a storage site in Lea County, with a plan to house 120,000 tons of nuclear waste.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is reviewing the proposal and vetting it for safety, security, and environmental concerns. It also has begun holding public hearings.

Waste Control Specialists, meanwhile, wants to build a temporary nuclear storage site in Andrews County in West Texas, a project that also enjoys support from local and state officials, including Republican Rep. Mike Conaway, whose district houses the proposed location.

Supporters of the proposed projects say their experience with nuclear power, coupled with the job opportunities provided by hosting a site, outweigh their concerns of potential risks.

New Mexico, especially the part of the state Heaton comes from, knows nukes.

In 1945, the first atomic bomb was successfully tested in Alamogordo. Los Alamos weapons laboratory, where America’s first nuclear weapons were built, is also in the state.

And in southeast New Mexico, the Energy Department runs the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, which residents know by heart as its acronym, WIPP, the nation’s only underground repository for waste from America’s nuclear defense program.

“There is certainly a political will for this to happen, understanding our experience,” Sam Cobb, the 66-year-old mayor of Hobbs, told the Washington Examiner. “This is an opportunity for us to get a steady stream of revenue from what I believe is a safe process to secure spent fuel.”

New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez, a Republican, has expressed support for the plan, as has Rep. Steve Pearce, also a Republican, while Democratic politicians such as Sen. Tom Udall oppose it.

“This project, with community support, would continue to cement New Mexico as a national leader in nuclear energy production, development, and disposal,” Pearce said after the House passed the bill authorizing temporary storage.

Heaton and Cobb are self-declared conservative Democrats who support “baseload” energy sources such as coal and nuclear power and welcome President Trump’s “energy dominance” agenda that seeks to exploit America’s status as the dominant world producer of natural gas.

“If you want to see a boom city, you should come to Carlsbad, N.M.,” said Heaton, who served in the state legislature for 14 years and worked on energy-related issues. “You can’t even get to town because of oil and gas right now. So with nuclear waste, we recognize the opportunity from an economic perspective, and we also recognize it is desperately needed in the country.”

Heaton projects the storage facility will create about 100 temporary construction jobs and 100 more jobs while the site is operating.

Andrews County, the Texas region primed for a waste storage site, also has experience with nuclear.

Waste Control Specialists already stores low-level radioactive waste in the county.

The company suspended its application to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for building a new storage facility about a year ago, as the company sorted through ownership and financial issues. But Waste Control Specialists announced this year that it is partnering on the project with French energy giant Orano, which manages and stores nuclear waste at sites in France.

The joint venture, known as Interim Storage Partners, intends to resubmit its application to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission by the end of June.

“We have a proven and robust technology to safely store the fuel,” Jeff Isakson, president of Interim Storage Partners, told the Washington Examiner. “Our proposal represents good progress to a solution for used fuel in the U.S, with a long-term repository being the ultimate destination. In the meantime, we are confident we can keep the fuel safe for a very long time.”

Isakson said he expects the facility to create 30 to 40 jobs while it operates.

But critics of interim storage worry the targeted final destination, Yucca Mountain, will never open. If that were to happen, the temporary facilities could become de facto permanent storage facilities, a task they would not be set up to do.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York and other Democrats have already declared the House-passed bill “dead on arrival.”

“I don’t support an interim disposal site without a plan for permanent disposal, because that nuclear waste could be orphaned there indefinitely,” Udall told the Washington Examiner. “Any future nuclear waste mission in New Mexico would need broad support throughout the state as well as an independent scientific analysis ensuring its safety before I would consider supporting it.”

Udall also noted the spotty safety record of WIPP, New Mexico’s nuclear weapons waste storage plant.

In 2014, a drum containing radioactive waste blew up there, an explosion that ranked among the costliest nuclear accidents in U.S. history.

Others worry about the potential cost of interim storage, considering the resources already invested in Yucca Mountain. Spent nuclear fuel sits idle in 121 communities across 39 states, and if that waste were to be transported to temporary sites, it would have to be delivered again, likely by rail, to Yucca Mountain.

“My initial concern is that any designation of interim storage would only delay a permanent repository and it wouldn’t be significantly safer or more cost effective,” Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., told the Washington Examiner.

Rep. John Shimkus, R-Ill, the author of the House-passed bill, argues interim storage is better than the current reality.

“The issue with nuclear waste is for most people it’s out of sight out of mind,” Shimkus told the Washington Examiner. “But when you have spent fuel in 121 locations in 39 states, every elected official needs to be accountable for addressing a national problem with a national solution, and doing nothing is not the right course of action.”

The Nuclear Waste Policy Act, passed by Congress in 1982 and amended five years later, directs the Energy Department to take possession of the nation’s spent nuclear fuel and dispose of it in a deep geological repository at Yucca Mountain.

The law created a Nuclear Waste Fund to pay for the federal repository by charging nuclear reactor operators a fee on the waste they produced.

Since the Obama administration blocked Yucca Mountain from opening, the federal government paid hundreds of millions of dollars in damages to utilities that own nuclear reactors and that sued for costs associated with storing waste at their sites.

Shimkus said it’s time for Congress to wrest back control.

“The interim proposal allows us to more rapidly reclaim the spent fuel and thus relieving the burden on communities by locating the fuel in places that want to perform that job,” Shimkus said.

As Vermont’s “renewable power revolution” relies on fossil fuels, so does New York’s

Posted by: Vermont Energy Partnership Staff    Posted date:  May 29, 2018

Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York has been fighting for years to shut down nuclear power plants in New York, while playing up the value of wind turbines. As the Wall Street Journal reported May 19, the Empire State’s plentiful, affordable carbon-free nuclear power will indeed be replaced by turbines — not wind, but the natural gas-powered variety. Hello, bigger carbon footprint! Exactly the same thing has already happened in Vermont.

Six years after the Vermont Yankee contract expired in 2012, the solar power industry is bemoaning the state’s failure to reach its renewable energy goals. According to a flyer inserted in legislators’ mailboxes May 21, solar power produces just five percent of Vermont’s total load. Also, construction of new wind power turbines is anathema to local and state regulators.  The supply vacuum has been filled by southern New England plants burning natural gas — not exactly the “clean renewable future” promised by the Legislature’s pro-renewable energy leaders in their “shut down Vermont Yankee” days.

Meanwhile, decisions by both state and federal regulators on the proposed sale of Vermont Yankee to NorthStar are expected by summer’s end. If regulators approve, the sale is likely to be finalized before the end of the year, at which point NorthStar can begin to implement its plan to fully restore the site by 2026. For more details on supporters and opponents to the plan to revitalize southeastern Vermont through Vermont Yankee site restoration, see my op-ed in the May 23 Greenfield Recorder.

NorthStar budget is sound

Posted by: Vermont Energy Partnership Staff    Posted date:  May 7, 2018

As Guy Page points out in his recent op-ed (Guy Page: While most see opportunity, CLF sees only problems with VY sale, May 2), Conservation Law Foundation’s opposition to NorthStar’s proposed purchase of Vermont Yankee may claim to be based on fiscal caution, but a look at the numbers should leave very little concern for the plan’s reliability.

The Vermont Yankee Trust Fund for site decommissioning of the site is valued at $571 million now and continues to grow. NorthStar’s highly detailed budget, which is broken down into 900 individual sub-projects, is $498 million. Hundreds of millions of dollars of added financing and insurance are further protection against any cost overruns.

Yes, decommissioning is expensive with some element of uncertainty, but we should consider the long-term benefits as well. An accelerated decommissioning means Vernon will have access to a restored greenfield site in as soon as 10 years, with the potential to redevelop as another industry center. A large-scale employer, good jobs and high tax revenue are likely to follow.

If visionary projects were decided by unsubstantiated fear, many of the United States’ greatest accomplishments would never have been completed. Let’s not, in the false guise of fiscal prudence, force Vernon to remain the host-town to a defunct nuclear plant and miss a promising future.

Representative Michael Hebert

Windham 1 Guilford/Vernon

Governor Scott issues statement of support for Vermont Yankee sale

Posted by: Vermont Energy Partnership Staff    Posted date:  April 19, 2018

Prior to the Vermont Public Utility Commission (PUC) final meeting on Thursday, April 18, Governor Phil Scott released the following statement in support of the sale of Vermont Yankee to NorthStar:

In early March, my Administration signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) supporting the sale of the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant facility in Vernon from Entergy to NorthStar. If this MOU is approved by the Public Utility Commission, NorthStar will take over Entergy’s obligation to decommission and restore the Vermont Yankee site.

“I commend the parties in the case who worked to find common ground on how to move forward sooner than expected with cleaning up and restoring the site by 2030, if not earlier. With a financial assurance package worth more than $250 million, the MOU reduces project risks and protects against cost overruns while ensuring that NorthStar has sufficient funds to complete the job.

“Further, the new financial assurances that NorthStar and Entergy have agreed to in the MOU will supplement the nuclear decommissioning trust fund that Vermont ratepayers have paid into over many years. This means there will be more financial resources to complete the cleanup and decommissioning work than previously expected.

“The MOU also ensures the Town of Vernon will be included in the process of establishing site restoration standards. This MOU is a win for the people of Vermont, and especially for the citizens of Vernon.”

Legislator optimistic about possible NorthStar agreement

Posted by: Vermont Energy Partnership Staff    Posted date:  February 14, 2018

I’m very optimistic that the “significant progress” made in the NorthStar/Vermont Yankee decommissioning negotiations will result in a positive decision within a short period of time (State reports more progress in Yankee talks, Feb. 2).

As a legislator and school board member, I have a deep sense of duty to support economic growth for my community. Vernon expected the Vermont Yankee site to remain in SAFSTOR for 50 or 60 years until NorthStar came along to complete the job in a fraction of the time.

When the deal was first announced in November, 2016, it gave our community a sense of hope that the town’s most valuable job-creating, revenue-producing industrial property could begin to prosper in as soon as 10 years.

As we studied the plan and talked with NorthStar and Entergy leaders, I, along with Vernon’s town leaders, became confident that this deal was the answer to our vision for a safe, prosperous future for Vernon. Since Vernon’s approval of the NorthStar project, the Brattleboro Development Credit Corporation also announced its support for the plan.

I am hopeful that the major negotiating parties will reach an agreement soon and pave the way to a successful ending of this era of community and county transition.

Rep. Mike Hebert

(Vernon, Guilford)

Mark your calendar for the next PUC Public Meeting – January 4, 2017

Posted by: Vermont Energy Partnership Staff    Posted date:  December 21, 2017

On January 4, 2018, the Public Utilities Commission will hold its final public hearing to discuss the sale of Vermont Yankee to NorthStar, docket 8880. This hearing is very important to the outcome of the sale and the many benefits it holds. Please mark your calendars and plan on attending this hearing to express your support for NorthStar and the economic and environmental benefits of its plan to promptly and safely decommission Vermont Yankee.

The PUC Meeting will be held at Brattleboro Union Memorial High School at 7 PM. An informational briefing will be held at 6 PM.

Safeguarding Our Future: Patty O’Donnell and Josh Unruh

Posted by: Vermont Energy Partnership Staff    Posted date:  December 21, 2017

Vernon is approaching the three-year anniversary of Vermont Yankee’s shutdown. The loss of this major energy generator and job provider has left an economic void in Vernon and the surrounding region.

However, a successful transaction with NorthStar could bring economic prosperity to the town as soon as 2030. Patty O’Donnell and Josh Unruh of the Vernon Planning and Economic Development Commission voice their support of the sale in the advertisement below.

Please also mark your calendar for a pre-meeting dinner at the Governor Hunt House on January 4, 2018, prior to the final Public Utilities Commission public hearing.

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.


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.

  Vermont Energy Partnership © 2016