The Vermont Yankee shutdown means the plant carcass must be safely decommissioned as quickly as possible. With full spent fuel pools, we hope Vermont Yankee rests in peace, not in pieces like Fukushima Daiichi. In this video, CCTV Nuclear Free Future Host Margaret Harrington discusses the economic, environmental, health and safety implications that the recent closing of Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant will have on New England with Beyond Nuclear’s Kevin Kamps and Arnie Gundersen, chief engineer of Fairewinds Energy Education.
Entergy first applied to operate VY for twenty additional years in January 2006, beginning a long process of increased oversight by the public, the state, and frontline activists. The shutdown of VY happened much sooner than Entergy planned on December 29, 2014. Arnie and Kevin look at the huge costs Entergy would have incurred to keep the aging plant operating with safety modifications required since the accident at Fukushima Daiichi. With VY’s shutdown, environmentalists hope that the diminished wildlife in the Connecticut River, specifically shad fish , should rebound now that the thermal pollution has ended.
What’s next for Vermont Yankee? Rapid safe decommissioning and safe clean up of the carcass of the plant by owner, Entergy is possible according to calculations Arnie has developed. State supervision to assure that Entergy continues to protect the people and environment of Vermont is imperative. Entergy wants to take as many short cuts as the Nuclear Regulatory Commission will allow including ending the emergency planning program. Entergy has asked for a special exemption simply to avoid spending money on the current evacuation plan even though the equivalent of radiation from 700 atomic bombs sits in the spent fuel pool. Another example of increasing risk to the public is evident at the San Onofre nuclear site where owner Southern California Edison let go of security guard forces before any approval by the NRC.
From Vermont Yankee’s shut down, Arnie and Kevin express the optimism and hope of a new trend of fewer aging nuclear reactors and impress upon us the responsibility to hold Entergy to a safe and thorough clean up.
Book of the Month:
A Bluish White Light by Sato Yutei and Yasunaga Tatsumi
Fairewinds Energy Education was honored to receive a gift copy of Japanese poetry entitled A Bluish White Light from co-author Yasunaga Tatsumi. These powerful short poems are written in the classical Japanese style of “tanka”, a major genre in Japanese literature. Fukushima author and farmer Sato Yutei, first began writing tanka poems shortly after Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power began operation. By 1988, Yutei foretold a chilling end to the region’s farming and advised his son to leave the family farm behind and pursue a different life path. Years flew by complicated by reactor radiation leaks and sick neighbors who allegedly die from radiation exposure. A voice like those of so many living in the radioactive shadow of a nuclear plant, Yutei’s tanka style personal diary takes us through decades leading up to Fukushima Daiichi’s meltdown as he captures the uncertainty and vulnerability of the Japanese people whose lives were already deeply affected by the atomic bomb are hit once again by the devastation of the March 11, 2011 nuclear disaster. (Please visit the link above to the book section of our site, then look under the subsection "Fukushima" for A Bluish White Light)
Fairewinds in the News:
Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant shut down for good on Monday December 29, 2014 at 12:12pm. Acknowledging the plants’ hazardous leaks, and spills, Arnie Gundersen told Vermont Digger that we were lucky that we did not experience a meltdown and said, “We’re just not smart enough for this technology…This is a technology that you can have 40 good years and one bad day. I’m happy that Vermont Yankee didn’t have that one bad day.”
“700 nuclear bombs worth of cesium” is sitting in fuel pools on Vermont Yankee’s roof. Siting these risks, both Arnie Gundersen and state officials share their concern with WCAX regarding Entergy’s decision to stop funding off-site emergency planning efforts. A lack of emergency planning would put Vermonters at great risk. Watch the video featured on Channel 3 WCAX News here.
Watch Fairewinds’ Arnie Gundersen on New England Cable News! This quick interview featured in “New At 4” features Arnie Gundersen via Skype detail the economic factors causing the shutdown of Vermont Yankee.
Savannah River Site Watch Director Tom Clements continues his watchdog activity below the Mason-Dixon line uncovering malfeasance by both the US Department of Energy and the nuclear industry. By obtaining documents through a federal open records request, Clements uncovered the misappropriation of $750,000 from the Savannah River Site cleanup budget for the development of mini nuclear reactors. The Savannah River Site developed nuclear weapon components during the Cold War and houses highly poisonous, toxic, radioactive waste. Cleanup of the site is happening now and the most dangerous waste is held in storage that has already experienced leaks and cracks. Needless to say, the cleanup of this site is extensive and every cent towards the effort counts. Moreover, taxpayer dollars allocated to protect the public from radiation should not be given away to another fiscal boondoggle by the nuclear industry effort to create a third attempt at a nuclear renaissance. (Please visit our site for information on how to donate to the SRSWatch)
National and International Nuclear News:
Just in time for the recent shut down of the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant, National Geographic explores the economics of nuclear power plant shutdowns (there have been 4 in the past 2 years), and why the nuclear power renaissance has not and will not occur. As the US aims for lower greenhouse gas emissions, it would seem that nuclear power would be an easy alternative but the maintenance cost is far too great. The country is looking at nearly all of its 100 reactors exceeding 60 years in age by 2050 and to keep these reactors in safe working condition, the costs are astronomical. In 2012, the NRC began the construction of two new reactors, one in Georgia and one in South Carolina. These reactors’ construction is being met with constant delays and exponentially increasing costs.
In this thorough and fact heavy article, Mark Cooper, a senior fellow for economic analysis at Vermont Law School's Institute for Energy and the Environment, also discusses the economic and timeline failures of the NRC approved and taxpayer funded construction of two new nuclear power plants, one in Georgia and one in South Carolina. Currently under construction, these new reactors face constant delays and exponentially increasing costs. Cooper also details why critics of the Vermont Yankee shutdown are wrong in their belief that there will be a 40% jump in New England winter heating bills by showing that a power producing Vermont Yankee did not make an appreciable difference in heating bills, and that the answer to lower heating costs lies in efficiency and renewables. Nuclear power has often boasted low operation costs, keeping the high construction costs out of the conversation. These low operation cost claims are no longer true as reactor sites age and require expensive facelifts and maintenance. Compared to the low operation cost of renewables like wind and solar, nuclear power is further put to shame.
Executives of four companies in the Japanese power generating field (Kyushu Electric Power Co., Kansai Electric Power Co., Chugoku Electric Power Co., and Japan Atomic Power Co.) have announced they will be decommissioning five aging nuclear reactors, each of which will be at least 40-years-old in July 2016. The decision to decommission was largely influenced by legal changes made after the 2011 triple meltdown at Fukushima Daiichi based upon statutory regulations that limit reactors to a 40-year operating life. Once this 40-year life is met, reactors may be eligible for a one-time extension of up to 20 years, but in order to do so these plants must meet tough new post-Fukushima standards that most utilities cannot afford. Sounds great, right? Well, that depends upon one’s perspective. The Japanese government and nuclear energy companies hope that by decommissioning these old reactors, there will be greater public support for continued operation of newer reactors.
South Korea’s second-oldest nuclear reactor, Wolfsong No. 1 may be permanently shut down due to safety concerns after headquarter computer systems were hacked last month. This security breach also puts other aging Korean reactors under scrutiny according to Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power Co. Ltd., the operator of the South Korea’s oldest reactors.. Nuclear power currently accounts for roughly one third of S. Korea’s electric power supply, nonetheless, concerns about nuclear risk have grown considerably in South Korea since Japan’s 2011 Fukushima Daiichi triple meltdown. When questioned, 5 out of 9 South Korean Nuclear Safety and Security Commissioners are ready to vote against license renewal of the aging Wolfsong reactor.
Nuclear energy engineer signatures have been forged on an environmental impact report for the Akkuyu nuclear power plant to be built in Turkey. Currently, Turkey does not host any nuclear power plants and intends on building three new nuclear plants within the country. One of these three plants is the now controversial Akkuyu site. The nuclear engineers, who’s names were forged, had resigned from their positions before the report assessments were even conducted. These forged signatures compromise the integrity of the report, and more importantly, the scientific, engineering, and environmental integrity of the entire project as well as any plans to build safe nuclear power in Turkey.