Vermont Yankee support picking up steam

The View from Vermont

By Howard Shaffer

A well-known slogan from the 1970s was “Think Globally, Act Locally.” We who are supporting the Vermont Yankee (VY) nuclear power plant are “acting locally.”

The plant is running a TV and press campaign to illustrate how important VY is for generating a good amount of the state’s electric power. The campaign’s slogan is “VY for VT,” and it uses plant employees to tell its story. The campaign also highlights business owners who support the plant. Many of the businesses use large amounts of electric power—$1-million worth or more per year.

The plant also contributes to local charities, and many VY employees volunteer their time to charitable projects. In addition, some employees attend public meetings of regulatory bodies, to balance out the opponents who want to shut down the plant.

Vermont Yankee

Recently, VY managers and employees, including the site vice president and his spouse, for two weeks in a row attended selectboard meetings in their town of West Chesterfield, N.H.  They were there to oppose a petition by a new anti VY group that was seeking support for its concerns about VY’s eventual decommissioning.  The real agenda behind the petition was to put pressure on the three states—Vermont, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts—in VY’s emergency planning zone in order to form a tri-state Citizens Advisory Board to oversee the decommissioning. The petition was voted down. Also, managers and employees from VY who live in Keene, N.H., attended that town’s city council committee meeting regarding the same petition. The result of the meeting was that the petition was sent to the city manager for review.

In addition, last week Entergy’s regional vice president for External Affairs sent a letter in response to an individual who had contacted him with concerns about the plant. The letter details VY’s good performance, and was made available to the public:

Vermont Yankee letter

One of VY’s biggest supporters is the Vermont Energy Partnership, an organization of business members that is campaigning for reasonable electric power prices. This week, the group sent a letter to Vermont’s governor, Peter Shumlin, expressing support for the plant.

In other news, the Ethan Allen Institute, a long established, independent, nonpartisan, free-market-oriented think tank, instituted an Energy Education Project (see ANS Nuclear Cafe, September 27th). Meredith Angwin, an American Nuclear Society member, is the project’s director, and I am on its advisory board representing ANS’s Vermont Pilot Project.

As far as my own involvement, a scheduler often arranges  speaking engagements for Meredith and me so that we can talk about the benefits of keeping VY operating. For example, one time a community access TV debate was arranged, and we were there along with our debate opponents—a state senator and the Clean Energy director from the Vermont Public Interest Research Group. Meredith and I often form a “tag team,” to publicize both of our projects (the Vermont Pilot Project and the Energy Education Project). In addition to debates, we have been on talk radio, recorded TV interviews, and met with a newspaper’s editorial board. Meredith’s Yes Vermont Yankee blog is known in the state; at a politically sponsored Super Bowl party, Meredith had a long interview with Vermont’s lieutenant governor, Phil Scott.

The Save Vermont Yankee Facebook page has many friends, and the VY plant itself has Web sites.

In addition, former state representative Patty O’Donnell of Vernon (where VY is located) is speaking throughout the state on behalf of the plant. Author Gwyneth Cravens was in Vermont (see ANS Nuclear Cafe, January 25th) on behalf of VY and nuclear power in general.

The ANS Public Information Committee sponsors the Vermont Pilot Project, which has as its objective to provide resources to ANS members to assist them in sharing a scientific perspective on nuclear energy. As noted, the Vermont Pilot Project and the Energy Education Project have been cooperating and supporting each other, meeting with plant members, and assisting all who share our objectives.

All of this effort is inspiring grassroots support and a stream of pro VY letters to state newspaper editors.

Supporters of Vermont Yankee are having an impact!


Howard Shaffer has been an ANS member for 34 years. He has contributed to ASME and ANS Standards committees, ANS commitees, national meeting staffs, and his local section, and was the 2001 ANS Congressional Fellow. He is a current member of the ANS Public Information Committee and consults in Nuclear Public Outreach. He is coordinator for the Vermot Pilot Project.

Shaffer holds a BSEE from Duke University and an MSNE from MIT. He is a regular contributor to the ANS Nuclear Cafe.

12 responses to “Vermont Yankee support picking up steam

  1. At least one of the ads promoted by VY is false, and probably more are. In one ad they have the owner of an inn declaring that if VY closes his electrical rates will go sky high (all testimony by the utilities has contradicted this false claim). Ironically, the town in which this inn resides has its own electric company and does not buy one kilowatt of power from VY. It comes as no surprise that VY would distort the truth in their ads, much like they have, under oath, before Vt’s regulatory boards.

  2. Let’s see, Bob, where shall I start?

    First of all, you never declare in any of your posts that you are a paid lobbyist for an anti-nuclear organization, working the State House at Montpelier.

    Second, About those electric rates. IBM has said they fear their electric rates will rise if Vermont Yankee closes: they said expect their costs to rise by 25%. Here’s a link to the report.
    Perhaps you think IBM is lying about their estimation? I suppose you think the inn owner is lying too? You prefer to quote “all testimony by utilities”? (Whatever the heck that means.) Yes, some utilities say they don’t expect rates to go up very much. Opinions vary. That doesn’t make IBM’s opinion or the inn owner’s opinion a “false claim.”

    Third. Entergy people did not lie under oath. That is a merely a constant, repeated claim of people opposed to the plant. All investigations of the supposed “lying under oath” have cleared everyone involved. I don’t expect you to believe this, but it is true.

    Give it a rest, Bob. As the self-declared “people’s lobbyist” you should be more interested in the people. You know, the ones who will lose their jobs and whose taxes and electricity prices will go up and…you know.

    The people. Think about them for a change.

    Meredith Angwin
    Blogs at Yes Vermont Yankee
    Director of the Ethan Allen Institute Energy Education Project

  3. Meredith,
    I’m curious – have you tried, with the energy education projects, to get any citizens to go to any of these regulatory/selectboard/city council/etc meetings to voice their support for Vermont Yankee and nuclear power? I’ve mentioned it before, but I think it’s important to not just get the plant employees and local business leaders to speak in support of nuclear power plants (although I do think that’s important too), but also to get interested citizens to go, to show that there is support among the common people for nuclear power as well. I mean, *of course* employees are going to speak in support of their employer, because that’s who signs their paycheck. So, again, I think it would be very influential to decisions makers, to see broader support for Vermont Yankee from among the voters.

  4. Jeff, I agree with you. But it is hard to get people out there. Partially, those in favor of nuclear are generally more laid-back, while the opponents are crusaders. For the opponents, coming to these meetings seems an important part of their social lives. I don’t know many pro-nuclear people who feel that way.

    Also, the opponents are out in force and often very rude. They shout and interrupt. They wear costumes and pretend to have sex while plant supporters were talking. One woman threw manure and put manure in panelists water glasses and smeared their papers with it.

    I am not saying all nuclear opponents all behave this way. But nobody stops people from behaving this way, and many of the opponents clearly approve of this radical behavior. It can be very intimidating. People come to one meeting, and then they don’t come back.

    It’s not easy to get proponents to show up. However, I will try harder.

  5. They shout and interrupt. They wear costumes and pretend to have sex while plant supporters were talking. One woman threw manure and put manure in panelists water glasses and smeared their papers with it.

    In other words, they’re children.

  6. Howard Shaffer

    Mr. Stannard,
    A real service of the People’s Lobbyist would be getting the Attorney General’s report on the investigtion into Vermont Yankee’s testimony released. If you can’t do that, perhaps you could throw a birthday party for the investigation. One year is coming up.

  7. Sorry. Yes, I am a lobbyist. No, I don’t have any control over the A.G. Yes, I believe Jay Thayer did not tell the truth, under oath, to the PSB. A week later, when they had plenty of time to determine whether or not they had underground pipes Mr. Colomb said they did not. That’s not the truth in my book.

    Approx. 1/3 of Vermont does not use or depend on VY power. Bill Deegan of CVPS testified last year before the Senate Finance Committee and stated that the increase with or without VY would be between 3 and 7%.

    I am interested the people of the State of Vermont. I don’t think that Vermonters should be tethered to a company that has proven beyond a doubt that they are incapable of leveling with us. You represent VY so I would expect you to say what you say. So we agree to disagree.

  8. Good morning, it now appears as though as of yesterday’s board order from the PSB that they, too, have felt that VY officials have been less than forthright. Yesterday the PSB directed Entergy to file a status report regarding the investigation and remedial actions taken at Vermont Yankee bi-weekly and, most telling, to do so under oath and affirmation.

  9. Howard Shaffer

    I represent VY on my own. All I’ve ever gotten is a few lunches, at drills and meetings. I’m finally getting a little expenses through ANS – a very little. If I weren’t I’d still be doing this, as I have since 2002.
    The PSB is a politically apointed body and responds to political needs. Unfortunately, the Tritium issue has been blown out of proportion. My EXIT sign has more Tritium than all that has leaked from VY – 7,030,000,000,000 pico curies. Look at the bottom of Exit signs as you are in buildings. Why have a Tritium powered Exit sign? No electric power and no batteries!

  10. Bob. Thanks for the note, because it gives me an opportunity to do something that ANS cafe might otherwise not allow. In other words, I am going to ask for money!

    I do not “represent” VY. Larry Smith and Rob Williams “represent” VY in the way you “represent” Citizen’s Action Committee. I support VY and I support nuclear energy and I support honest information about energy sources.

    I head the Ethan Allen Institute Energy Education Project to fund these pro-energy activities. The Energy Education Project is itself supported by donations, and I appeal to the pro-nuclear people reading ANS Nuclear Cafe to donate. Please go to
    Click on the PayPal “Donate” button and join! It is only $30 a year to join!

    But you can give more. Please do. We have one wonderful husband-and-wife donor team that gave all the money for the Cravens visit! If you would like to send some money for visitors, handouts, mileage expenses for Meredith, just make a note of it and I will do my best to see your wishes are fulfilled. Gifts of $100 or so would be deeply appreciated.

    Oh yes. One more thing. Bob, I am glad that you acknowledge that 2/3 of Vermont uses or depends on VY power. Oh, you said it in a negative way, but anybody who looks at a map will see that VY is in the south of Vermont, and line losses to the north would be serious, so the north depends more on HydroQuebec. Most of Vermont (2/3, as you point out) depends on VY.

    And in the meantime, readers: Don’t forget to donate!

  11. One of the truly remarkable aspects of the discussion happening in Vermont is the way that Entergy is charged for the opposition work performed by people like Arnie Gundersen as he trades on a 40 year old set of degrees, an operator qual at a research reactor, and a short career in the industry that ended more than 20 years ago.

    The flow of money from Entergy to Gundersen is a little convoluted, but essentially the state of Vermont charges Entergy to be supervised and has hired Gundersen in a no-bid contract to perform some of the supervision.

    Bob – can you tell us exactly what Entergy employees were supposed to have said that was a lie? I remain convinced that they were the victims of a trap set by a guy who knew exactly what an engineer would say if asked whether or not he had any “buried” pipe carrying radioactive fluids. In the language of an engineer, a pipe in a concrete liner is not “buried”. Many engineers would not classify the off-gas system as carrying radioactive fluids because the contamination levels are exceedingly low. The water in the off-gas system is very nearly pure H2O.

    The tritium numbers can look pretty big when you measure them in units as tiny as a picocurie – that is 10^-12 curies. As Howard points out, the total amount of tritium released is incredibly tiny compared to his Exit sign. I did some analysis and computed that a person who drank every drop leaked out would still only receive a dose of 30 Rem, which is below the level that would make someone sick from radiation.

    Though Howard and Meredith are far too polite to question the means and motives of their opposition, I have to wonder if some of the money that pays for lobbyists and other professional opposers does not come from the competitive energy sources that are chomping at the bit to sell more product if they can push VY into an undeserved, early retirement.

    (As noted earlier, some of the money used by the opposition comes directly from the nuclear industry. Somehow, that illogical, destructive and unfair flow has to be stemmed.)

    Rod Adams
    Publisher, Atomic Insights

  12. Meredith,
    You bring up a good point with regards to how the anti-nuclear community, or a portion thereof, behave at public forums. I’m not claiming to be a pyschologist, but it makes sense to me why certain people act this way. A very large percentage of “claims” by the anti community are quickly disproven by scientific fact. This must hurt their cause, or feelings, or both. Therefore maybe they must try harder to get their point across. The laid-back attitude of the people who are either pro-nuclear or in the middle is due to the fact that their claims are backed by cold hard facts, so there is no reason to be up in arms. The truth shall set you free! And yes, I think this is a large contributor to the reasons the pro-nuclear community do not attend public forums, nobody wants manure hurled at them, along with the childish insults. Great article Mr. Shaffer.

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