Yankee What Next – Part Deux

In my post, “Yankee, What Next?” I recommended an op-ed by Lissa Weinmann , entitled “Federal legislation key to jobs-creating, swift VY clean-up”

This has been reprinted in Green Energy Times, and can be read here.

It begins:

“While some celebrate and some lament news of Entergy’s decision to close the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant, we all need to work together to assure that decontamination begins immediately in order to preserve and create hundreds of jobs and assure the safe storage of highly radioactive waste that will certainly remain at the site for decades to come.”

The key words are:” decontamination begins immediately”.

Some look at this pessimistically and conclude that nothing can be done for 60 years, so we shouldn’t even try.

Weinmann comments on this:

“Just as Entergy used federal law to abrogate a contractual promise to the state to abide by the state decision about continued operation past March 2012, Entergy will renege on its promise to return the site to greenfield status, citing federal preemption since current law governing nuclear waste management in the U.S. actually allows Entergy to exercise the SAFSTOR or let-it-sit decommissioning option.”

There’s nothing “Safe” about SAFSTOR.

“For nuclear power plants governed by the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission, SAFSTOR (SAFe STORage) is one of the options for nuclear decommissioning of a shut down plant. During SAFSTOR the de-fuelled plant is monitored FOR UP TO SIXTY YEARS before complete decontamination and dismantling of the site, to a condition where nuclear licensing is no longer required. During the storage interval, some of the radioactive contaminants of the reactor and power plant will decay, which will reduce the quantity of radioactive material to be removed during the final decontamination phase.” – From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, (emphasis mine).

“de-fuelled” means the fuel is removed from the reactor core. It doesn’t mean removed from the site. Under SAFESTOR, it’s acceptable to allow spent fuel to remain in the spent fuel pools located above the reactor core. (The picture is of Fukushima, but Yankee uses the same design. Copy it to blow it up and read the text)

The fuel pools are cooled by water which must be circulated constantly (for 60 years?). Backup power for the pumps used to come from the Hydro plant down the street, TransCanada just canceled that agreement. Yankee plans to buy a Diesel to do the job. I suppose in an emergency, they can borrow a pumper from the Vernon Fire Dept.

Weinmann comments on this as well:

“The NRC allows spent fuel pools to stray into the unknown use as long-term waste containers despite nuclear engineering experts and current NRC Chair Allison MacFarlane’s deep concerns. In 2003 MacFarlane co-authored a call to action with a report entitled “Reducing the Hazards from Stored Spent Power-Reactor Fuel in the United States.” Gregory Jaczko, who resigned as NRC chair in 2012, has also spoken out. Clearly the NRC has a great deal of latitude to regulate even under current law. Unfortunately the agency’s dual mission to both protect the public while promoting the industry are at odds, thus the need for clarifying legislation that reflects the negative economics of nuclear and helps the taxpayer and reactor communities dig out of the toxic mess.”

She continues:

“The best solution remains hardened dry cask storage as soon as possible to create jobs and keep us safe. Dry casks survived the 2011 Fukushima tsunami relatively unscathed while the Yankee-style spent fuel pools still hover on the brink of disaster. The legislation is there to be shaped by we citizens most impacted by it; the money is there to fund decontamination now. The question is — can our long divided community unite to fight for a law that will help everyone survive Vermont Yankee?”

So, we can live with the “let-it-sit” decommissioning option, or we can take action now to clean up the site and really create something.

“U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders is a high ranking member of the Senate Energy Committee handling the bill and can fight for the funds and directives that will force Entergy to decontaminate the Yankee site now to create jobs and ensure community health and safety.”

There is another option. We can re-paint the reactor building and invite a million Muslims to circumambulate the building.

(The Kaaba, is a holy building in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. Reportedly constructed by the Patriarch Abraham, it is one of the most sacred sites in Islam.)

Comments | 4

  • Unclear on the concept

    Moving the spent fuel into dry cask is only one part of the process and even if Entergy starts moving spent fuel into dry cask as soon as possible, you are still looking a decade of work. Anyway, I don’t think Vermont is ready for any real development at the site and all the politicians are just blowing more smoke up your collective asses.

    I believe Entergy will start moving spent fuel into dry casks relatively soon after defueling as it will likely be the most cost effective option. There is absolutely nothing to support the notion that they plan to leave it in the fuel pool for ~60 years.

    Why you are hitching your wagon to an uniformed communications/political consultant is beyond me.

  • It's Pie in the Sky Thinking Again PR.

    PR, these people think that we’ll have corn growing on that site in a couple of years. In reality we probably won’t see anything done with that site in our lifetimes even if the plant is decomissioned. Until there’s a federal storage site, there will be dry casks sitting there for decades.

    I say, charge Seabrook a storage fee and utilize all the dry cask storage area.

  • In our life time...

    If you look at the long term big picture, coal is getting the PC treatment to the point where it will be priced out of the energy business along with the business of extracting natural gas.. I figure you will see a new advanced reactor built next to the old someday to ensure a steady reliable flow of electricity. The VY site will never give up it’s permits/licenses etc.. this is just a pause while the market adjusts.

    • You probably have a point

      There have been some very interesting advances recently in safer, more efficient and cost-effective reactors. The new designs take up less space, get more power out of the fuel, and tend to be much more stable.

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