Third Rate Romance

Published under Fair Use
by Sue Prent
Mar 01, 2015

Originally published in Green Mountain Daily

Now begins the “gotcha” phase of Vermont’s relationship with Entergy.Once upon a time, the energy giant was making nice with our green mountain state in order to win the fair hand of Vermont Yankee (LLC), which Entergy still expected to be a cash cow for years to come.

Entergy lawyers pinky-swore and spit on their hands, promising that we could trust them.

So it came to pass that Vermont went to bed with Prince Charming, but awoke with Frankenstein.

The honeymoon was already over when we learned about the tritium leaks and the pipes that “were not there.”

In light of mounting new evidence that neither Entergy nor the aging facility were reliable, the state asked them nicely to cease operations.

They responded by dragging Vermont through costly litigation. This was apparently only in order to prove that they could, because shortly thereafter, the company chose to abandon VY due to their own economic considerations.

Meanwhile the vagaries of Wall Street and uncertain times for energy pricing had conspired to severely limit growth of the decommissioning “dowry,” for which both parties once held such high hopes.

And that is when things began to take a turn into “War of the Roses” territory.

Again, just because they could do so, rather than rehabilitating the property for other use in a timely manner, Entergy opted to push decommissioning up to sixty-years down the road, under a program known as SAFSTOR, which Vermonters might sardonically refer to as ‘SAPSTOR,’ as in “what saps we were for believing these guys.”

At the same time, in order to reduce the cost of maintaining their beggar’s bargain of an investment,  Entergy also petitioned the always accommodating Nuclear Regulatory Commission to let them raid the dwindling decommissioning fund to cover the expense of maintaining spent fuel on the premises.

This was never part of the original decommissioning fund vision. Together with the added cost due to inflation and unforeseen complications attendant on delaying decommissioning for decades, this effectively makes it less and less likely that there will be sufficient funds available to complete decommissioning even within the sixty year time frame.

“By the way,”  Entergy essentially said to the NRC, ” If you don’t free us of the obligation to maintain a system for emergency notification to surrounding communities, we’ll just pay for that out of the decommissioning fund, too.”

The gloves are off and its bare-knuckle blackmail time.

On February 11, just days after a strontium-90 leak had been discovered on the grounds of the idle reactor, portending even greater cost to clean-up the site, Entergy VP Mike Twomey was asked by the legislature what would happen if the decommissioning investment fund couldn’t finally cover the cost of decommissioning within the prescribed sixty years.His reply had a decidely pugnacious ring to it:

Twomey first said he doubted such an outcome, but added, “There would probably be quite a bit of litigation about that…”

Digging the hole even deeper, he added:

“We are not going to pin down today the answer to a hypothetical question when we don’t even know what the facts are on something that might happen 60 years from now”

and suggested that the company might even seek to recover some of the decommissioning cost from VY’s previous owners, Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Corporation, aka: the ratepayers of Vermont.Though Twomey later repeated that he thought it would never come to that, his remark had already earned him the sobriquet, “So Sue Me Twomey” from industry safety advocate, Arnie Gundersen.

Breaking up really is hard to do.

Entergy is not contesting custody of its runaway “daughters,” Tritium and Stronium-90.  If we find them later, they’ll be all ours.

As always, I must disclose that I work in a non-technical capacity for the good folks at Fairewinds Energy Education, but the opinions I express on GMD are my own alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of Fairewinds.

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