On March 22, I will be showing up for another meeting on Vermont Yankee. It is at 6 p.m. at Brattleboro Union High School’s multi-purpose room, and is open to the public. We will hear presentations from NorthStar and the state about the latest ownership deal with Vermont Yankee: the sale from Entergy to NorthStar, for decommissioning. Here is what I will say.
Thank you for working together on this settlement. I especially appreciate that 10 parties were involved in the negotiations to reach this deal.
Forgive me if I am skeptical that this agreement will stick throughout decommissioning. How many times has our trust in Vermont Yankee’s agreements with the state been violated? From day one.
Electric companies sold the state on the idea of Yankee, saying it would cost $88 million to build, that we would pay 5 cents per kilowatt hour, and that the federal government would take away all the radioactive waste. Yankee ended up costing $215 million, opened two years late, and we paid 26 cents per KW hour. And we have no idea how long the radioactive waste will sit here.
In 2002 a sale agreement was struck between the state and Entergy. In it, Entergy agreed that it would not operate beyond the original license, which would expire in 2012, without the approval of the Public Service Board. It also agreed to waive any future claims that federal law pre-empts the jurisdiction of the board.
Ten years later it sued Vermont. Repeatedly. Including on pre-emption, the power of the PSB, and the power of our Legislature to even mention the word “safety.”
Between the 2002 sale and relicensing 10 years later, Entergy violated the state’s trust so many times that our Senate voted 26-4 against relicensing. Republican Sen. Randy Brock said:
“If its board of directors and its management had been thoroughly infiltrated by anti-nuclear activists I do not believe they could have done a better job in destroying their own case. The dissembling, the prevarication, the lack of candor have been striking.”
Since 2004, Safe & Green Campaign has compiled a timeline on Vermont Yankee. I encourage NorthStar and everyone on the Vermont Nuclear Decommissioning Citizens Advisory Panel to take a look at it, especially 2009-2012. It’s astonishing how many times Entergy tried to weasel out of the agreements it made with the Public Service Board. Here are just three examples:
• In August 2009, Entergy admitted that starting in June 2008 it failed to monitor radiation coming from the dry casks of high-level radioactive waste — even though such monitoring was a condition of Entergy’s cask-storage permit issued by the Public Service Board.
• Entergy officials lied under oath to the PSB as well as to the Public Service Department and the Public Oversight Panel. As a result, the PSB required Entergy to review every page of written testimony as well as oral testimony for the relicensing case. The PSB ended up closing that docket (7440) altogether and opened a whole new relicensing docket (7682).
• In 2012 Entergy asked the PSB to amend the section of the sale order of 2002 which states that Yankee must cease operations March 22, 2012, if there is no certificate of public good.
Entergy did not close Vermont Yankee, and on March 22, 2012 — also a Thursday — 2,000 people took the day off from work to march from the Brattleboro Common to Entergy’s offices at Old Ferry Road. More than 140 were arrested. Why? Because Entergy was operating without its state permit.
Now here we are six years later. Entergy is desperate to unload this huge problem of nuclear waste onto NorthStar, who intends to prove that decommissioning can be profitable. In the time since the sale to NorthStar was announced, NorthStar and Waste Control Specialists have both been bought by a private equity firm, J.F. Lehman and Co. Another Lehman — Lehman Brothers — filed for the largest bankruptcy in U.S. history in 2008. It went belly up after it entered the housing market, thinking it would make a big profit. Let’s hope this Lehman’s entree into nuclear decommissioning is more successful.
I agree wholeheartedly that Vermont Yankee should be decommissioned in our lifetimes, so that we who made and benefited from the 900 tons of radioactive wastes it has created are accountable for cleaning it up. I am glad somebody thinks it is possible to do so. On the other hand, the history of Vermont Yankee ownership is one of covering up accidents and mistakes, of corporate lies to our legislators and to state regulators, and of agreeing to honor commitments and of suing the state to get out of those commitments. So do not expect me to throw a parade for this agreement.
Good luck to the state regulators and to the Public Utility Commission. You’ve got your work cut out for you.
By Leslie Sullivan Sachs