Talking Points to Shut Vermont Yankee

Dear Friends,

Yesterday Senate President Peter Shumlin announce that the Senate will vote next week to close Vermont Yankee as scheduled in 2012. We need your help to contact senators and go to the Statehouse on Wednesday, February 25 when we expect the vote.

Let senators know that:

1. You want them to vote to close Vermont Yankee because it is old, not safe and not reliable. Entergy has lied continuously and this is not the legacy we want to leave to our children.

2. No stalling. Vermont has known for 40 years that the plant is scheduled to be retired. The Legislature has studied all aspects of the situation. Now is the time to vote so that Vermont can plan for its future.

Talking Points are below. Here is a link to the Legislative Council Page with senate contact information.

Please help this week. The time has finally come to close this old and unsafe plant!

As you may know, many Vermont towns will be voting at town meetings on March 2nd on a resolution urging the legislature to shut down VY in 2012. If your town has the resolution on the warning, please be sure to be there for the vote.
If your town does not have the resolution, and you want to bring it up as "other business to come before the town", please contact me and we can strategize how to accomplish that.

Dan DeWalt


Retiring Vermont Yankee as Scheduled


Closing Vermont Yankee As Scheduled Is the Safe and Responsible Thing to Do.

The plant is too old to be safe or reliable
The owner's are out-of-state corporate executives that have repeatedly lied about leaks and contamination.
Plus, relicensing the plant means huge profits for the corporation, but Vermonters could be stuck with the clean-up bill.
For the sake of our families' safety and our legacy to future generations, we should close Vermont Yankee as scheduled in 2012.


Vermont Yankee is too old.
Built in the 1970's and designed to operate for 40 yrs, it's now 38 years old.
It's the only Yankee plant still in operation; all of its sister plants on closed on schedule.
The design is so outdated that it could never be built today.
The plant is worn out, the towers are collapsing, and the pipes are leaking radiation. The plant is running at 120% of its planned capacity, and would be asked to do so throughout the relicensed period.
Vermont Yankee is neither safe nor reliable. Just look at their record.
History of failures, collapses, and leaks
Contaminating soil and groundwater with dangerous radiation
Missing fuel rods and contaminated shipments
Vermont Yankee is run by Entergy, whose out-of-state corporate executives have lied repeatedly under oath and cannot be trusted.
Long history of deceit and lies to state regulators about safety concerns.
No contribution to the clean-up fund as they had promised.
Are planning to create a spin-off shell corporation-Enexus-which will pay Entergy $3.5 billion but leave Vermont taxpayers stuck with the billion dollar clean-up bill.
Same corporate irresponsibility we saw on Wall Street where taxpayers bankroll huge salaries and bonuses for corporate CEOs and we all pay the price.


We can't trust Entergy to run Vermont Yankee safely.
In 2007, a cooling tower collapsed, and then broke a second time in 2008, even though it was supposed to have been fixed.
In 2009, Vermont Yankee suffered from three separate radioactive leaks.
Recently, radioactive water has contaminated groundwater at the reactor.
The leaking radiation exposed a pattern of lies by numerous Entergy corporate executives.


Vermont's legislature should do the responsible thing and close Vermont Yankee on schedule.
Vermonters have a responsibility to pass on a safe and positive legacy to future generations.


People may bring up the following issues or questions, and we can be ready to give a factual concise answer before returning to the main message. Whenever possible, pivot back to the powerful messages that Vermonters already believe: the plant is old, dangerous, and unreliable and it is run by out-of-state corporate executives who are irresponsible and cannot be trusted with protecting Vermonters.


Why not delay the vote as the Governor has asked, until more studies are done?

We know the plant is too old to be reliable or safe. Delaying a vote doesn't change that fact.
We know we can't trust the out-of-state corporate executives to tell us the truth about it. Delaying a vote doesn't change their track record.
We know that delaying a vote on whether to close the plant as scheduled won't fix the many problems with the plant. It just makes them worse.
No more obstructionist delays, we should move forward with the vote to close Vermont Yankee on schedule.

The Aging Plant is Unsafe

What are the safety problems with Vermont Yankee?
The Aging Plant is Unsafe. The out-of-state corporate owners of this aging plant have cut back on maintenance so much that the plant is literally falling apart. It has the nation's last remaining wooden cooling towers which Entergy assured were safe, until one collapsed requiring a reduction in reactor output . There was a raging fire at the plant. An operator was arrested for drinking on duty. And now it's leaking radiation into Vermont's soil and groundwater. The aging plant is at the end of its designed lifespan and is too old to be safe.

Isn't the design of the plant safe?
The Aging Plant is Unsafe. Vermont Yankee was designed in the 1960s using slide rules because computers hadn't been invented, and without the benefits of the lessons learned in the intervening 40 years from the operation of other reactors. All four of its sister Yankee plants in New England have been retired as scheduled. This plant's first generation design would not be permitted anywhere in the world today. Even Uzbekistan wouldn't have it. Energy planners back then factored in the effects of aging and the likelihood of advances in technology when they wrote the license to expire in 2012. It's time to close the plant as scheduled.

What is tritium?
The Aging Plant is Unsafe. Tritium is an isotope of hydrogen that is extremely rare in nature but is a toxic byproduct of nuclear power production that must be contained. It acts like water, travelling easily in surface and groundwater, and is extremely difficult to treat. Once in the body, the particles emitted bombard adjoining cells and can mutate them, causing cancer. Tritium leaks at other aging nuclear plants required extensive excavation of soil and removal to radiation dumps in distant states-costing hundreds of millions of dollars.

State officials say that the radioactivity leaks are small and no threat to human health, so what's the problem?
The Aging Plant is Unsafe. Tritium, like any radioactive particle ingested in the human body, increases the risk of cancer- according to the National Academy of Sciences. Stringent California public health standards limit drinking water levels to 400 parts per trillion, although Vermont relies on a looser standard 50 times higher or 20,000 picocuries. Even with that lax standard, test wells at Vermont Yankee have exceeded 700,000 picocuries.
Tritium, even in low levels, has been linked to developmental problems, reproductive problems, genetic abnormalities, and other health problems in laboratory animals. Additionally, there is evidence of adverse health effects on populations near facilities which utilize tritium.

What happens to nuclear waste now?
The Aging Plant is Unsafe. Because of safety concerns, plans to create a federal high-level radioactive waste facility have fallen through. So, nuclear power plants across the country must store their waste on site. Most of the million pounds of Vermont Yankee high-level waste sits in a pool of water suspended 7 stories in the air above the plant, a few hundred feet from the banks of the Connecticut River. This material is highly radioactive and requires constant cooling and close monitoring. Some of the highly radioactive fuel has cooled somewhat and was transferred into concrete casks set near the river. With no federal repository in sight, that radioactive waste will need to be safeguarded in Vermont for at least 50 to 60 years. Extending Vermont Yankee's license for 20 years past its scheduled retirement would add another 750,000 pounds of highly-radioactive waste to Vermont's burden, further increasing the cost to taxpayers for the cleanup.

Entergy's Out-Of-State Executives Cannot Be Trusted

Why is Energy unsuited to run this plant?
Entergy's Out-Of-State Executives Cannot Be Trusted. Entergy's out-of-state corporate executives run Vermont Yankee with a Wall Street short-term profit approach that has wrecked our economy. The latest reports of radioactive water leaking into our soil and groundwateris the most recent example of them blatantly lying to Vermonters, our Legislature, our regulators and our Governor-who says he's fed up. Their corporate character cannot be trusted to operate this dilapidated nuclear power plant another 20 years past its scheduled retirement.

What is Enexus?
Entergy's Out-Of-State Executives Cannot Be Trusted.
Straight out of the Enron playbook, Entergy hopes to create a spin-off company called Enexus which would issue $3.5 billion in junk bonds and pay Entergy for 6 aging reactors including Vermont Yankee. Enexus would be saddled with massive debt and would lack the capital needed to run a fleet of aging and failing nuclear reactors. Meanwhile Entergy Louisiana would make a handsome profit by unloading its toxic assets, and shield itself from liability for accidents, shortfalls and clean up. Vermonters could be left holding the bag.

What are the decommissioning issues with Vermont Yankee?
Entergy's Out-Of-State Executives Cannot Be Trusted. Cleaning up nuclear plants after they retire is a big job. Entergy estimated the cost to clean up Vermont Yankee's mess would be a billion dollars and that was before it admitted leaking radiation into the soil and groundwater, which will add hundreds of millions more. All the other New England Yankee nuclear sites have been closed as scheduled, and a few of those sites have been totally cleaned up and returned to green pasture land. But Vermont Yankee's clean-up fund is half a billion dollars short, because Entergy has siphoned off all the profits and refused to put anything into the fund since it bought the plant in 2002. Instead, it played the stock market with the fund and lost money. Because of this risky, Wall-Street type scheme, Vermonters could end up holding the bag on clean up costs when the bill comes due.


We Don't Need this Old, Dangerous Plant

Don't we need Vermont Yankee power?
We Don't Need this Old, Dangerous Plant. The aging reactor counts for 2% of New England's electricity production. There is plentiful power available for purchase on the market at attractive rates. The CEO of Green Mountain Power says "It's a good environment to have to be making power purchases," so she and other utilities are actively lining up power to meet Vermont's needs when the plant closes as scheduled. At least three Vermont utilities: Burlington Electric, Vermont Electric Coop, and Washington Electric, have all locked in power sources that do not include Vermont Yankee, and are increasingly depending upon efficiency and renewables.

Where will the power come from if we close Vermont Yankee?
We Don't Need this Old, Dangerous Plant. Closing Vermont Yankee as scheduled gives us a lot of choices to replace the power. There is plenty of power available from natural gas and regional renewable sources to meet Vermont's needs, including power from Hydro Quebec, upstate New York and the New England region.Mary Powel, CEO of Green Mountain Power stated that, "Our plan is to ramp down our use of nuclear power and ramp up our use of cost-effective renewable energy".
The Public Service Board has determined that efficiency efforts alone could yield 215 MW/year by 2015. That is nearly twice the amount of power that VY proposes to sell in Vermont over the next 20 years comes at a much lower price.

If that replacement power comes from coal or fossil fuels, won't the impact on climate change be greater?
We Don't Need this Old, Dangerous Plant. The biggest threat to our environment is failing to close the old and unsafe plant as scheduled. Once that has happened, Vermont will grow its clean energy economy-local, renewable, sustainable power that creates jobs, keeps our electricity payments here in Vermont, and reduces climate change. A combination of hydro power from Hydro Quebec and some short-term contracts for traditional power will help bridge the gap while transitioning to our in-state green economy. Efficiency measures which can replace VY have a smaller carbon footprint, and no radioactive footprint when compared to other sources of power.

Renewables, really, when Vermont won't allow wind power?
We Don't Need this Old, Dangerous Plant. Efficiency is the lowest hanging fruit, already underway but we can do a lot more and right away. Many renewable sources of power are being permitted now in Vermont: photovoltaic, solar water heaters, cow power, geothermal and yes, we will join the rest of the world soon to figure out a way to site wind turbines in a sustainable and environmentally sensitivity manner.

Won't the replacement power be more expensive?
We Don't Need this Old, Dangerous Plant. Vermont has a chance to replace Vermont Yankee with safe and reliable regional power contracts at prices that are competitive with those offered by the aging reactor, but come without the risks and long term costs of clean up and decommissioning. Replacing the power after Vermont Yankee closes as scheduled will come from conventional power available on the open market now, which is priced at about the same rate Vermont Yankee offered going forward. For example, power available today on the spot market is selling at a fraction of VY's current price. VY plans to raise their rates significantly if they get their license extension.

The Old and Dangerous Plant Should be Retired as Scheduled, without Changing the Rules of the Game

Why can't we keep Vermont Yankee for 5 years, and conduct an orderly transition to what's next?
The Old and Dangerous Plant Should be Retired as Scheduled, Without Changing the Rules of the Game. Entergy's application under consideration is to keep the aging plant going for another 20 years, and that is what the various regulatory agencies and our Legislature are considering. The plant is far too old, unsafe and unreliable to last another 20 years. It needs to be closed and cleaned up as scheduled.

Some Labor unions support Vermont Yankee. Why should we end those good-paying jobs?
The Old and Dangerous Plant Should be Retired as Scheduled, Without Changing the Rules of the Game. This plant is old and unsafe. It was designed to last 40 years and is falling apart as it closes in on its scheduled retirement. The million pounds of highly radioactive waste on the banks of the Connecticut River will require hundreds of engineers to maintain. More hundreds of engineers will need to design the clean-up, which will cost a billion dollars and employ many hundreds more. There will be many jobs for many years, cleaning up the mess and restoring safety to Southern Vermont. Besides there are trade unions that do not support the license extension, and there are officials within the supporting union who do not agree with their unions position.

How can Vermont muck around in licensing decisions that are the NRC's? Won't Entergy just sue and get the Legislature's action thrown out?
The Old and Dangerous Plant Should be Retired as Scheduled, Without Changing the Rules of the Game. The NRC has jurisdiction over reactor safety, but the states have the right to decide their energy policy. The NRC specifically says it "has no role in the energy planning decisions of State regulators and utility officials as to whether a particular nuclear power plant should continue to operate." It is left to state regulatory agencies to determine whether it is in the best interest of ratepayers and cost effective to continue operation of their state's nuclear plants. The U.S. Supreme Court specifically ruled that states have authority to determine the state's best economic interest when ruling on re-licensing aging reactors.

This does mean that the Legislature's decision must be based on factors other than safety-including reliability, power pricing, decommissioning costs, effects to human health and the environment, the desired mix of energy sources and the like. Based on Vermont Yankee's record, the old plant and its out-of-state corporate executives can't be trusted to deliver the kind of reliable power that is good for Vermonters' health and our environment.

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Institute for Energy and Environmental Research. (1996). Tritium: The environmental, health, budgetary, and strategic effects of the Department of Energy's decision to produce tritium. Takoma Park, MD: Hisham Zerriffi.
California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, HYPERLINK ""
Institute for Energy and Environmental Research. (1996). Tritium: The environmental, health, budgetary, and strategic effects of the Department of Energy's decision to produce tritium. Takoma Park, MD: Hisham Zerriffi.
Institute for Energy and Environmental Research. (2006). Science for the Vulnerable: Setting radiation and multiple exposure environmental health standards to protect those most at risk. Takoma Park, MD: Arjun Makhijani, Brice Smith & Michael C. Thorne.
Lacy Consulting Group, LLC. (2009). Spent Nuclear Fuel, Low Level Radioactive Waste and Decommissioning. Montpelier, VT: Bruce Lacy.
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Nuclear Regulatory Commission. (2009). Safety Evaluation by the Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation related to Spent Fuel Management Program and the Preliminary Decommissioning Cost Estimate (Entergy Nuclear Operations, Inc. Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Station Docket No. 50-271). Washington, DC
Bloomberg News, "Entergy CEO Says Financing Won't Hinder a Spinoff," by Tina Seeley, June 22, 2009. Also Memorandum to Joint Fiscal Committee by Richard H. Saudek, October 19, 2009.
Williams, R. (2009, December 10). A Note from Rob Williams at Vermont Yankee.
Vermont Public Interest Research Group. (2009). Repowering Vermont: Replacing Vermont Yankee for a clean energy future (pp. 17-29). Montpelier, VT: James Moore.
Barlow, D. (2010, January 29). Former Yankee co-owner says shut it down. Vermont Press Bureau.
Vermont Public Interest Research Group. (2009). Repowering Vermont: Replacing Vermont Yankee for a clean energy future (pp. 22-23). Montpelier, VT: James Moore.