What a waste – Vermont Yankee is in beautiful condition

The Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant in Vernon, Vermont is a relatively young steam plant that uses a low-cost, essentially emission-free fuel. It is strategically located in an area with few fossil fuel resources, extreme weather, and frequent spikes in electricity prices. It has a well-trained, experienced operating staff that has an excellent performance record. Three years in a row — 2010, 2011, and 2012 — it was voted as the best place to work in Vermont. It has a license to operate from the federal government that is good for another 18 years.

However, politicians in the state — several of whom have substantial financial links to the natural gas and renewable energy industry — have cooperated with emotional activists to add enough extra costs to convince its current owners that it is not worthwhile to continue operating the plant. Those same politicians have somehow convinced their public utility commission that there is question about whether or not the plant is beneficial so the process of granting a “certificate of public good” has been held up for several years.

When its current fuel is exhausted. the 650 MWe nuclear power station will shut down and the owners will give up the operating license. That tragic event is currently scheduled to occur sometime near the end of 2014. Replacing its output will require burning approximately 100 million cubic feet of natural gas every day. During a 100 day winter like 2013-2014, the plant’s electricity output reduces demand on regional gas storage and delivery systems by an important 10 billion cubic feet.

I knew all of those facts before I visited the plant on March 27, 2014. What I did not realize was just how impressive the plant’s current physical condition would be. There is no doubt that the plant has been lovingly cared for, often by people who have spent their entire professional career at the facility. I was fortunate enough to have a tour guide, Bernie Buteau, who was one of those VY career people. He started working at the plant the same year I finished high school — nearly 39 years ago. He will be retiring when the plant retires.

I’ve had the opportunity to tour a large number of steam plants over the past 50 years. I started early; my dad was an engineer at the local power company who he wanted his children to understand what he did for a living. I was a steam plant engineer in the Navy for many years, and have taken a number of tours of various types of facilities whenever the opportunity arose. I don’t think I have ever seen a place as clean, well-labeled, and well-preserved as Vermont Yankee.

I’d love to be able to show you some photos taken during my tour, but cameras are not welcome at nuclear power plants. For some reason, people have decided they are vulnerable targets instead of the sturdy, resilient pieces of infrastructure that they are. As we were leaving the plant, Bernie described how much the site had been forced to change and become far less inviting and beautiful as a result of what I consider to be severe overreaction to 9-11. Many maple trees had been removed, new parking lots had constructed at distant locations, and close-in parking lots had filled with fences, razor wire, and security buffers.

Other, less visible security-related alterations also added a considerable ongoing cost of owning and operating the plant.

There is no doubt in my mind that most of the people living in Vermont and neighboring states will suffer negative effects when the plant shuts down without any available replacement other than burning more gas, coal and oil. Electricity costs will increase, home heating fuel costs will increase and the air will be a little dirtier.

I spoke at length with some local people who have been keeping a close eye on the political actions that contributed to Entergy’s decision to close the plant as no longer being worth operating and maintaining. They told me that the main plans for replacement power depend on future construction of gas pipelines from the Marcellus shale region, gas pipelines from Canada, and electricity transmission lines from Canada.

None of those projects has started construction or has all of the required contracts and permits. In other words, there are hopes and prayers but no firm plans other than to struggle along with systems that are either already in place or can be delivered in a short period of time.

This past winter, the region ended up burning diesel fuel and jet fuel to produce electricity when the installed gas pipelines could not deliver any more fuel. There were days when 1000 cubic feet of natural gas — a standard trading unit of fuel that contains about 1/6th of the energy content of a barrel of oil — cost more than $100 on the spot market.

It is unlikely that very many of the affected people will realize why their cost of living has increased or recognize the perpetrators of the virtual crime that stole a valuable asset from them.

Maybe, in the 9 months that remain before December 28, the currently scheduled last day of operations, there will be a white knight who rides in to save the day.

Do you know anyone who wants to buy an operating nuclear plant, make a few dollars producing a product that will never go out of style, save about 600 jobs, and make life a little better for a large number of people?

Additional Reading

The Gaz Metro Merger Shumlin and GMP – Insightful look at current Vermont energy politics. The article is worth reading; it should inspire action.

About Rod Adams

64 Responses to “What a waste – Vermont Yankee is in beautiful condition”

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  1. Daniel says:

    Someone could buy it or continue operating it if right now the New England Grid operators ISO would give financial value to the electricity produced.

    Quality for stability, clean air etc.

    The guys in Illinois are asking their ISO guys to wake up and do their job but they are not holding their breath.

    Grid stability and ISO. Who are we kidding. NRC and ISO : we ain’t paid to fill our mission when nuclear is involved.

    • Daniel says:

      What a joke those ISO organizations!!

      • Jarred says:

        Daniel, I work at the local ISO. All nukes in NE are base load plants and get paid whatever the real time rate is and I can tell you (and you can check since its public knowledge) that the electricity rates the past 4 months have been sky-high. VY has been raking it in the last few months. We are all fans of fuel diversity at ISO and fans of nuclear power as well. We simply don’t have the power to order Entergy to keep the plant online no matter how much we’d like to.

        • Rod Adams says:

          @Jarred

          Is the ISO offering capacity payments for other types of generation? Does a reliable baseload plant like VY qualify for those payments?

          Though I personally have a high level of respect for Entergy as an operating company and believe they were treated unfairly by the state, it seems to me that there is a possible path forward under a new ownership structure, especially if it is led by local people who have a strong vested interest in maintaining a reliable, emission-free, already-existing, power source.

          My mom is a native New Englander; I believe a pitch of “waste not, want not” might be successful. There are a lot of very old buildings and factories that are still in beneficial use in that region because people know how important it is to care for what you already have rather than considering everything to be disposable.

          • Jim Rogers says:

            VY is a purely merchant plant. We do not have any long or medium term contracts for power. These expired in 2012. Entergy attempted to negotiate power contracts with Green Mountain Power and Central Vermont as well as some of the smaller utilities in Vermont. But frankly without Shumlin’s blessing there wasn’t a snow balls chance of that happening. They could cite the uncertainty of the Public Service Board action as an excuse not to act and of course the uncertainty was all based on the Governor.
            Interesting part of that negotiation was that I believe Entergy had offered lower prices than that provided by HydroQuebec although it is difficult to pin that down since the state did not release the information.
            Daniel is right, however, the last few months prices have been very high, at times over $300/MW-hr. But with a return to more seasonal temperatures the price has subsided. It is difficult to run a base-load nuke plant at $35/MW-hr or less. Especially if you’re O&M cost is high due to the small power output. Not much different than Kewaunee.

          • Rod Adams says:

            @Jim Rogers

            There are thousands of “purely merchant” factories around the country that often have to figure out how to make an annual profit with a seasonal product. I used to run one – one of our major lines was swimming pool toys that were only in demand for about 4 months out of the year, even though we were selling into the Florida market.

            The enormous advantage that VY has over most 40 year old factories is that it sells a product that never goes out of style.

            There is a big difference between VY and Kewaunee – you are on the high priced side of a constraint in the natural gas delivery system that will not disappear very quickly. By the time the pipelines are built, I am fairly confident that the bubble will be gone and gas prices in North America will more closely align with the gas prices seen in the rest of the world. Historically, natural gas energy is priced within about 20% of crude oil energy.

            It has some disadvantages in terms of energy density and deliverability, but it also has some advantages in terms of cleanliness and less need for additional processing before reaching market.

          • Rick Armknecht says:

            Rod,

            Another “waste not, want not” aspect could kill a couple (or more) birds with one stone: add an organic rankine loop to the plant. There may be tax credits for electricity from waste heat. Also, isn’t the big issue in Vermont the tritium release? If there is an additional barrier to tritium entering the environment, then tritium release would certainly be mitigated — if not eliminated entirely. Finally, one thing that environmentalists like to ping on is waste heat itself — that would clearly be mitigated.

          • Rod Adams says:

            @Rick Armknecht

            I like the idea of beneficially using VY’s “waste” heat.

            The tritium issue was a rallying cry, but it was so insignificant that I am amazed by the way people responded. It was a tiny quantity of a relatively harmless isotope dissolved in a fairly large quantity of water, but it ended up costing tens of millions. Better PR would have provided a far higher return on investment.

          • Engineer-Poet says:

            Another “waste not, want not” aspect could kill a couple (or more) birds with one stone: add an organic rankine loop to the plant.

            ORC engines are best-suited to low-temperature heat sources and applications where water’s freezing point is a problem.  Adding an ORC to a nuclear plant would just add complexity, cut reliability and probably cut efficiency due to a second set of heat-exchanger losses.

            There’s been suggestion to add ammonia to the feedwater of steam plants to increase the fluid pressure and density in the low-pressure turbines, but this isn’t feasible with a BWR.

            one thing that environmentalists like to ping on is waste heat itself

            The cooling water from VY should have been routed beneath greenhouses outside the plant fence.  The always-warm greenhouses would have been perfect for supplying out-of-season fruits and veggies to the region.

    • Leonard Suschena says:

      A key factor left out of expense is often over looked. Entergy just came out of a major court battle with the State, I doubt the service commission will allow them to re-coup those costs. Then, what legal wrangling will the Governor try next. For the size of VY, it just isn’t feasiable to constantly battle the State and the intervenors and constantly pay attorney’s fees. If it was a 1000MW unit, maybe, but not a 500MW one.

      Seabrook went on line $4 billion over budget. The utility directly attributed 47% (almost $2 billion) to litigation. A couple year ago, the mayor of Seabrook declared that the plant was the property of the town. Of course it isn’t, but his attitude, “So sue me.” The plant has been on line for near 30 years and still it continues.

  2. Daniel says:

    With the current unrest in Europe (Russia, Ukraine) the shutdown plants in Germany also stand a chance to be brought back!

    Merkel always has the option to fire back the nukes.

    According to this recently updated article from the WNA :

    http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/Country-Profiles/Countries-G-N/Germany/

    One can read just below the list of reactors:

    NB. The eight shut-down reactors are not yet defueled, nor decommissioned and written off by their owners.

    Merkel could allow them to be fired back. Court ruling could also push E.ON to ask the courts to start the nukes again.

    Merkel pointed out recently that in the last cold war, gas was moving freely. Well Angela, cold wars are never played twice with the same tune. Do something. You have changed your stance 2 times on nuclear. Now you could invoke a national emergency. Nice touch for a politician.

    • Daniel says:

      Angela, your Energiewende just is not cutting it. You now have an excuse to save face and turn back the nukes.

      • simple touriste says:

        François Hollande is a genius (don’t repeat that). He promised he would reduce nuclear production to 50% of French electricity generation … by 2025.

        Even if is reelected as president (not likely, and can only happen once), he won’t be in charge by that time.

        I “promise” that fusion will rule the world.

        By 2125.

  3. Daniel says:

    And the saving White Knight must be from the USA.

    Still illegal to have a non American firm operate of own a civil nuke.

    More nonsense.

    • Engineer-Poet says:

      It shouldn’t be hard to manage.  The US venture owns 51% of the shares of a 51% fraction of the enterprise.  The foreign partner owns 49% of the 51% owner, and 49% of the enterprise.  They own 73.99% of the total, but officially the venture is “US-majority”.

  4. FermiAged says:

    What I wonder is if this Cold War redux with Russia deepens and continues, will the US end up selling large quantities of natural gas to Europe? Say goodbye to low natural gas prices.

  5. Eino says:

    Question – If this were a coal plant, you could bottle it up, let it sit for years and then do a little maintenance to restart it. What costs does a corporation incur to let the facility sit idle? Are there massive taxes? Does the NRC demand that PM procedures continue? Is it a security concern? Of course, you would incur high training costs for a new staff.

    From Wikepedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vermont_Yankee_Nuclear_Power_Plant

    “It provided 71.8% of all electricity generated in Vermont in 2008[3] and meets 35% of the overall electricity requirements of the state.”

    If the facility could be bottled up for a few years, perceptions may change. Electric prices may rise due to increased natural gas usage that is generally occurring nation wide as industry shifts to natural gas and the recovery from the recession continues. Without the 600 MW provided by this plant, other suppliers of electricity have reason to raise their prices. An inexpensive source of electricity may then be welcomed by the public.

    • BobinPgh says:

      Eino, Rod and his friends can tell you more, but it has something to do with the operators have to be continually trained on the plant where they work which is expensive. Why can’t there be a team of reactor operators and other personnel who can be dispatched to reopen a shut down but preserved reactor? No one has been able to answer this. Also, why can’t they train at another reactor of the same brand?

      Hopefully, Entergy will do Safestore but not take any of the place apart. Wrap it all in plastic and keep the place painted and when the politicians who hate the place are voted out, they can start it up again. After all, they have 60 years to make the place go away, can’t they just stall for time?

      • Eino says:

        There is intensive training to get your SRO. I understand that. You also need to spend a lot of time in retraining.

        However, this is a resource that would cost billions to replace. In conjunction with the closing of this plant there are also coal plant closings in the East that total many megawatts Natural gas zoomed to a high cost in the cold weather a few months ago making it a less desirable source for electricity. I’d like to think the powers that be in the East have a long term plan in mind rather than just leaving things to providence.

        They don’t ever seem to bottle these places up for some reason. Why? It seems like if the poles were in the holes and water was in the pot, it could sit for some time.

        They closed Kewaunee in a similar fashion. The folks up in Maine were forced to cut up the reactor of Maine Yankee as assurance to the green people that they’d never start it up again.

        They seem to be knocking them down one at a time over the years, Trojan, SMUD, SONGS, Zion, Crystal River and others are still on the ropes. Never underestimate the power of Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt.

        • BobinPgh says:

          Eino I think the ones you mention had something wrong with them and like a car that gets wrecked they were “totaled”. The wise thing I think to do with VY (and Kewanee) is to safe store them and preserve the machinery. But even people like Rod say that’s impossible once they give up the license and no utility wants to just keep the license because of this training they have to do. But Entergy does have 60 years, surely they can figure out how to get the license back if need be. Also, Shumlin will eventually be voted out (do they have term limits in Vermont)?

  6. Jason says:

    Ron – This is a bit of a tangent, but I wanted to note that your comments/observations about the “severe overreaction to 9-11″ at US nuclear plants are spot on. I have wondered for years when/whether anyone in a position of authority is going to start asking whether the additional security measures that were imposed and implemented at commercial nuclear sites in the US should continue to stay at the same level. In a rationale world, there would be s system/process for taking a time-out to reassess what the NRC and industry have done and whether the status quo can be adjusted. It’s not clear why that has not been done for the US industry, but I suspect it relates to the “taboo” of questioning security that for some inexplicable reason has been the protocol since 9/11. I think it would be worthwhile for you to use your forum to start raising such questions.

    • SteveK9 says:

      Jason, we live in a time where the NSA is permitted to monitor the communication of virtually every person in the country … because of fear of another terrorist attack like 9/11. Excessive security at nuclear plants is just a small additional effect.

  7. Jeff Walther says:

    Shumlin and his ilk would fill in the Panama Canal if they were getting contributions from an around-Cape-Horn shipping company.

  8. Dennis McMahon says:

    I am grateful for your article and your professional input. I believe that EVERY effort should be made to preserve VY and it is NOT too late to do so. I have been carrying my own fight on a different level: the antitrust law arguement, to wit, that the departure of VY will create an anticompetitive situation against the public which is precisely why the antitrust laws were created. I have complained to the US Department of Energy, the US Department of Justice, Antitrust Division, and the Federal Trade Commission. I am now considering writing the
    Government of Canada, Competition Bureau, for reasons you may be able to guess at this point, namely, the role of a subsidiary in this entire anticompetitive situation. I have also made serious attempts to interest several companies in buying VY. THANK YOU for much for your expertise and opinion. Best regards.

  9. Dennis McMahon says:

    P.S. In my enthusiasm to support your comments, I neglected to mention two additional ways to save VY, namely, an ENTERGY shareholder derivative action, challenging that firm’s actions in giving up on the legal case and otherwise closing the plant. A shareholder derivative action would assist, as would the other methods, is getting us to the STATUS QUO ANTE vis a vis the property etc. VERNON area shareholders hurt by the plant closure may also have some additional weapon in a SHAREHOLDER action. And there could be potentional additional remedies provided to union members vis a vis labor laws. Thank you again.

  10. John T Tucker says:

    Vermont Yankee (over 90% Capacity Factor)- 3 to 5 cents/kWh. (around 4.5 cents/kWh average I have read)

    Wholesale rates natural gas ranges 5 to 7 cents/kWh.

    Cape wind project (38% Capacity Factor) – purchase agreement for 20.7 cents/kWh then “discounted” to 18.7 cents/kWh.

    • John T Tucker says:

      Hydro Quebec runs about 6.5¢/kWh but Ive also seen wholesale rates as low as 4.1 ¢/kWh. I think their average capacity factor runs about 50 percent.

      They have also utterly DESTROYED MILLIONS of acres of habitat and also flooded a significant amount of Indian lands.

      It kinda irritates the hell out of me that doesn’t even seem to rate here.

      So Rod, I know gas is cheap and that is a lot of the problem, but I am going to kinda distance myself until proven wrong. I don’t think the cheap gas narrative is the complete story and although I feel for the people losing their jobs in the nuclear power industry, probably more than anyone as employment issues are at the top of my problems, but this is looking more to me like a rather severe environmental nightmare, and for utility costumers, a complete disaster.

      And also the lack of a sale option – You know that also bugs beyond the hell out of me.

      • Rod Adams says:

        @John Tucker

        It kinda irritates the hell out of me that doesn’t even seem to rate here.

        I’m not sure I understand. There is no doubt that “cheap” hydro electricity from Canada also plays a role in the Vermont electricity saga. I did not go into great depth, but I did mention something about new transmission lines being one of the proposed replacements for Vermont Yankee. In previous articles, I have written about the unusual domination of Vermont’s energy supplies by Canadian owners.

        • John T Tucker says:

          I don’t get that. What is there not to understand?

          How many acres of habitat have been obliterated by HQ and what is on the drawing board with increased demand? Im sure you know better than me the extent some involved parties have gone to to make Hydro Quebec a “green” partner in all this.

          Im not even asking about endangered aquatic species or extinctions.

          I really dont expect an answer as I couldn’t even find a reasonably specific estimate.

          Honestly I am not trying to be a AH here. I just cant believe there isn’t even a ball park estimate.

          Why has no one bothered. Its like it doesn’t even rate/matter.

  11. Daniel says:

    A bit off topic ? I don’t think so. We need the old plants to keep humming and we need Europe to get new plants approved.

    Lady Barbara Judge makes a compelling case to those morons in Brussels in light of Russia’s recent pouting:

    http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702304418404579465172040371470

  12. Mitch says:

    Looks like Nuclear Kenya @nuclearkenya on Twitter is trying to get in touch with Rod Adams there. Also some anti-nukers masquerading as fusion people are telling them to wait off till fusion comes around! Do a show!

  13. mok10501 says:

    Thanks Rod. Please keep up with the great job you are doing. I totally agree with you . The rest of the world is awakening for the new nuclear projects while we are shutting them here prematurely like VY. Look at who is running the show in the world? With my best,
    http://www.cnbc.com/id/101507755

  14. Jim Rogers says:

    Rod,
    I’m the Design Manager at VY. Sorry I missed you when you were here. I’ve already let Bernie know that it would have been nice to know you were here so I could meet you since I’ve been following your blog for years. I’m not sure if this is your first visit to a Better Water Reactor! (BWR) but VY is truly an amazing place with the most loyal and dedicated staff that I have ever seen in almost 40 years in the industry. Great and dedicated operating staff. The best people I’ve ever worked with. I’m sure Bernie was a great representative.

    Thanks for the support but unfortunately it is the end for VY. There will be no going back from the decision. Just to much uncertainty and legal expense combined with low overall gas prices. By the way the plant is 1912 MWe gross, 651 MWe net. Currently generating 648 MWe net and on-line for 357 consecutive days. The difference in MWe represents hotel loads. Every day is a challenge in the nuclear industry but we are all focused on making this the best operating cycle in plant history.

    • Rod Adams says:

      @Jim Rogers

      Are you saying that Entergy would not be interested in negotiating with a qualified purchaser?

      • Jim Rogers says:

        No just that there really is no possibility that could happen. The option of selling the plant came up earlier before the lawsuit and Entergy tried to get the state to agree to a potential sale. However, any purchase would have to be approved by the state through the Certificate of Public Good (CPG) process which is totally politicized. Everyone on the Public Service Board (PSB) is a Shumlin appointee and nothing happens with the PSB without Shumlin’s approval.
        Unless you have been here it is almost impossible to believe the lengths the state will go to deprive people of their jobs. I lived through the tritium crisis and it was almost unbelievable that such venom could be poured out at people who had honestly made a mistake about the description of a few underground piping systems. Many of us were accused by the state of deliberately and maliciously providing false information. Good, honest people, who had unwittingly provided erroneous information, were called liars and dragged through the mud by the Governor and Attorney General. All simply for political gain.
        We all hope that at least with the announcement of the shutdown the PSB will finally rule that it is in the states interest to have VY finish its operating cycle. Decision is expected by 3/31/14.

        • Jim Rogers says:

          I was mistaken about the PSB action. Reported today that the PSB approved operation of VY through this cycle.

          • BobinPgh says:

            Jim, would it be possible for Entergy to hang on to the license and have the training take place at another Entergy plant of the same make? This way it could be easily restarted when Shumlin leaves office. Oh, and if he is so bad, who voted for him anyways? Though I will admit, no one will admit to voting for Tom Corbett.

        • Rod Adams says:

          @Jim Rogers

          I’ve been following the saga for quite a while. Agreed that I don’t live in Vermont and have not experienced the venom you describe first hand. However, I have lived in quite a few different places in the US over the years because my employer had a habit of moving people around. My experience has been that most people in most places are pretty darned nice and respect hard working neighbors.

          Are Shumlin and his cronies so powerful that they are “the state” in Vermont?

          During my visit this beautiful state, I listened to VPR and heard a story about how there are a growing number of businesses that are adopting an “employee-owned cooperative” business model. While driving back from Vernon to Wilder, where I stayed with friends, I ended up behind a Cabot Dairy truck with a sign indicating that it is a cooperative.

          How would the state respond if the proposed owner of the plant was not an out of state corporation but a cooperative of local residents? (I’m just throwing out ideas here.) Of course, any cooperative needs financing, but remember, the product that VY manufactures is not going out of style.

          I am pretty certain that the recent low prices for electricity are an artifact of unusual coincidences that are already starting to be overcome by reality. There are few fossil fuel resources in New England and your “renewable” resources are even more unreliable than they are in other places around the country. VY is a great hedge and a terrific asset for the state, but the marketing has to be substantially improved.

          The nice thing is that it is a lot easier to learn to market than it is to learn how to build and operate a nuclear power plant. You and your fellow employees already know how to operate and the plant is already built.

          • Meredith Angwin says:

            Rod

            There are indeed good people everywhere and there are many good people in Vermont. On the other hand, the plant opponents have been extremely good at being all-over-the-place and in-your-face. I write about that here.

            http://ansnuclearcafe.org/2014/03/06/moving-forward-and-living-well/

            You have seen the bright sunny side of life at VY, with the tour and meeting some plant supporters. There’s a dark side of life in Vernon. There’s the side where a plant employee take a kid out of gymnastics class because an other kid say that her father works at the plant and kills people. And other such incidents.

          • PissedOffAmerican says:

            “The nice thing is that it is a lot easier to learn to market than it is to learn how to build and operate a nuclear power plant.

            Not sure I agree. If marketing is so “easy”, how come your marketing, (or I should say lack of marketing), is so unsuccesful at advancing your cause?

          • Rod Adams says:

            @POA

            Not sure I agree. If marketing is so “easy”, how come your marketing, (or I should say lack of marketing), is so unsuccesful at advancing your cause?

            It’s easy to be terrible at something you never practice.

          • PissedOffAmerican says:

            “…….how come your marketing, (or I should say lack of marketing), is so unsuccesful at advancing your cause?”

            Don’t misunderstand me, Rod. By “your” I mean the industry as a whole. I wasn’t singling you out.

        • PissedOffAmerican says:

          “However, any purchase would have to be approved by the state through the Certificate of Public Good (CPG) process which is totally politicized. Everyone on the Public Service Board (PSB) is a Shumlin appointee and nothing happens with the PSB without Shumlin’s approval”

          “Good, honest people, who had unwittingly provided erroneous information, were called liars and dragged through the mud by the Governor and Attorney General. All simply for political gain”

          Welcome to America. This is the reality now. I don’t envy anyone advocating for anything using sound science and factual argument. When your ideological opponents are in a position of political power, they have the “luxury” of employing deception and character assasination in presenting thier case, because it has become the status quo manner of pursuing political agendas employed by our so called “representative government”.

          • Jim Rogers says:

            Hope you didn’t interpret what I said as whining. The situation is what it is and I was trying to use one of the many issues that have happened with the state as illustration. Meredith was able to express the situation in Vermont better than I could. My expertise is in engineering and operations and I am much better at discussing and evaluating specific plant operational topics than the softer political situation.
            Just one insight on the HydroQuebec issue. The state has gone from wailing about the deal that was signed in the 1990s for $0.065/KW to heralding a deal for something between $0.006 & 0.007/KW. Although it they would never reveal the actual terms. Entergy tried to sell power for less but the state nixed the deal.
            One more thing both the major utilities are and the distribution supplier are now owned by a foreign based corporation who incidentally wants to market its power at higher rates here to subsidize lower power in Canada. Great deal.

          • PissedOffAmerican says:

            “Hope you didn’t interpret what I said as whining”

            Well, I certainly didn’t. I interpreted it as an accurate appraisal of the scale of the walls you pro-nuke folks gotta glimb. Its gonna take hard work, ‘ cause they’re too tall to jump.

          • Rod Adams says:

            @POA

            Its gonna take hard work, ‘ cause they’re too tall to jump.

            When I was 17, I went through some training on scaling high walls. One searing memory is that chances of success, especially when really tired, are far higher with a little help from your friends and teammates.

  15. Howard Shaffer says:

    Rod,

    Great having you here for the 35th Anniversary of the Three Mile Island Accident Symposium at Dartmouth.

    Great post too.

    My idea is that each of us contact our Senators and Representatives and have them find the money to make up the difference between a minimal profit and the grid price with low natural gas and subsidized wind. The government has an electric utility – TVA. Just authorize them to buy and sell in any market, in order to maintain generation that is squeezed out by an unequal grid pricing structure. TVA would do this for a limited time, until the grid pricing changes, or gas prices rise. Then they would have to be paid back for losses. As you know, VY has been selling for $100/Mwhour.

  16. ActindeAge says:

    This really saddens me for 2 reasons. First, as a South Australian currently devoting a considerable proportion of my time to supporting efforts to improve acceptance of nuclear in my country, the closing of a Perfectly Decent cleanly generating plant anywhere, with the necessary proportional increase in GHG-emitting generation despite all that is understood about the perils of climate change and how it might threaten our childrens’ world, is an obvious mistake. Second, as an employee at an industrial manufacturing site, your evocative descriptions of the VY facility strikes a personal chord considering it is older yet very likely better maintained than my plant. I have a strong idea of the sort of day-to-day maintenance efforts involved, the regular inspections, refits and improvements, the teamwork and professionalism of the men and women who I think it would be safe to assume take great pride in what they have achieved over the years. Thank you for sharing your experience of what sounds like an exemplary industrial facility – which just happens to deal directly with material which a few shrill voices are convinced beyond reason is the most evil thing on earth… when in fact it may be one of the best.

  17. SteveK9 says:

    Hard to decide which is more painful … VY or SONGS.

    • Daniel says:

      One closure is due to incompetence, the other one to lack of pugnacity. in both case, the clean guy loses.

      • PissedOffAmerican says:

        “One closure is due to incompetence, the other one to lack of pugnacity. in both case, the clean guy loses”

        “Incompetence” of a nuclear plant operator, or owner, is a reasonable justification for closing a plant. You might no like that fact, but it is a reality. Its only “clean” if it is ran responsibly and competently. Incompetence causes accidents. Accidents cause mistrust. Mistrust shuts down plants.

        Its important to understand that the incompetence of operators or owners, such as that displayed by TEPCO, provides the anti’s with the narrative that propels thier agenda.

        And you’re right. The San Onofre plant was shut down due to incompetence. Rightfully so. The public’s trust was violated, and SCE proved itself an incompetent steward of the public’s trust. Is that really the kind of entity we want to be operating nuclear power plants?

    • HPer says:

      The most painful is actually the Kewaunee shutdown. The plant was a top industry performer and supported by the state unlike VY and SONGS. Unfortunately Dominion was unable to sell the plant and unable to secure a purchase power agreement that would keep the plant profitable.

  18. MarkRavingMad says:

    Well on the brighter…er…side of things at least it was “only” a 620 MW station. God forbid this shit starts happening to stations with >1GW outputs.

  19. James Greenidge says:

    Re: ActindeAge,

    I feel your laments, and it all sums up to a MASSIVE public relations/education failure on the part of the nuclear industry and nuclear community worldwide to enlighten a clueless public and challenge (and yes, crush!) FUD from quarters professing that they have a monopoly on caring about health and children and the environment. It is INSANE that nuclear power is in the plight it’s in considering its overwhelming merits and record even in the worst of circumstances. Bad enough the nuclear community is PR MIA, but it’s doubly frustrating when there are well-heeled (supposedly) pro-nuke billionaires like Gates who just don’t have the fire in the gut to launch a massive pro-nuclear education and advertisement campaign even in their own selfish best interests. It’s very much like the nuclear community is it’s own worst enemy in the face of another enemy. At least Rocky TRIED to fight, which is far far more than the nuclear community has ever done in promoting — and saving itself. Like that old saw, who needs an enemy when…

    James Greenidge
    Queens NY

  20. Paul W Primavera says:

    I feel badly for the employees of Vermont Yankee. This whole situation makes me very angry. However, I do not feel sorry for the people of Vermont who have consistently voted for politicians who enable this kind of situation to develop. The people deserve the government and the consequences that they by their own volition create. Sadly the innocent suffer. A similar situation (under entirely different circumstances) was described 3000 years ago in 1st Samuel chapter 8. Vermont has changed greatly and for the worse since my father – born in 1918 – loved its green mountains.

  21. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “The people deserve the government and the consequences that they by their own volition create”

    So its your contention that candidates present themselves honestly while campaigning, so, therefore, “we get what we voted for”?

    Well, Paul, you live in a dream world. You really should find another obsession. Your purely political world view, that is so molded by your partisanship, has skewed your ability to recognize or accept reality.

    Insinuating that the destruction of our environment is somehow on the shoulders of the left is an insane break from reality. As is your insinuation, made here in the past, that the left is somehow more entrenched with the fossil fuel interests than the right side of the aisle.

    Both sides of the aisle have corrupted themselves on all matters, and especially when it comes to prostituting themselves to energy producers, and energy sectors, that you find disagreeable. This is particularly true when considering the subservience our so called “representatives” exhibit to the fossil fuel folks. I see this empty suit Obama is over in Saudi Arabia mimicking the little monkey Bush in swearing our allegience to this despicable sand pit populated by elitist religious fanatics that hold the world ransom and dependent. The difference between Bush’s defference to these people and Obama’s defference?

    Really, Paul, you should change channels once in a while.

    • Eino says:

      I’ve said it before. You have a good way with words.

      I don’t know if you are right about Mr. Promavera, but I agree with your paragraph about Bush and Obama.

    • Rod Adams says:

      @POA

      I see this empty suit Obama is over in Saudi Arabia mimicking the little monkey Bush in swearing our allegience to this despicable sand pit populated by elitist religious fanatics that hold the world ransom and dependent. The difference between Bush’s defference to these people and Obama’s defference?

      Really, Paul, you should change channels once in a while.

      There are few things that make me more angry than seeing our president kowtow to the Saudi dictators. Unfortunately, we’ve been doing that since 1979 just because the Iranians “embarrassed” us by taking 52 hostages, holding them for 444 days and returning them all alive.

      Ever since, that far more egalitarian, educated, and civilized nation has been demonized. They were almost forced into sneaky actions due to lack of action from the community of nations when they were attacked with chemical weapons during the Iran-Iraq war.

      Sure, the regimes and the clerics are not perfect, but when we live in glass houses we should be very careful about throwing stones.

      • PissedOffAmerican says:

        “They were almost forced into sneaky actions due to lack of action from the community of nations when they were attacked with chemical weapons during the Iran-Iraq war”

        I will add that the acquiring of those chemical weapons was a direct result of Cheney and Rumsfeld’s manipulation of export laws, enabling Saddam to acquire these weapons.

        And, in all honesty, sanctions against the “regime” in Iran is a fallacy. Widespread sanctions only serve to hurt the populations of the targeted countries. Our sanctions targeting Iraq resulted in hundreds of thousands of infant deaths according to one UN report. It escapes me how depriving a population of goods, and driving thier economy to ruin, is a sound strategy for “winning hearts and minds”.

        A careful examination of how Israel acquired its nuclear arsenal is an exercise at understanding what it is, exactly, that we are accusing (with no credible evidence) the Iranians of. Ironic, eh?

        Really want to stop Middle Eastern countries from pursuing nuclear weapons??? Then sanction Israel until it gives up its own nuclear arsenal. Starving Iranian citizens sure as hell ain’t going to do it. And respect the terms of the NPT, which, to my knowledge, Iran has yet to violate. (Of course, Israel refuses to join).