NRC to look at Entergy finances
HINSDALE, N.H. — The Nuclear Regulatory Commission will investigate the finances of three nuclear reactors owned by Entergy Nuclear — Vermont Yankee, Pilgrim in Massachusetts and the FitzPatrick reactors in New York — as a result of a petition by four anti-nuclear groups.
Deb Katz, executive director of the Citizens Awareness Network, said that the NRC accepting the petition for review was a major accomplishment for the groups. She said she hoped the NRC would get answers to many people’s questions about Entergy’s financial status.
Katz made her remarks during the “Flotilla 2013” rally and protest Saturday on the banks of the Connecticut River, directly across from the Vermont Yankee plant in Vernon, Vt.
Entergy, the corporate parent of Vermont Yankee, announced last month it was laying off 800 employees out of its workforce of 15,000 nationwide. The cuts translate to a 4.6 percent staff cut at Yankee, which will lose 30 employees out of a total of 650.
Earlier in the year, the company announced it had been forced to write down the value of Vermont Yankee from $517 million to $162 million due to ongoing financial problems.
The NRC announced late last week that it was accepting the petition and would delve into Entergy’s finances.
NRC spokesman Neil Sheehan said Friday the commission had already started a similar review of Vermont Yankee’s finances, and would add Pilgrim and FitzPatrick to the review.
The anti-nuclear groups initially filed the petition in March, but it was rejected. They resubmitted the petition with additional information in April and it was accepted by the NRC committee that hears such petitions.
Katz said after the rally Saturday that the groups based their financial concerns on UBS Investment Research documents.
Vermont Yankee is particularly vulnerable to changing power markets, she said, because it is a “merchant” plant and sells its output on the open market.
As of March 2012, Yankee no longer has any contracts to sell its power to Vermont utilities and the open market has been depressed because of a strong supply of natural gas.
“They bet on the wrong horse,” Katz said, referring to Entergy’s decision to sell on the open market.
In addition to the Citizens Awareness Network, the Alliance for a Green Economy, Pilgrim Watch and Vermont Citizens Awareness Network, submitted the NRC petition.
Entergy spokesman James Sinclair responded Saturday: “We are aware of the petition, don’t believe it has merit and it doesn’t distract us from our focus on safely and reliably operating our plants.”
Saturday’s protest was designed to bring public attention to the fact that Vermont Yankee daily dumps 200 million gallons of “hot” water into the Connecticut River to save money by not running its cooling towers.
The water, which is actually about 100 degrees at discharge, raises the river to a state-regulated level that environmental groups such as the Greenfield, Mass., based Connecticut River Watershed Council say damages fisheries and the health of the river.
Dr. Andrew Larkin, a retired internist from Northampton, Mass., said the Connecticut River was 10 degrees warmer near the plant’s discharge than other spots in the river he tested.
One protester, Harvey Schakman of Shelburne Falls, Mass., wore a giant fish hat made of copper, and said he was “Shadman,” reciting a history of destruction and pollution of the Connecticut River, decimating the shad population.
“The heated water coming from the reactor confused us, but still we persisted,” Schakman said, adding that only one in 10 shad get past all the dams on the Connecticut River, “only to be cooked by the reactor.”
“We have lost so many, now we are down to a few, but still we persist,” he said.
This is the second year that the SAGE Alliance, a coalition of antinuclear groups, has organized the flotilla to focus public attention on the water discharge.
About two dozen kayaks and canoes took to the water, with an equal number of people on shore to protest the daily discharge of warm water. Some people wrote messages to Entergy on cedar shingles and set them floating on the river.
“No nuclear accidents. All it takes is one,” wrote Elo-Mai Noormets of Westminster, Vt.“Peace and health to this river,” wrote Leslie Sullivan Sachs of Brattleboro, Vt.
Saturday was a classic summer day with blue skies and temperatures hovering near 80. Strong winds made paddling a challenge as the Connecticut River was high and slightly muddy from Friday’s heavy rains.
There was no sign of steam coming from Vermont Yankee’s two banks of cooling towers.