Entergy compromising safety by hiding financial losses, say watchdogs

Nuclear watchdogs say Entergy compromising safety and security, hiding dangerous financial losses
October 15, 2014

Tim Judson, Nuclear Information and Resource Service: (212) 729-1169
Jessica Azulay, Alliance for a Green Economy: (315) 480-1515
Deb Katz, Citizens Awareness Network: (413) 339-5781
Mary Lampert, Pilgrim Watch: (781) 934-0389

Watchdogs in three states told the Nuclear Regulatory Commission today that nuclear operator Entergy should not be allowed to obscure financial problems at its struggling nuclear reactors because public safety is at stake. The groups reiterated their request that the nation’s nuclear regulator enforce its rules and shut down reactors that do not earn enough revenue to cover operating expenses.

“Running an aging nuclear reactor is already risky business,” said Mary Lampert, director of the Pilgrim Watch, “but running an aging nuclear reactor on the cheap? That’s just beyond irresponsible.”

For over a year, groups in Vermont, Massachusetts and New York have been sounding the alarm over mounting evidence that Entergy is running the Vermont Yankee, Pilgrim and FitzPatrick reactors at a financial loss. In addition to providing the Nuclear Regulatory Commission with multiple analyses by financial analysts projecting shortfalls of millions of dollars at the reactors, the watchdogs have also pointed to symptoms of financial strain at the reactors.

In a petition first filed in March 2012 and in supplements that followed, the groups — Alliance for a Green Economy (New York), Citizens Awareness Network (Vermont, Massachusetts), Pilgrim Watch (Massachusetts), Vermont Citizens Action Network (Vermont) – point out how Entergy has cut jobs at the reactors, delayed maintenance of key equipment, and shortchanged security. The petition is also supported by two national nuclear watchdog organizations, Nuclear Information and Resource Service and Beyond Nuclear.

The latest manifestations of cost-cutting at Entergy’s reactors, highlighted in today’s supplement, include:

  • higher than necessary radiation exposure to workers at the FitzPatrick reactor due to delayed replacement of the plant’s condenser,
  • whistleblower allegations that Entergy allowed financial considerations to override good practice in implementing a new perimeter monitoring system without adequate training for staff at Indian Point,
  • Entergy’s recent announcement that it may cut staff by 40% at the soon-to-be decommissioned Vermont Yankee reactor by 2016, despite the reactor’s dangerous fuel pool remaining in operation until at least 2020,
  • Insufficient land-based security at Pilgrim Station, in which fifteen trespassing events have occurred on Pilgrim’s owner-controlled property.

“Entergy’s financial vulnerability is leading to it cutting corners to keep its shareholders happy; not so happy is its workforce losing their jobs, suffering intimidation, and undermining safety at its Northeast fleet of nukes.” Deb Katz, Citizens Awareness Network.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has an enforcement tool to prevent nuclear companies from compromising safety in lean economic times. The “financial qualifications” regulation requires nuclear operators to show that they can continue to earn enough revenue to maintain operations, and gives the agency the authority to shut down reactors that cannot.

On June 2, 2014, as a result of the concerns brought by nuclear watchdogs, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission asked Entergy to voluntarily “provide updated cost and revenue projections and cash flow statements for Fitzpatrick and Pilgrim for the five year period of 2014-2019.” In its response to that request, Entergy neither provided information about the profits and losses at its reactors nor a commitment from the parent company to cover shortfalls at its limited liability corporation (LLC) subsidiaries that own the reactors. Entergy was explicit that no such commitment has been made in the past or was being made.

In today’s filing with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the watchdog groups ask the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to either compel Entergy to prove it is financially qualified to operate the reactors, or to use the publicly available information provided in their petition to determine that the reactors are out of compliance.

Mary Lampert concluded that, “Entergy cannot be allowed to avoid enforcement of the financial rules by hiding its information from the regulators and the public; and that Entergy has fought hard to avoid scrutiny of the financial situation at these aging reactors. It’s time for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to get serious about protecting the public from this growing danger. Every day these reactors operate on the cheap is a day we live with an increased risk of a nuclear accident hanging over our heads.”

The following attachments were included in the latest supplement to the 2012 petition to the NRC:
Entergy BBB rating Sept 9 2014
Entergy Downgrade Macquarie
Entergy AnalystDay 20140605 EWC
Entergy Barclays 20140904
Green Mountain Daily What can we honestly expect at Vermont Yankee
2.206 Cape downwinders & PilgrimWatch-PilgrimSecurity091614
Entergy FQ Supplement October 15 2014

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