Shumlin: Vermont better off without nuclear plant

Peter Shumlin, Vermont Yankee
Vermont Attorney General Bill Sorrell (left), Gov. Peter Shumlin and Mike Twomey, vice president of external affairs for Entergy, announced an agreement to close Vermont Yankee in December 2013. Photo by John Herrick/VTDigger
VERNON – At a recent economic development announcement in Brattleboro, Gov. Peter Shumlin confidently declared that Windham County has an advantage because “we can do cash.”

He was referring to a multimillion-dollar pot of money – the Windham County Economic Development Program – that was created via a shutdown settlement agreement with Vermont Yankee owner Entergy.

As he prepares to leave office two years after the Vernon nuclear plant stopped producing power, Shumlin says he is confident that the regional and state economy is headed in the right direction even without Yankee’s 600-plus jobs in the mix.

And from an energy standpoint, Shumlin contends the state is better off without Vermont Yankee’s 605 megawatts of power production due to a new emphasis on renewables and efficiency.

“There’s no question that running an aging, leaking nuclear power plant beyond its design life was not in Vermont’s best interest,” Shumlin said.

Shumlin never made any secret of his opposition to the nuclear plant that operated for 42 years in his home county.

As a state senator, he led a 2010 vote to block Vermont Yankee’s requested 20-year relicensing. Against a backdrop of tritium leaks at the plant, Yankee shutdown was a key issue in Shumlin’s Democratic gubernatorial campaign that same year.

Shumlin carried that advocacy into the governor’s office, contending Vermonters had lost faith in the plant’s corporate owners – whom he referred to as “Entergy Louisiana.”

During a recent interview with, Shumlin said his opposition to Vermont Yankee was based partly on tritium leak scandal. But he also believed that the plant should not operate beyond its initial, 40-year licensure period.

“I felt strongly like, in a state where your word is your bond, the deal had been changed after it had been agreed to,” Shumlin said. “It should be retired on time as promised to Vermonters.”

Ultimately, the state didn’t close the plant. The federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission granted a renewed license for Vermont Yankee in 2011, and a federal judge subsequently ruled that the facility could continue to operate beyond a March 21, 2012 shutdown date that had been set by the state.

When Entergy in 2013 announced Vermont Yankee’s planned closure, the company cited financial reasons including the price of natural gas and the costs of operating the plant. There was no mention of the state’s long-standing opposition.

Shumlin, however, still believes that the state played a role. He says it’s no coincidence that Vermont Yankee’s closure came first in a series of nuclear shutdown announcements for Entergy.

“It was a very unhappy relationship” between the state and Entergy, Shumlin said. “And I’m sure that when they made the decision based on economics … to shut a plant down, we had a shiny gold star on our heads.”

Whatever the reason for Entergy’s decision, Shumlin believes it was for the best.

As he exits the governor’s office after three terms, Shumlin often touts his track record in boosting renewable energy sources such as wind and solar. Though the state still buys nuclear power from a plant in New Hampshire, Shumlin says emphasizing renewables and energy efficiency is the right thing to do environmentally and economically.

“We are an example of how to reduce your carbon footprint and do electric generation right,” he said.

The governor said the loss of Vermont Yankee employees has been “a heartbreaking and tragic thing for all of us to go through,” and he said he is not denying the economic impact of the plant’s closure.

At the same time, though, he sees renewable energy as an economic engine for the future. “Now, in Vermont, if you have 17 people in a room, one of them is working in the renewable energy sector,” Shumlin said. “And they tend to be young, vigorous, excited about living in Vermont.”

Shumlin says he’s also proud of a 2013 shutdown agreement the state struck with Entergy. The deal allocated at least $2.6 million in Entergy money for clean energy development activities “in or for the benefit of Windham County.”

Some of that cash has gone toward a wood-heat initiative, and another $400,000 recently was awarded to start a renewable energy grant program in the county.

The state settlement deal also committed Entergy to paying $2 million a year for five years to boost economic development in Windham County. The resulting Windham County Economic Development Program has funded a variety of projects including major expansions at Chroma Technologies in Bellows Falls and G.S. Precision and Commonwealth Dairy in Brattleboro.

“This is the kind of economic incentive that Windham County needs to continue to be economically prosperous,” the governor said.

For the most part, the Shumlin administration has been unsuccessful when attempting to intervene in the federally regulated Vermont Yankee decommissioning process. But officials can still point to the 2013 settlement deal with Entergy as an important victory with long-lasting impacts.

Chris Recchia, whom Shumlin appointed in 2012 to lead the Vermont Public Service Department, echoed the governor in praising Entergy’s recent willingness to negotiate with the state.

“I’ve been very pleased with the discussions we had with Entergy in recent years. I think the (2013) settlement was a good outcome for Vermont,” Recchia said.

Like Shumlin, Recchia also believes the state is “better off without relying on (nuclear) power.”

A simulation control room of the Vermont Yankee power plant at the company's training center in Brattleboro. Photo by John Herrick
A simulation control room of the Vermont Yankee power plant at the company’s training center in Brattleboro. Photo by John Herrick

Vernon residents push back

Not everyone shares those sentiments. In Vernon, there remains resentment about the state’s fight against Vermont Yankee and doubt about Shumlin’s economic development efforts.

A few months after Entergy announced Vermont Yankee’s pending closure, Vernon resident Josh Unruh titled his first batch of home brew “Shumlin’s Shutdown.” The bottle’s label proclaimed that the beer had been “brewed in Montpelier by politics and ignorance.”

Now a member of Vernon Selectboard, Unruh’s ire hasn’t abated. He says the Shumlin administration’s focus on closing Vermont Yankee “was a short-sighted view.”

As for the impact on Vernon, “my personal view is, I don’t think they care a whole lot,” Unruh said of state officials.

State Rep. Mike Hebert, R-Vernon, says that impact has been “devastating to Vernon and to Windham County in general.”

Rep. Mike Hebert
Rep. Mike Hebert, R-Vernon, pulls out a cigar at the end of legislative session in May 2013. Photo Anne Galloway/VTDigger

In addition to employment and tax revenue losses, Hebert said, “people have lost a lot of friends. And we’ve lost a lot of brainpower and a lot of volunteers for organizations in Windham County.”

Hebert isn’t sure the state played much role in Vermont Yankee’s shutdown. But he believes state officials could have done much more to prevent it.

“Had (Shumlin) made efforts as he did with other businesses to keep them in the state, something could have been done to make it easier to have stayed here,” Hebert said.

Hebert and Unruh also question the effectiveness and intent of the Windham County Economic Development Program. That money, they argue, should be doing more to boost entrepreneurs and small businesses – especially in Vernon.

Shumlin doesn’t shy away from criticism, acknowledging that he has denied grants and loans to many applicants because he didn’t feel they had enough economic impact.

“I didn’t want it frittered away on projects that all had good intentions but wouldn’t have resulted necessarily in real jobs for hard-working people,” Shumlin said.

Shumlin touts decommissioning plan

Economics aren’t the only beef some have with Shumlin’s Vermont Yankee policies.

The Brattleboro-based anti-nuclear group New England Coalition won’t give the governor a ringing endorsement as he departs. Coalition trustee and staff member Clay Turnbull argues that Shumlin and his staff should have worked to set site restoration standards and to ensure spent nuclear fuel was stored in a different location than the one Entergy chose.

“It would have been so much better if his legacy was that the waste was much farther from the Connecticut River,” Turnbull said.

While Turnbull said the state deserves some credit for opposing Vermont Yankee’s continued operation, he doesn’t think that was a deciding factor in Entergy’s shutdown decision.

“Every bit of resistance made it easier for them to throw in the towel,” Turnbull said. “But ultimately, if there was money to be made, they would still be operating. That’s the bottom line.”

State Rep. Mike Mrowicki, D-Putney, is more complimentary of Shumlin’s Vermont Yankee work. While there were “a lot of factors” contributing to shutdown, Mrowicki said, “I don’t think Peter’s contribution can be ignored.”

Asked whether he agreed with Shumlin’s declaration that the state is better off without Vermont Yankee, Mrowicki responded that he would “have to say yes, in the long term.”

“The big question mark is, will it get cleaned up … on time and on budget,” Mrowicki said.

The answer to that question may lie with New York-based NorthStar Group Services, which has promised to have most of the Vermont Yankee site cleared by 2030 if state and federal regulators approve its purchase of the property.

Shumlin won’t have a direct role in vetting that sale. But he said the NorthStar deal has the potential to ensure that the plant won’t “sit there rotting” for decades before cleanup work begins.

“If they can really get …. that plant decommissioned as quickly as possible so that we can (develop) that site for another use, that’s a huge help to Windham County,” Shumlin said.

Vermont Yankee
Work began a few months ago on a $143 million project to transfer all of the Vermont Yankee plant’s radioactive spent fuel into more stable storage in sealed casks. Photo courtesy of Entergy
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  • Climatologist James Hensen, one of those most concerned about climate change, writes persuasively of the urgent need for nuclear power – ““To solve the climate problem, policy must be based on facts and not on prejudice. The climate system cares about greenhouse gas emissions – not about whether energy comes from renewable power or abundant nuclear power.”

    Renewables are a means, not a goal – unless, of course – unless you make your living selling wind turbines or solar panels. If you think life as we know it is about to be baked from the earth, the last thing you’d want to do is close a nuke.

    More about that and why, with Harry Reid gone, we should open Yucca Mountain at

    • Sorry, I believe renewables should be “the goal” of our energy policy. Renewables are just that…renewable. We don’t have to desecrate and dirty the planet in getting to them either. I do think nuclear is better than coal, oil or gas. But we still have the problem of the waste…and that is a BIG problem.

      Vermont is better off in the long run by getting rid of the nuclear power plant. Especially one this old, with known leak problems.

      • Asher McLean


        Renewables like solar and wind are great, but are incapable of providing the energy output to support civilization. Modern fission plants are very safe and clean. They produce huge amounts of electricity while also providing a huge economic boost. A new MSR Gen IV fission plant would be a boon to Vermont’s economy and is the closest thing we have to green energy, at least until fusion plants become commercially viable.

      • Jim Manahan

        If we don’t have to desecrate and dirty the planet in getting renewables, then why are we desecrating our ridgelines and dirtying our environment with wind towers that require desecrating our forests and dirtying our environment with tons and tons of cement for each tower?

        • John Greenberg

          Nuclear power plants don’t require concrete?

          The existing one doesn’t desecrate a ridgeline. Instead, it “desecrates a river bank” and some of the best agricultural land in Vermont.

    • Would you say that wind turbines and solar panels have the danger potential of a nuclear power plant?

      • edward letourneau

        What are the dangers of a nuclear power plant?

        • John Greenberg

          Radiation releases in all parts of the fuel cycle.

          • Thomas Clegg

            And John you have an X- RAY you have a radiation release. The sun has radiation releases all the time.

          • John Greenberg

            Thomas Clegg:

            Like many other pollutants, ionizing radiation occurs naturally and, in the case of medical x-rays, can actually be more beneficial than harmful.

            But doctors don’t use x-rays and even less CT scans (much higher dose) for the hell of it, because they are aware of the harms as well of the potential benefits.

            This is hardly unusual in modern medicine. Many regularly prescribed drugs are beneficial in the recommended doses, but harmful or even lethal in higher doses.

            Radiation is acknowledged to be a carcinogen by the overwhelming majority of doctors, scientists, and regulators.

            Indeed, the nuclear industry acknowledges that fact, which is why significant precautions are taken throughout to prevent leaks. Unfortunately, because they are human, they sometimes fail.

            I stand by my comment.

  • John McClaughry

    If someone had gotten a photo of a plugged up toilet at Vermont Yankee, Shumlin would have denounced the “Entergy Louisiana septic scandal” and cranked up his extortion machine to squeeze more money out of Entergy to subsidize the renewable industrial complex – or even clean up algae in Lake Champlain. Shumlin’s goal was to shut down 600 Mw of reliable carbon dioxide emission-free baseload power, all the while wailing about “our grandchildren’s horrid future” of “climate change” caused by CO2 emissions. He’s free to consider Yankee’s closure a great accomplishment, but it looks pretty shabby to me.

    • I would say Vermont will be better without Shumlin. VY? probably should have kept it.

  • Bjorde Raakken

    Questions for reporter Mike Faher re missing key pieces of info: How much of Vermont’s total power needs are provided by the NH nuke plant? If the NH nuke were shut down, what would happen to VT power bills/rates? Up? Down? Neutral? Just curious.

  • Dan Allard

    Yes, it was much better to put 600 people out of work, make the poor and the elderly pay more for electricity and still have spent rods on site for the next thousand years. You must realize that this is coming from a person who states that global warming will ruin winters as we know them yet touts that the ski industry is good for the economic future of the state.

  • edward letourneau

    This left-wing thinking has brought us power costs that are close to double what we would otherwise have to pay. The people behind it don’t understand how society and the power grid work, and have to work, and they think solar panels and wind can replace base load power plants.

    • John Greenberg

      Edward Letourneau:

      “This left-wing thinking has brought us power costs that are close to double what we would otherwise have to pay.”

      This is just plain nonsense. New England power prices have been higher than those in most other areas of the country for decades, during which time nuclear power has constituted a considerably higher portion of our power grid than of the national average (ca. 30-35% vs ca. 20%).

      There is NO evidence for your statement. Your making it repeatedly, in different forms, won’t make it accurate. Since new nuclear power costs far more than other forms of electric generation, there is literally no prospect of this statement coming true in anything like the near-term future either.

      • edward letourneau

        John, there is all kinds of evidence for my comments. Power has to be generated when it is needed. Wind and solar cannot provide that. Not now, not tomorrow, not ever. Base load plants are needed. Either gas, oil or nuclear. The costs of nukes is so high that places in the south with the lowest power costs in the nation are building new nuclear plants as we speak. Think about it.,

        • John Greenberg


          “Power has to be generated when it is needed.” No, it has to be AVAILABLE as needed, most often, by generating at the time it’s needed.

          But the moment of consumption can be separated from the moment of generation. Batteries are an obvious way, but until recently they haven’t been much used on utility scale. If costs come down as much as some experts are predicting, the industry could be revolutionized.

          Intermittent sources can be used to offset one another, because the wind doesn’t always blow when the sun is shining or vice versa or when rivers are flowing. HQ uses its dams to offset its wind production. When the wind is blowing, they allow water to build up, storing potential energy. When it’s not, they release the water creating electricity.

          Also, there are various other forms of backup power which are already being used.

          Finally, there are various forms of renewable energy – e.g. biomass & geothermal – which actually do produce 24/7 power.

          • Thomas Clegg

            John for someone who claims to know so much about making electricity how come you don’t know you can’t store electric in a battery. Batteries have their own potential and you can only recharge them. When they reach their potential you are only wasting electric trying to put more power in them. I also notice that you have faith in the future advancement in making batteries better, but when it comes to the future advancements in safely reprocessing or disposing of nuclear waste you don’t want to hear about it. I guess it’s all in your perception no matter how warped it is.

          • John Greenberg

            Thomas Clegg:

            1) I have never made any claim to know anything.

            2) I said nothing about storing electricity, although in common parlance, that’s precisely what batteries do. I said: “the moment of consumption can be separated from the moment of generation.” That’s true.

            3) I have “faith” in battery technology because entrepreneurs are pouring billions of dollars of their own money into it along side of government investments. Substantial progress has already been made. Utility-scale batteries exist; a permanent waste repository does not, despite governments and the nuclear industry having poured billions of dollars of OTHER people’s money into it, and making empty promises for well over 40 years.

            Also, I spent years looking at the technical details of storing “low-level” radioactive waste & have actually researched and thought a lot about the issues involved. It’s not easy to totally isolate ANYTHING on this planet over the geological periods of time required.

          • Thomas Clegg

            John good first point and finally something we agree on. YOU KNOW NOTHING. No know nothing John that is not what batteries do. Look at your cell phone know nothing John. You plug it in to recharge it, when it is fully charged it is wasting electric to keep it plugged in. As for the hazardous waste in batteries know nothing John you never mention them, lead ,acid and other toxins. So I guess as long as it isn’t radiation it doesn’t count. As for other people paying for repository. The utilities that own nuclear power plants take money out of their profits for the federal government to find and build a repository, but so far the government has failed. So again know nothing John YOU ARE MAKING statements with out showing proof. Show me these great advancements in utility-scale batteries and where they are being used? Know nothing John did you know that with radiation about every 3 feet you stand from it you cut dose levels in half. I do not know what you consider low level.

          • John Greenberg

            Thomas Clegg:

            1) Nothing you’ve said here changes my point about batteries; they allow energy to be consumed at a different time from when it is generated. That’s the whole point, isn’t it? And as my original comment pointed out, there are other ways of achieving time displacement.

            2) I didn’t mention the hazardous waste in (some) batteries because I made no attempt to compare, say renewables + storage to other means of producing electricity.

            3) Section 302(a)(2) of the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982 states: “For electricity generated by a civilian nuclear power reactor and sold on or after the date 90 days after the date of enactment of this Act [enacted Jan. 7, 1983], the fee under paragraph (1) shall be equal to 1.0 mil per kilowatt-hour.” Regulated utilities were allowed to collect this 1 mil fee from their ratepayers as a cost of doing business, so they did NOT “take money out of their profits for” to pay the fees. Merchant plants came almost 2 decades later.

          • John Greenberg

            Thomas Clegg:

            “Show me these great advancements …” Sure:

            “the U.S. is the largest market for grid-connected energy storage installations through 2017, and global sales of combined solar energy storage systems are expected to reach nearly $30 billion by then. This mounting interest in energy storage is evident from the expanded deployment of storage-backed solar, extensive battery research efforts across the country and increased investment activity. California … now has a mandate calling for 1.3 GW of energy storage by 2020. The state has already applied for installation projects totaling double the required amount.”


            Many others available.

        • John Greenberg

          Edward Letourneau:

          “The costs of nukes is so high that places in the south with the lowest power costs in the nation are building new nuclear plants as we speak.”

          Wrong on both counts.

          SC & GA are building the new nukes. Their rates ARE lower than many other states, but are considerably higher than several others: e.g,, LA, WA, and AR.

          Their rates are low IN SPITE OF, not because of, the new construction. Ratepayers are already seeing price hikes for these plants, even though power won’t be available from them for years. Further price INCREASES due to the new plants are in the offing. Construction has failed to stay on schedule and is over budget. The companies building the plants are losing BILLIONS of dollars:

          In short, GA & SC do have low power costs, but NOT because they are building new nukes.

  • Neil Johnson

    Well we still have a nuclear power plant, it’s just not producing any electricity. What is the next use for a nuclear power plant site? Seriously…’s a brown site of serious proportions. Probably the best reuse would be another nuclear plant…..short of that the clean up value is more than the property could be worth, might have a negative value.

  • Mark Leonard

    It only takes 4840 acres of solar panels to replace the 605 MW lost from the nuke plant.

    • edward letourneau

      And the 4840 acres will only provide power during daylight!

      • Asher McLean

        And has highly variable output even then! Solar is great as a decentralized supplement, but Vermont could secure a self-sufficient, green energy future if it also allowed for the construction of a new, efficient, safe, clean fission reactor on the site of Vermont Yankee. Climate change is very real and there’s just no way that we can cut out fossil fuels without nuclear. It is not physically possible.

        I question the left’s commitment to combating climate change if they’re not willing to consider nuclear.

  • Gerry Silverstein

    From a recent editorial in the NY Times (Dec 22–Lamar Alexander-R and Sheldon Whitehouse-D): “60 percent of our carbon-free electricity comes from the 99 nuclear reactors that dot the nation’s map”; “In California, the closing of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station in 2012 contributed to a 24 percent increase in carbon emissions from the electricity sector”; and “Carbon emissions from the electricity sector in New England rose 5 percent in 2015, the first year-to-year increase since 2010, largely because of the closing of the Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Station in December 2014, according to ISO New England”.

    Shumlin was happy to see Vermont ridgelines bulldozed so that green capitalists could sell their RECs out-of-state, and authorize (with the Legislature) solar farms that sold electricity at a rate more than 500% higher than from Vermont Yankee…but when it came to the most fundamental energy source in the universe (the nucleus of atoms), that was not the Vermont way.

  • Lester French

    Oh yes, Vermont is better off without the 500+/- very well paying jobs and significant support for the local communities.

  • Pete Novick

    Here’s a link to a study, Economic Impacts of Vermont Yankee Closure, written by the UMass Donahue Institute of Economic and Public Policy Research, (December 2014):

    Please see Table 1, The Economic Activity Levels of Vermont Yankee to the Tri-County Region Over Time, on page 9.

    The total loss of economic activity includes two components, labor income and value added, and is estimated to be about $493,406,806 – roughly half a billion dollars over time.

    In my neighborhood, two VY employees have left, taking their knowledge, skills and abilities to $100K+ jobs elsewhere. Their houses sit empty, joining the lengthening list of homes for sale and not moving.

    I am no fan of nuclear fission, but let’s put this in perspective folks.

  • Howard Dean

    Trouble with Tom’s view is that it doesn’t take into account the waste disposal problem which has never been solved. This is the most dangerous waste on the face of the earth for the longest time. I do not think nuclear power has a legitimate place in our long term attack on climate change unless this problem can be solved. Casks are not a permanent solution or, over time, a safe one..

    • Yucca Mountain, a very geologically stable area, is where US nuclear waste is supposed to go. we’ve spent billions preparing it but Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada blocked opening it. I absolutely agree that the waste does not belong in onsite casks, not the old waste from Yankee or new waste from new plants.

      • Chris Williams

        Please Google “Yucca Mountain earthquakes”

    • David White

      With waste products from the petroleum industry we pour it all over our food and call it fertilizer put it in pill form and call it medication. Seems to me that’s a lot less waste than other fuel sources

    • Marcus Ruttan

      Looks to me that it takes a whole lot more land area to house Styrofoam than it does all spent nuclear fuel from all US nuclear plants.
      How long does it take for Styrofoam to decompose?


      Quick Answer
      Styrofoam does not decompose in the environment under normal circumstances. Much like plastic, Styrofoam is made from a polystyrene-based petroleum product that is not biodegradable. Plastic takes hundreds of years to decompose, and Styrofoam takes much longer because it is a stronger form of plastic.

      • John Greenberg

        Marcus Ruttan:

        How much exposure to Styrofoam causes a fatal dose?

        Quick Answer. None. Exposure to styrofoam is not lethal. Exposure to “spent fuel” would be lethal within minutes.

        Exposure to lesser quantities of radiation — e.g. from isotopes which were carried by water into the ecosystem — would take longer, but would still be highly carcinogenic for millennia.

        This analogy is based on false equivalance.

      • John Greenberg

        Oops: equivalence.

    • Jacob Gregory

      The “waste disposal problem” was actually solved long ago. A simple partitioning of the used fuel will reduce the volume by over 90%, as well as recovering useful materials that can be used in either LEU or MOX fuel. Partitioning does not reduce the heat load, which is really the limiting factor in repository design. Actinide recycle can burn out those heat-producing forms and leave very little residue. The amount of non-usable material left after actinide recycle can easily be stored in a very small facility, much smaller than Yucca Mountain. If you want to take Yucca Mountain off the table (which I think is a mistake, but lets assume it for now), then storage in a facility like WIPP would be very feasible, and in some ways more secure since it would have the right type of rock (i.e., subsurface salt formations).

      So why aren’t we doing this? Excellent question. The answer is, lack of will, bureaucratic bungling and ratcheting of regulations, and political agendas.

  • Steve Merrill

    You mean James Hanson? Does he count all the “carbon” needed to mine/extract/process uranium? Anyone remember that Franklin County farmer who said in 2010 that he’d have to stop farming from the high electric bills if Yankee shut down? (Nevermind that northern lines transmit from Hydro Quebec, a project WE paid for (Shipshaw) for Alcoa/ 1941?) Then there’s the waste, which is only 1/2 as toxic in 750,000 years as it is now, doesn’t Yucca have fault lines showing it potentially unstable? If we were NOT such hypocrites we’d “store it” in the Appalachians, one of the worlds oldest ranges and seismically stable, would Mr. Evslin volunteer his neighborhood? Nukes are a BIG mistake, both for war & peace, this I gleaned from working in “the industry” @ General Atomic. We are smarter than this, period. SM, N.Troy

    • Actually I mean James Hansen, we both misspelled his name. Although I don’t always agree with his conclusions, his methodology is generally excellent. He certainly understands carbon budgets.

      The waste belongs in Yucca and not the Appalachians because Yucca is even more geologically stable.

      • John Greenberg

        Tom Evslin:

        “The waste belongs in Yucca and not the Appalachians because Yucca is even more geologically stable.” Please provide evidence to support that statement.

        When DOE was looking for a site (before Congress directed it to Yucca Mountain), it chose 3 sites for further examination: Yucca, Texas, and New England granite. To my knowledge, there was never any scientific conclusion to the DOE’s investigation process, because Congress ended it for political reasons.

        Additionally, Yucca was never designed to be big enough to hold all US waste. It was supposed to be the first, not the only, repository.

        Finally, if Harry Reid is really the problem, how come no OTHER country has a depository? Harry Reid isn’t stopping the French, the Japanese, the Chinese or anyone else from solving the waste problem. But no one has. The problem isn’t as simple as you suggest.

        • Jacob Gregory

          Yucca is big enough, but beyond a certain amount the heat load becomes too large. Actinide recycle handles that. Add partitioning of the used fuel and you have a volume orders of magnitude smaller than what is available at YM. You still need to run several generations of fast-spectrum reactors to achieve an equilibrium burn-down of actinide inventory, but that’s a lot shorter than waiting for decay (although that is an option).

          • John Greenberg

            Jacob Gregory:

            “Yucca is big enough, but beyond a certain amount the heat load becomes too large.” And because the heat load becomes too large, the waste can no longer be stored safely (assuming it could in the first place). Put differently, Yucca is NOT big enough and was never designed to be big enough, which is what I said above.

            As to your other suggestions, they are not part of current US disposal plans and certainly not included in any of the design and planning work for Yucca Mtn.

            There is actually quite a smorgasbord of proposals like yours for disposing of nuclear waste, not only in the US, but around the world: reprocessing, deep sea disposal, shooting the waste into space, etc. etc.

            As I noted above, it remains the case that no one has actually managed to implement a successful program anywhere in the world: there are no models. And Harry Reid is not the reason.

            My previous comments were accurate.

          • Jacob Gregory

            And what I said above it accurate. Yucca Mountain at the time it was planned IS big enough to handle the US waste VOLUME, but the heat load is the limiting factor. When I worked with the folks at INL on this we did a lot of work to establish the baseline for actinide burnup in this country. There is absolutely no reason why it cannot be done. DOE programming, driven by political agendas, not science, keeps it in the paper stage instead of making the dirt fly. BTW, nobody seriously considers sending the material into space. Too much political hysteria, plus the cost is outrageous. Disposal in underwater subduction zones was an old idea that in fact had little support in the scientific community. You might find an advocate here or there but most realized the difficulty in reaching an international consensus for it. And I am not impressed by the “nobody else has done it” argument. The history shows us that for a time nobody else had done a lot of things, until someone did them.

          • John Greenberg

            Jacob Gregory:

            1) It doesn’t matter what the “limiting factor” was or is: Yucca Mountain was never planned to store all US spent fuel. Similarly, it doesn’t matter WHY actinide burnup remains “in the paper stage;” it’s not being done.

            2) The “nobody else has done it” argument shows only that the “It’s all Harry Reid’s fault” argument (see Tom’s comment) is unconvincing. Harry Reid isn’t responsible for the fact that the French, the Chinese, etc. have not solved this problem either.

            3) I agree that space shots, ocean disposal, and many other suggestions are unimpressive (to put it nicely).

            The simply basic point remains: isolating ANYTHING on a highly-interconnected planet over geological time periods is far more difficult than you and other commenters make it out to be. Like you, I hope it is soluble, but we’ve been working on this for over ½ a century, and so far, there is no solution. Given the complexity of the problem, I don’t find that surprising.

          • Jacob Gregory

            When the NWPA version passed in 1982 was drafted, a single repository was adequate for the national inventory of used fuel at the time. But not for long. That is why the original legislation had the second repository site selection process slated for 7/1/89, with a recommendation to Congress by 3/31/90.

            The whole thing could have been rendered moot if the IFR demonstration was allowed to be completed in the early 1990s. The proof-of-principle using EBR-II as the test bed had already been completed. A full-scale run was planned but (Bill) Clinton pulled the plug just before the run was to start. AFAIK, everything in the IFR program was destroyed. I wonder why that is?

            Harry Reid and Barack Obama, in coordination with Greg Jaczko, scotched the YM licensing process, in part to assure Reid’s re-election to the Senate and position as Majority Leader after the 2012 elections. They’d build it after it was licensed. Squelching the licensing was a back-door way to veto the program.

  • Jacob Gregory

    Still harping on that “design life lie, I see. I really wish Shumlin would get it through his head that nuclear plants have an indefinite “design life”. It isn’t the 40-year period of the initial license. As long as the critical components are capable of functioning with adequate safety margins the plant can run indefinitely. When you start approaching those margins, then it is time to either replace the components or retire the plant. VY was nowhere near its end-of-life for critical components (and, no, the collapse of one cell in the cooling tower array was not a safety-critical component). But Shumlin was pandering to his progressive political base to the end.

  • Paul Richards

    Vermont will be a lot better off without Shumlin than it will be without a nuclear plant.
    Energy from “spent fuel rods” can be recycled and used to make power but our government would rather keep the global warming “crisis” alive to redistribute money and destroy our lands.
    If France can do it why not us? See;

  • Paul Richards

    Vermont will be a lot better off without Shumlin than it will be without a nuclear plant.
    Energy from “spent fuel rods” can be recycled and used to make power but our government would rather keep the global warming “crisis” alive to redistribute money and destroy our lands.
    If France can do it why not us? See;

    • Jacob Gregory

      Right now the economics favor once-through fuel use. That may not always be the case. But the fact is that when Carter issued the executive order proclaiming that it would be the US national policy to forego used fuel reprocessing, it effectively ended that option. The order was (supposedly) rescinded by Reagan (I cannot find the actual text of the recission order), but the waters had already been poisoned. Nobody will now take the risk of building a reprocessing plant if they know a presidential order can shut them down and destroy their investment.

      • John Greenberg

        Jacob Gregory:

        Your comment omits 2 pretty important points.

        1) President Carter shut down the program AFTER over $1 billion (in 1970s dollars) had already been spent. When considering the costs of nuclear power, I doubt this is ever factored in.

        2) Carter ended the program due to nuclear proliferation concerns. As those who followed the negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program will now know, the hard part of building a nuclear bomb is obtaining the nuclear materials necessary.

        Given that India and Pakistan both used civilian programs to develop their nuclear bomb efforts, and that Pakistan then aided North Korea in its successful effort to build bombs, Carter’s decision seems pretty reasonable.

        • Jacob Gregory

          No rogue country contemplating a national program in nuclear weapons development would be likely to choose plutonium production derived from a civilian nuclear program. Much too easy to detect the clandestine activity. The most likely pathway to weapons-grade material would be an HEU-based weapon. Given the advances in centrifuge technology, the machines can be made small and efficient enough to be hidden, and production rates can be ramped up by simply adding more machines to the cascade. If you want to go after someone for producing clandestine weapons, go after people who are building small, efficient GCEPs. The bombs-from-reactors canard was just a scare tactic and a FUD-based approach to scotch reprocessing in this country. Used reactor fuel is almost always unsuitable for weapons, given the predetonation problems you get from the denaturing effect of the 240Pu content.

          • John Greenberg

            Jacob Gregory:

            “No rogue country contemplating a national program in nuclear weapons development would be likely to choose plutonium production derived from a civilian nuclear program.” Yet:

            India bought a 40MW Canadian reactor (CIRUS) Then: “The reactor was a design ideal for producing weapons-grade plutonium, and was also extraordinarily large for research purposes, being capable of manufacturing enough plutonium for one to two bombs a year. The acquisition of Cirus was specifically intended by India to provide herself with a weapons option and this reactor produced the plutonium used in India’s first nuclear test in 1974; provided the design prototype for India’s more powerful Dhruva plutonium production “research” reactor; and is directly responsible for producing nearly half of the weapons grade plutonium currently believed to be in India’s stockpile.”

          • Jacob Gregory

            And that is precisely why no one will go that way today. It would be readily detectable as a dual-design system. And all that was a long time ago prior to the detection systems we have today. We know the Norks and Pakis and Israelis have programs today because of these choices. A truly clandestine program would be more likely to build an HEU weapon using GCEP technology. That’s why the technology is tightly controlled. Some of the precision machine tools needed for fabrication of centrifuges was sold to China when the B1 program was ended in the US. Much of that was passed on to third parties. The Chinese were not going to use those machines to make woks, that I can assure you.

  • Bob Stannard

    It’s always interesting to read the comments of the pro-nuke/anti-renewable folks. On the one hand they decry renewables such as wind, because turbine noise makes them sick; desecrates the mountain tops and/or the environment and can only work if subsidized. On the other hand they champion nuclear power as “clean” while ignoring the fact that radiation makes people sick; the mining process really does desecrate mountains; the byproduct is THE most toxic residue man has ever created and the industry can’t survive without subsidies.

    I’m guessing I’m not the only one who sees the irony here.

    • Jacob Gregory

      Nobody is “ignoring” that radiation can make you sick. But you need a lot of it delivered very quickly to your whole body, something that has never happened to anyone in this country as a result of the operation of a commercial nuclear plant. The mining of uranium actually disturbs relatively little land compared to things like coal mining, or fracking for natural gas. And used nuclear fuel is hardly THE most TOXIC residue MAN has EVER CREATED (FUD is such fun). Plutonium is typically the most feared component of used nuclear fuel, but things like ricin and cyanide are significantly more toxic. As far as “subsidies” go, there is one industry that cannot survive without them, and that is the so-called renewable power industry. For example, ratepayers in Illinois are paying a little less than 1 c/kwh rate increase to keep three zero-emissions generators (reactors) functioning, a rate increase that goes away when market conditions improve (windmills get 2.3 c/kwh, solar 21 c/kwh).

      • Bob Stannard

        Actually, truth be known it’s been well documented that there is NO safe level of radiation; and radiation is cumulative and stored in your cells. Ricin and Cyanide are certainly toxic, but they don’t remain toxic for 300,000 to 500,000 years years or so. That’s why we have such trouble storing this stuff. It’ll out last everything. Of course those interested in making a buck today could care less about those coming up behind us, right?

        In 2013 the fossil fuel industry received over $500 billion in federal subsidies. I believe the nuke industry was around $20-$50 billion. New York just had to subsidize it’s aged, leaking plants to the tune of $7.4 Billion. These are old industries that should be able to survive on their own without taxpayer’s help, don’t you think?

        • Jacob Gregory

          Radiation is not “stored in your cells” nor is it “cumulative”. Radiation is simply energy emitted from a source in particle or wave form. It moves through space until either absorbed or scattered. Radiation damage to cells from chronic exposure is not cumulative as the damage is reparable by normal biologic function. The only thing cumulative is risk of developing certain kinds of illnesses, and those are indistinguishable from other factors in a risk-exposed population. The “NO” safe level of radiation exposure is a myth whose origin is a misinterpretation of a crude model (LNT) that has very little information on effects at low exposures. The LNT model was NEVER intended to be used to infer that deleterious effects scale linearly with dose. It was proposed as a guide for developing protection paradigms that would achieve the ALARA goal and prevent acute exposures for which the LNT model had reliable data.

        • Jacob Gregory

          If you want to go after “subsidized” industries, go after the so-called “renewable” energy industries first. Those get massive subsidies that exceed any “subsidies” others get, yet no one whispers a word of protest against those. Curious, don’t you think? Why make others “survive on their own” yet allow the renewables to soak the ratepayers?

          As an example, the ratepayers in Illinois were just asked to pay about 1 c/kwh “subsidy” for three zero-emission generating sources (reactors), that generate huge amounts of no-carbon electricity, quantities that dwarf anything even remotely possible with “renewable” sources (not to mention a 90% capacity factor, compared to 30% for windmills and 20% for solar panels). Those same ratepayers subsidize windmills at 2.3 c/kwh, and solar at 21 c/kwh. The “subsidy” for nuclear goes away if market conditions improve. The subsidies for windmills and solar panels remain in place regardless of market conditions. Not very fair, don’t you think?

  • Howard Dindo

    To all those anti-nuke supporters, how’s that electric bill looking for ya? Is Seabrook nuke power a little expensive? Now that VT got rid of their Nuke Plant, we don’t have to worry about nuke contamination, not even from the other 3,300 nuke plants around the world! The world appreciates VT setting the example of getting rid of our nuke plant, every time they count our money in their bank account! “Go VT” is their cry. Kind of rims with, “Go Bern”. Now that our nuke is gone, we don’t have to worry about the next ice age in 20,000 years when the ice is going to be 2,000 feet thick where the nuke would have been. Think of all that ice crushing our nuke plant and causing deadly contamination! As VT has let the way in a Nuke Free Zone, it has attracted new businesses to locate here in a nuke free zone. Businesses want to be part of the “VT record of always being 1st”. Remember the cry of our politicians from winch they came, “Remember the Bronx”.