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Vermont Yankee Nuclear Plant To Close In 2014 249

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the watching-the-future-die-before-our-eyes dept.
stomv writes "Vermont Yankee nuclear plant is to close in late 2014, about 20 years before its (extended) NRC operating permit expires in 2032. Vermont Yankee is a merchant plant, which means that it sells its energy and capacity on the open New England market. The three reasons cited by Entergy, the owner, for closing are: low natural gas prices, high ongoing capital costs of operating a single unit reactor, and wholesale market flaws which keep energy and capacity prices low and doesn't reward the fuel diversity benefits that nuclear provides."
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Vermont Yankee Nuclear Plant To Close In 2014

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  • by ggraham412 (1492023) on Wednesday August 28, 2013 @09:35AM (#44695819)
    ... burning hydrocarbons is really cheap.
    • by Gareth Iwan Fairclough (2831535) on Wednesday August 28, 2013 @09:53AM (#44696031)

      ... burning hydrocarbons is really cheap.

      For now.

      • by rubycodez (864176) on Wednesday August 28, 2013 @10:25AM (#44696337)

        for centuries, as that's how much supply we have. bet those anti-nuke greenies are very happy. one pound of natural uranium supplies the energy of 16,000 pounds of coal, and our "spent fuel" is actually a gold mine of energy to get six or more times the yield again while at the same time transforming it to short lived wastes. Used in breeder, one pound thorium has the energy of 300 lbs. uranium or 4,800,000 pounds of coal! there's a real solution to driving technology, civilization and quality of life forward. not burning a fire like hominids did a 400,000 years ago.

        • like their ancestors did 3 years ago.
          • They can still eat fish - they just get it from somewhere else.

            • by mellon (7048)

              Somewhere far, far away, yes. The offshore contamination in Fukushima prefecture doesn't just affect people who live there, you know. Fish don't pay attention to legal boundaries.

        • by mellon (7048)

          Yes, we're really happy. (I assume by "greenies" you mean citizens of the Green Mountain State.) Of course, decommissioning the reactor will probably release more radioactivity into the environment than operating it did, but in the long run this is good news for the region. The middle of a major agricultural producing state is a really dumb place to put a nuclear reactor. We produce a shitload of solar, and are putting in more, and we produce a lot of power with methane digesters (there is no shorta

          • The middle of a major agricultural producing state is a really dumb place to put a nuclear reactor.

            Yet TMI (Three Mile Island) sits on and island (duh) in the river in between farms and residences, not to mention it's just downstream (about 2 miles or so) from a mid-sized airport. I fail to see how your location is any different from ours considering it's cheaper to send the electricity that way than it would be to put the plant in the middle of nowhere and have to jump through hoops to disperse the
          • Now if only we could get the NIMBY idiots to stop screaming bloody murder about how ugly wind turbines are. Because I mean, really. That's just stupid. I think they add to the scenery!

            Still, It's hilarious that they finally won this protracted legal battle to keep operating and are like "Okay! We're shutting down the plant!" I was like "Wait, what?!" when I heard that on VPR, lol.

          • by Unknown Lamer (78415) Works for Slashdot <`clinton' `at' `unknownlamer.org'> on Wednesday August 28, 2013 @01:35PM (#44698093) Homepage Journal

            An agricultural region is the perfect place to put a nuclear reactor... dense, centralized power generation, leaving the fertile land for growing food instead of generating power.

        • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

          bet those anti-nuke greenies are very happy.

          Of course not. Do you even know what the green movement is about? What an idiotic thing to say.

          Look, I understand you are upset about your favourite energy production technology being in a bit of a down-turn right now, at least outside of China. Hay, maybe you could move to China! But seriously, Vermont is moving to green energy, not building new coal plants. If you had any idea what you were talking about you would have known that.

          By the way, how's that commercial scale thorium reactor working out? Ever wo

          • I don't know about any formal green movement, but the Green Party is pretty clearly opposed to nuclear power generation [gp.org].

            And no, they're not just opposed to old-school nuclear:

            We oppose the development and use of new nuclear reactors, plutonium (MOX) fuel, nuclear fuel reprocessing, nuclear fusion, uranium enrichment, and the manufacturing of new plutonium pits for a new generation of nuclear weapons.

            So that pretty much rules out fast breeder reactors that would mitigate (if not outright eliminate) nuclear waste storage issues. I still vote for them because they don't accept campaign contributions from corporate persons, but they really do suck ass when it comes to nuclear power.

    • ...burning hydrocarbon is the energy source where the biggest part of the cost is payed for by society. Here, fixed that for ya!
    • by dj245 (732906) on Wednesday August 28, 2013 @10:33AM (#44696429) Homepage

      ... burning hydrocarbons is really cheap.

      Particularly Natural Gas. For the purposes of argument, let us disregard any environmental concerns for a moment and look at what is happening in the US-

      1. Natural gas is cheap in the US. Really really cheap. It is at historical lows. Not only that, but it is much cheaper compared to the rest of the world. The US natural gas price is 1/4 the price that Europe is paying (wholesale, before taxes), and 1/3 the price of even Russian natural gas. Natural Gas is stupidly, unbelievably cheap. Coal power stations are no longer competitive based on fuel costs + labor costs + relative efficiency.

      2. The vast majority of new power stations (by Megawatt) in the US are, and have for the last 10 years, been natural gas. There was a "mini coal boom" in 2007-2012 but this only added a couple of gigawatts to the grid, and there are no orders for new coal power stations.

      3. Nearly all natural gas used in the US is produced in the US or in Canada/Mexico. Shipping natural gas using methods other than pipelines is prohibitively expensive (for the North American market). It is energy-intensive to store, compared to oil or coal which can just be deposited on a ship. This means that if China found massive quantities of cheap natural gas, North America can not benefit from the low cost.

      4. Thanks to deregulation, in most areas of the US power plants are built based on cost/KW in the near term. Subsidies are taken into account which leads to some green technologies being used, but for the most part we don't built coal-burning plants or nuclear power stations "to diversify the generation mix". The cheapest option (now) is taken. Power generating companies might worry about fuel price risk, but they aren't building coal power stations to reduce that risk.

      What happens when the cheap American gas runs out, or demand begins to become large enough to influence the price? The US would then be saddled with hundreds of power stations using a fuel which is suddenly 3-4 times more expensive than it used to be. The consequences for the economy will be disastrous.

      • by Zalbik (308903)

        What happens when the cheap American gas runs out, or demand begins to become large enough to influence the price? The US would then be saddled with hundreds of power stations using a fuel which is suddenly 3-4 times more expensive than it used to be. The consequences for the economy will be disastrous.

        Well it's a good thing hydrocarbons won't "suddenly run out"

        Don't get me wrong, I think we should be seriously cutting down on the number of dead prehistoric plants that we burn for fuel, and looking at all o

        • by dj245 (732906)

          What happens when the cheap American gas runs out, or demand begins to become large enough to influence the price? The US would then be saddled with hundreds of power stations using a fuel which is suddenly 3-4 times more expensive than it used to be. The consequences for the economy will be disastrous.

          Well it's a good thing hydrocarbons won't "suddenly run out"

          Don't get me wrong, I think we should be seriously cutting down on the number of dead prehistoric plants that we burn for fuel, and looking at all other alternatives (nuclear, solar, wind, geothermal, etc). My point is more that:

          1) We have time to make this transition

          5) Alarmism doesn't help the cause of getting off of fossil fuels. Absurd statements like "fuel suddenly costing 3-4 times what it used to" just make people disregard the real concerns of incremental inflation due to fuel costs, and climate issues to due burning fossil fuels.

          The price of natural gas is incredibly volatile. [eia.gov] Saying that the cost could triple or quadruple is not an absurd proposition. This price for this commodity has frequently doubled and halved in the space of a year. Natural gas in the US currently is overabundant- supply and demand doesn't have much effect on the price. That will change at some point. It is harder to conserve industrial natural gas (compared to automotive gasoline) since the costs trickle down to consumers over a significant period of tim

          • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

            What you can do relatively quickly is improve efficiency. Insulation doesn't take long to install. Rather than building more capacity the US should look at improving efficiency. It's cheaper and improves people's lives much more.

            • What you can do relatively quickly is improve efficiency. Insulation doesn't take long to install. Rather than building more capacity the US should look at improving efficiency. It's cheaper and improves people's lives much more.

              While it doesn't take long to do it right often is not cost effective. Replacing single pane glass with efficient insulated windows in an older house can run several thousands of dollars; paying back that upfront cost can take many years. As a result, people generally do not do that sort of an upgrade to better insulate the house. Better insulation is a great idea but absent realizable economic benefits will not help very much in reducing demand.

      • What happens when the cheap American gas runs out, or demand begins to become large enough to influence the price? The US would then be saddled with hundreds of power stations using a fuel which is suddenly 3-4 times more expensive than it used to be. The consequences for the economy will be disastrous.

        You make it sound like someone is going to turn off the spigot one day. When prices become unbearable, we'll go back to the cheaper options; even nuclear if it's viable.

        • by dj245 (732906)

          What happens when the cheap American gas runs out, or demand begins to become large enough to influence the price? The US would then be saddled with hundreds of power stations using a fuel which is suddenly 3-4 times more expensive than it used to be. The consequences for the economy will be disastrous.

          You make it sound like someone is going to turn off the spigot one day. When prices become unbearable, we'll go back to the cheaper options; even nuclear if it's viable.

          This is already happening in certain cases. There have been several instances of power stations in the Northeast failing to start when dispatched because the pipeline company could not supply enough gas. This gets a bit of attention within the industry, but not much press in the wider media. Here is one example. [courier-journal.com]

          When you buy this much gas, there is a choice- guaranteed flow throughput or best-effort. Best-effort gas service is obviously cheaper, but can lead to the problem of not having the gas when i

    • by jythie (914043)
      Not only is it cheap, but the human cost is nice and far away, and many people feel that it is their own fault for living in poor areas.. thus if they just worked harder they could live somewhere like the people in Vermont do.
    • Im sort of surprised, I had understood nuclear to be cheaper once the initial investment had been sunk.

      Anyone know how easy it is to revive a plant like this later if the market changes?

  • All about the money (Score:5, Interesting)

    by schneidafunk (795759) on Wednesday August 28, 2013 @09:37AM (#44695833)
    Please don't read too much into this, it's a straight economical decision: "The company noted that the estimated operational earnings contribution from Vermont Yankee was expected to be around breakeven in 2013, and generally declining over the next few years. "
    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 28, 2013 @09:57AM (#44696067)

      Operational earnings generally declining because the State of Vermont instituted a 100% tax increase on this reactor alone. They completely singled out this business in an effort to shut it down. It is 100% a NIMBY situation driven by environmentalists in a liberal state where taxpayer money and economic sense are no object.

      • by timeOday (582209)
        Cite? If true, it is curious that the energy company did not bother to mention the "100% tax increase" in the linked press release from them, in the section "Why was this decision made?" Nor did the linked Forbes article - but then Forbes must be in bed with Greenpeace I suppose?
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward

          http://www.masslive.com/news/index.ssf/2012/09/vermont_yankee_nuclear_power_p_4.html

          From last Sept:

          "MONTPELIER, Vt. — The Vermont Yankee nuclear plant on Tuesday filed a lawsuit against the state over taxes on the plant that the Legislature passed this year.
          Vermont Yankee had already won a round in federal court over the state's efforts to close the reactor in Vernon, 120 miles south of Montpelier. That case is now on appeal at the U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals in New York.
          The new lawsuit, by New

    • by mellon (7048)

      I think this interpretation is unlikely to be true. We've been trying really hard in Vermont to get Vermont Yankee shut down, and I think it's been quite expensive for them. We've been working on making our energy infrastructure independent of Vermont Yankee, and we've done a good job. So yeah, you can call it economics, but what it really is is an effective decision on the part of the people of Vermont to stop using nuclear power by voting with our pocketbooks.

  • Excellent summary (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nycsubway (79012) on Wednesday August 28, 2013 @09:49AM (#44695981) Homepage

    I've heard this story on NPR, which tends to be known for accurate reporting and lack of sensationalism. This was an excellent summary on Slashdot. I hope the editors, or what's left of them, continue to pick stories that are factual and not sensational. The comments on Slashdot resulting from those type of stories are often more readable too.

    For the story itself, it's interesting to see the business side of nuclear and the real reasons why plants are built and decommissioned. ie, its not always about environmentalism or NIMBY. Nuclear is a decent way to generate power compared to fossil fuels because the nuclear by-products can be contained more assuredly than greenhouse gases, assuming that all of the environmental factors are taken into account. Those environmental factors however are what make it difficult to accept because its very expensive to ensure everything is contained.

    • I'd be interested to see a comparison of the costs of nuclear waste storage with those of carbon sequestration. Nuclear energy would perhaps look more competitive then.
      • by mellon (7048)

        A lot of people would love to see a real cost comparison between nuclear and other power sources. Also between oil, coal and natural gas and other power sources. It's a source of great frustration that we always see the comparisons done with all the externalities unaccounted for. So nuclear gets a pass for waste storage and for indemnity. Gas gets a pass for the damage fracking does to the environment. Coal gets a pass for the shit it dumps into the atmosphere and groundwater. Etc. A real cost

      • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

        Vermont isn't building any new coal plants though, only renewables. For the comparison to be of any value in evaluating this decision the cost of nuclear has to be compared to the cost of wind and solar.

  • by MobyDisk (75490) on Wednesday August 28, 2013 @10:08AM (#44696175) Homepage

    Much of the high operating cost is probably related to the Tritium leaks and other maintenance problems. The legislature tried to force the plant to close but failed. Ultimately, this plant needed a lot of maintenance and it is probably a good sign that we are willing to close down leaky plants rather than just keep renewing their licenses and running them into perpetuity. One of the common complaints with nuclear plant politics is that they keep running them long after their usable lifetime, which is a pretty big environmental risk. It's just too bad that we aren't building a new one in its place.

  • by Wrath0fb0b (302444) on Wednesday August 28, 2013 @10:28AM (#44696359)

    Vermont Yankee is the oldest running plant. It should be decommissioned in favor of newer designs.

    Part of the dysfunction of the current nuclear regulatory regime is that it's so expensive and difficult to open a new plant, that we end up with an older set that has a worse operating-cost and safety record than could be achieved with new technology. It's a bit like setting new-car safety and economy requirement so high that people continue to repair and drive their decades-old models -- sure it looks good on paper, but the reality is a net decrease in safety and economy.

    So yeah, Vermont Yankee, please shut it down. And let's build something from the last few decades to replace it (and maybe some of the other 60s-era designs) which will undoubtedly be a huge safety increase.

    • by mellon (7048)

      This is unlikely to happen, but it would certainly be preferable to continuing to operate VY as it is.

  • Vermont Yankee is also a lying incompetent organization.

    1. They denied that there were tritium leaks although they knew. Then they said that they were unable to locate the leaks' source (and so couldn't fix them). IIRC, they also denied that the tritium was reaching the Connecticut River.
    2. A few years ago, a wooden cooling tower collapsed from lack of maintenance (i.e., wood rots). Do you want to trust an organization that cannot maintain a simple wood structure with running an obsolete nuclear reactor
  • by nerdbert (71656) on Wednesday August 28, 2013 @10:41AM (#44696513)

    It's not like Vermont hasn't been doing its best to stop Yankee from operating. They've tried to deny the nuke plant a license (www.burlingtonfreepress.com/article/20130814/NEWS03/308140006/Vermont-Yankee-focus-shifts-to-Public-Service-Board-after-appeal-court-ruling) and have been battling Entergy for years about operating the plant and has been escalating the costs of operating Vermont Yankee.

    The government of Vermont has done its level best to kill the plant and it's succeeded. Good or bad, you decide, but it's a case of representative democracy getting what it wanted.

  • Let's hope they put enough dough aside to guard their ashes for 100.000 years from AlQaida.

  • by mspohr (589790) on Wednesday August 28, 2013 @12:10PM (#44697361)

    http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2013/06/17/2158951/pandoras-promise-nuclear-powers-trek-from-too-cheap-to-meter-to-too-costly-to-matter-much/ [thinkprogress.org]
    The closure of this aging power plant was inevitable.
    The construction of new nuclear power plants is plagued by the same issues. Nuclear power is just too costly even with the substantial subsidies it currently receives. The issues of nuclear waste and proliferation only make the case more difficult.
    Nuclear power's time has past. It never was very good and now the financial and technical problems are overwhelming.

    • by TheSync (5291) on Wednesday August 28, 2013 @02:12PM (#44698435) Journal

      Nuclear power's time has past.

      Then you'll be surprised to know that China is now building a 1,750 MWe nuclear reactor [world-nuclear-news.org] that will be the post powerful in the world. The Taishan nuclear plant [wikipedia.org] will have two such Areva EPR units, slated to begin operation in 2014 and 2015.

      Moreover, China has 17 nuclear power reactors in operation, 28 under construction, and more about to start construction. Additional reactors are planned, including some of the world's most advanced, to give a four-fold increase in nuclear capacity to at least 58 GWe by 2020, then possibly 200 GWe by 2030, and 400 GWe by 2050. And China's policy is for closed fuel cycle.

      I'm not surprised that we are closing the smaller, less efficient, and probably less safe old plants in the US, but it is unfortunate there are only a handful of newer, larger, more safe nuclear plants being built in the West.

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