Funded by a Lintilhac Foundation Grant, Fairewinds Energy Education has evaluated Entergy’s plan to use the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) sanctioned SAFSTOR process to decommission Vermont Yankee. Developed by the NRC, SAFSTOR is a subsidy that benefits nuclear power plant owners like Entergy by providing them with a 60-year window to decommission nuclear plants.
Entergy’s Vermont Yankee plant permanently ended operations December 29, 2014. Since its shutdown date, Vermont Yankee has continued to be newsworthy with the recent discovery of Strontium-90 leaks in at least four different test wells on the nuclear plant site. Stronitum-90 readily attaches itself to water, is extremely toxic, and has a direct link to leukemia and a host of other cancers.
The NRC met with Vermonters in Brattleboro on February 19 to discuss Entergy’s Post Shutdown Decommissioning Activities Report with the public. Fairewinds’ Chief Engineer Arnie Gundersen used the five minutes allotted to him by the NRC to distill 42-years of nuclear power expertise down to one main conclusion: the decommissioning and dismantlement of Vermont Yankee cannot wait. Letting SAFSTOR leave the carcass of Vermont Yankee on the banks of the Connecticut River for 60 years is not the answer for Vermonters. The money exists for Entergy to protect workers and to completely clean up its toxic mess by 2032.
– Book of the Month
A Bluish White Light by Yasunaga Tatsumi and Sato Yutei
The Fairewinds office was honored to receive a copy of A Bluish White Light as a gift from co-author Yasunaga Tatsumi. These powerful short poems are written in the classical Japanese style of “tanka”, a major genre of Japanese literature. Sato Yutei, author and farmer of the Fukushima Prefect, started writing tanka poems during the early operation of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in the 1980s. By 1988, Yutei foretells a chilling end to farming in the region and advises his son to leave the family business behind and pursue a different life path. Years go by, radiation leaks from the reactor and neighbors get sick, and die from poisoning. A voice like those of so many living in the radioactive shadow of a nuclear plant, Yutei’s tanka style like a personal diary takes us through the decades leading up to Fukushima’s meltdown capturing the uncertainty and vulnerability of the Japanese people whose lives already greatly affected by nuclear in the 1940s are hit once again with the nuclear disaster of March 11, 2011.
Samples of Yutei's Tanka Poems:
Fairewinds in the News:
Residents living in the vicinity of the Vermont Yankee (VY) nuclear plant are concerned about the reduced presence of federal regulators for its decommissioning and dismantlment especially with more than 40-years of spent nuclear fuel on the Vernon site. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission held its required public meeting on February 19 in Brattleboro to answers questions and to attempt to assuage community concerns regarding VY’s decommissioning process. Entergy, Vermont Yankee’s owner announced to legislators on February 11 that Entergy would not guarantee payment to complete the VY decommissioning process if it takes longer than 60 years. Using the NRC sanctioned SAFSTOR model for decommissioning, Entergy’s timeline for dismantlement pushes the 60-year time frame to its limit. According to the Commons News, the potential safety and environmental implications of long-term decommissioning and onsite storage of Vermont Yankee’s spent fuel “had speakers biting their lips,” especially in light of the recently publicized Strontium-90 leak from the nuclear plant. Arnie Gundersen, Chief Engineer of Fairewinds Energy Education, addressed the SAFSTOR timeline issue to the NRC as having no basis in physics. “Waiting is about Entergy making a financial decision, Gundersen said- not about reducing employees’ exposure risks, as Entergy has said.”
Questions and comments by community speakers like Fairewinds’ Arnie Gundersen addressed Entergy’s long term financial responsibility, the handling of high-level toxic, radioactive waste, emergency planning, and the lingering effects of Vermont Yankee on the environment. The Barre and Montpelier Times Argus coverage details how the NRC staff and experts were received at the Brattleboro meeting by 200 concerned Vermonters as well as Massachusetts residents who live within the Vermont Yankee evacuation zone. Arnie Gundersen called for prompt and proper cleanup of the site, which would include emergency planning at least until all the highly radioactive spent fuel is moved into the concrete and steel storage casks. Gundersen emphasized that the movement of this toxic fuel should occur during the summer months when children are not present at Vermont Yankee’s adjacent elementary school.
According to VT Digger, community members’ statements to the NRC staff and experts were cutting and to the point at the well-attended public NRC meeting in Brattleboro on February 19, 2015. “ ‘We do have reason to have concern here,’ Betsy Williams, 58, of Westminster West, told a panel of officials from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. ‘When you tell me the casks will be adequate, that does not give me great assurance. I’m looking for a hell of a lot more than adequate.’ ” Pushing for safe and immediate decommissioning of Vermont Yankee, Fairewinds’ Arnie Gundersen told the NRC that his analysis shows that “decommissioning could begin as soon as 2026 and the plant could be torn down by 2032 if the company does not use money from the decommissioning trust fund to pay for spent fuel management or other expenses.” Utility owner Entergy currently estimates decommissioning of Vermont Yankee to begin 2052 and plans to use $225 million from the decommissioning trust fund to pay for spent fuel management and $143 million to transfer radioactive fuel from a cooling pool to dry casks- both withdrawals of this nature would require federal permission.
This week the WDB Builders blog for home improvement and remodeling news featured the Fairewinds Energy Education video A Cheaper Way to Save, an interview between Fairewinds’ Chief Engineer Arnie Gundersen and principal consultant for Vermont Energy Investment Corporation (VEIC) Elizabeth Chant. In this video, Elizabeth Chant helps Fairewinds’ viewers understand how energy efficiency coupled with investment incentives can help to change the energy paradigm around the US. Utilities are realizing that they need to shift their energy efficiency focus from commercial businesses and remodeling high end homes to low income groups and our country’s stock of older buildings and houses.
French nuclear technology company Areva’s exponential losses for two years running reflect the economic burden that comes with nuclear power. On Monday, the magnitude of Areva’s losses caused France’s energy minister to call for an overhaul of France’s entire nuclear industry. The French government, which owns 87% of Areva expected 2014 net loss of about 4.9 billion euros ($5.6B). These staggering losses occurred after Areva suffered a loss of 500 million euros in 2013.
Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), owner of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant that suffered a triple meltdown in March 2011, has been unable to effectively manage the increasing amount of contaminated water used to cool the destroyed reactors that still hold the highly toxic, molten fuels inside. After slyly releasing radioactive water directly into the Pacific Ocean for more than 10 months, TEPCO admitted their failure to report this ongoing radioactive rainwater leak in a press conference on Tuesday. TEPCO’s drainage system at the nuclear meltdown site has been slipping extremely high levels of Cesium and radioactive substances like Strontium-90 directly into the ocean without informing the Japanese government or public since April 2014. “ ‘This was part of an ongoing investigation in which we discovered a water puddle with high levels of radiation on top of the Reactor No. 2 building, and because this also happens to be one of the sources for this drainage system, we decided to report everything all at once,’ the unnamed official said to explain why the findings weren't reported immediately.”
Waste Control Specialists, the Texas company located in Andrews County, is attempting to answer the United States’ nuclear waste storage problem by seeking federal approval to temporarily store radioactive waste. “Our nation needs a safe, centralized interim storage solution,” company President Rod Baltzer told reporters Monday. “We believe Andrews County and WCS offers that safe storage solution.” Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry welcomes the idea of bringing this highly toxic spent fuel and other radioactive nuclear plant refuse into Texas in spite of the great public outcry as groups fear transporting the waste could be dangerous and that storing this level of radioactive substances poses all risk and no reward for Texans. Waste Control Specialists was formerly owned by the late Dallas billionaire Harold Simmons, The Texas Tribune provides this disclosure:
"The University of Texas at Austin is a corporate sponsor of The Texas Tribune. The Harold Simmons Foundation has been a major donor to The Tribune."