VT Yankee Injunction Denied

A variety of news sources around the state have reported that a federal judge has ruled in the state’s favor regarding the status of the troubled nuclear power plant in southern Vermont:

Judge Denies Entergy’s Request for Injunction

The first round in the legal battle between the state of Vermont and Vermont Yankee goes to … the state. A federal judge on Monday denied Entergy Vermont Yankee’s request for a temporary injunction against the state of Vermont.

The company is suing the state to keep it from shutting down the Vernon nuclear reactor in 2012. Entergy was pushing for an early resolution to the suit because of a fuel-buying deadline. The judge denied the request, clearing the way for a full trial in September.

Attorney General Bill Sorrell and Gov. Peter Shumlin praised the ruling by U.S. District Court Judge J. Garvan Murtha, while ENVY officials offered a tempered response.

But, while Judge Murtha ruled in the state’s favor this round, his ruling leaves wide open the chance that he’ll rule in Entergy’s favor when it comes to issuing a decision later this year when the case goes to trial.

Despite the denial, Murtha made it clear he was only denying the temporary injunction and moving for an expedited trial on the broader issues raised by ENVY’s suit against the state of Vermont, Gov. Shumlin and the Vermont Public Service Board. That trial is scheduled to begin September 12.

“In the unique circumstances presented in this case, only permanent injunctive relief could likely ameliorate the alleged harms, and therefore trial on the merits has been accelerated. This court declines to order short-term drastic and extraordinary injunctive relief that will not offer certainty either in the short or long term, and will have no operative effect on state actions before trial,” Murtha wrote in his 18-page decision.

Read the full article here.

Nuclear Power that Wasn’t

Seven Days has posted up a facinating article about two other proposed Nuclear Power Plants that could have been located in the state of Vermont, but were rejected by citizen movements against their construction:

But what if a nuke with a 50-story-tall smokestack had been built in Orwell, alongside the Mount Independence historic site and half a mile from a fault line? And how would Chittenden County residents feel about a nuclear plant with roughly twice the generating capacity of Vermont Yankee on Lake Champlain in Charlotte?

Those weren’t hypothetical questions 40 years ago. Few remember the controversies today, but in the 1960s and ’70s, Charlotte and Orwell were seriously considered as sites for nuclear energy facilities.

Nascent citizen movements put an end to both plans. And their victories helped nurture a conservation ethic that has since spread around the world.

Many concerns were expressed in regard to the nuke that Central Vermont Public Service proposed for Charlotte, recalls Nancy Wood, now the editor of the Charlotte News. “The big one that ended the idea of the plant was the impact of thermal pollution on Lake Champlain,” she says. Activists associated with the Lake Champlain Committee argued in the late-’60s that heated water discharged from the 1000-megawatt station would badly damage the lake’s ecosystems.

In Orwell, the fledgling Vermont Public Interest Research Group aided locals opposed to a later plan by the same utility and by the Vermont Electric Power Co., aka VELCO, for what would have been known as the Hough Crossing nuclear plant. One of the key objections involved its potentially destructive impact on Mount Independence, which was then gaining recognition as Vermont’s most important Revolutionary War site. The Orwell plant was “the first project of its kind defeated for reasons of historic preservation,” says Shoreham attorney Ron Morgan, a leader of the Mount Independence Coalition.

Two other locations in Vermont came up as potentially suitable for nuclear plants in addition to the one on the Connecticut River that became the home of Vermont Yankee. CVPS spokesman Steve Costello says his company purchased “several hundred acres” in Shoreham in the ’60s with a view toward possibly constructing a nuclear or fossil-fuel facility there. At least theoretical consideration was also given in a 1974 VELCO report to splitting atoms for energy on the banks of the Missisquoi River in North Troy.

Full Article

This is the first that I’ve heard of these two plants, and despite the numerous issues that we’ve seen with Vermont Yankee, I can’t help but wonder what the state would have been like with these types of resources at our disposal. Despite the problems in Japan, the risk with earthquakes here is rather minimal: the bigger issue seems to be with the actual handling of the plant itself, as Vermont Yankee seems to have pieces falling off of itself every couple of months, or springing a leak. I’m not overly concerned with the safety of nuclear power: the health record, especially placed into context with things coal and oil fired power plants, looks much better.

Additionally, what could have happened in Vermont with the power avaliable the state at these sites? Safety and risks non-withstanding, Vermont Yankee provides a lot of power to the state, and there are persistant rumors that IBM wouldn’t be thrilled with the loss of Vermont’s only nuclear power plant. Would we have gained other, high tech industries here in the state? It’s a game of ‘what if’ that we might see happen in the state when VT Yankee goes offline.

That being said, I’m really beginning to dislike the passive-aggressive ads that have been playing on 107.1 FRANK FM that has people talking about the jobs that could be lost with the closure of the plant, and how horrible that would be. Yes, while I agree that the loss of jobs in this day and age is not a good thing, that shouldn’t be the defining criteria or motivation for keeping it open, especially as the plant has some serious issues that have undermined our confidence in the running of the plant. While it’s power for the State, I really don’t think that an increased risk is a good thing for all Vermonters. It’s best to play it safe here.

More Woes at Vermont Yankee

Already in the news after Entergy announced its sale, Vermont Yankee is in the news once again as the plant was shut down on Sunday night after a leak was discovered. The plant’s reactor was allowed to cool in order for repairs to be made. Plant officials made it clear that there was no threat to the public’s safety, or to the outside environment, noting the the leak occurred within a closed system.

This comes on the same day that another Entergy facility, the Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant in Bucanan, NY, saw another reactor shut down after a transformer explosion. There was no fire after the incident, and firefighters turned away at the scene.

It is unclear as to the nature of the causes of both incidents, or what impact such incidents might have on the proposed sale of the nuclear power plant.

For Sale: Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Plant


Yesterday, Entergy Corporation announced that they were looking to sell the beleagered Nuclear Power plant in Vernon, Vermont. This comes a day after Democrat Peter Shumlin was elected Governor in state-wide elections, with the promise to shut down the plant, which has seen a number of technical issues and leaks of hazardous material over the past year. Its bid to renew its liscense for another twenty years was rejected back in February.

From their press release:

The sale process is being conducted on a confidential basis and no additional details will be released at this time. While no decision has been made to sell the plant, the company expects interest from multiple parties. The plant has an outstanding operational record. It completed 532 days of continuous operation in April 2010, the second breaker-to-breaker run in the last five years. The record run for the plant is 547 days, which ended in 2007.“Our motivation for exploring the sale of the plant is simple – we want to do whatever is in the best interest of our stakeholders, including the approximately 650 men and women who work at the plant,” said J. Wayne Leonard, Entergy’s chairman and chief executive officer. “At the same time, we have been successfully resolving any issues to secure Nuclear Regulatory Commission approval for a license extension at the plant, and we have been in negotiations with the local electric companies to finalize a long-term power purchase agreement to ensure the continued output of clean and reliable energy for Vermont utilities.

“We will aggressively negotiate with potential buyers for extension of employment to all current employees as a condition of any sale.”Entergy acquired the plant from Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Corporation in 2002.

Source

Governor Shumlin

Earlier today, Republican Candidate Brian Dubie conceded the gubernatorial race to Democrat Peter Shumlin after a heated race for the office. As the current political climate has shifted in the House of Representatives and here in Vermont, it will be interesting to see how these events will shape the immediate future of the state and country.
Wired Magazine has an interesting story on how the shift from Democratic to Republican control of the House will affect committees such as the Armed Services Committee:

So say hello to likely incoming chairman Buck McKeon of California. As we reported last month, McKeon’s a big proponent of missile defense, a skeptic of the Obama administration’s plan to start withdrawing troops from Afghanistan next July, and no great fan of closing the Guantanamo Bay detention facility. One of his key allies, Virginia Republican Randy Forbes, has blasted the administration for neglect of the Navy and Air Force and general “lack of concern … for the men and women in uniform.” Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ plans to cut $100 billion in defense overhead in five years is going to get the fine-tooth-comb treatment from the committee. Expect hearings on all these issues practically as soon as Speaker-in-Waiting John Boehner gavels the next Congress into session in January.

With the election of Shumlin to the highest office in Vermont will bring his intentions to the test: His campaign for single-payer health care, the ongoing issues of the Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Plant, bringing in ‘green’ jobs to the state and looking to focus on small businesses, while he’s noted that he doesn’t “believe Vermont has any more tax capacity”.
It’s clear that there’s going to be a number of challenges to come up in the next two years as the U.S. economy is still having larger issues. At the same time, the actions taken over the next two years will be pivotal ones: the closing of Vermont Yankee will have profound implications for power in the state, while the growth of high tech and skilled jobs will likewise have an important impact in our future. Time will tell as to what will actually happen.