Vermont Yankee: SAFSTOR & more

Testimony by Vernon resident Howard Fairman to members of the Commerce and Economic Development and the Natural Resources and Energy Committees of the Vermont House of Representatives during their public hearing at Vernon, Vermont, October 28, 2013, regarding impending closure of Entergy Nuclear Vermont Yankee.

Deferred dismantling of a nuclear-power plant, called “SAFSTOR” in the United States, is a United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) radiological safety standard implemented by the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC).

Quoting the NRC, “under SAFSTOR, often considered ‘deferred dismantling,’ a nuclear facility is maintained and monitored in a condition that allows the radioactivity to decay; afterwards, it is dismantled and the property decontaminated” (emphasis added). U.S.NRC: Decommissioning Nuclear Power Plants

SAFSTOR does not address or mandate disabling or prevention of future operation.

According to the IAEA: “Deferral of dismantling and demolition may reduce the quantities of radioactive waste produced and reduce radiation exposure to site personnel. In addition, this delay in dismantling may permit technological improvements in the future to be incorporated into the process when decommissioning activities are resumed. However, this option could result in the loss of trained and knowledgeable workers.

“There may be additional disadvantages in delaying dismantling and demolition. If deferred dismantling is being considered for a prolonged period of time, due regard should be given to gradual deterioration of the structures, systems and components designed to act as barriers between the radionuclide inventory and the environment. This deterioration may also apply to systems that could be necessary during plant dismantling.”
UN IAEA: Decommissioning of nuclear power plants & research reactors, p.17

I commend your attention to the IAEA’s active and passive options for SAFSTOR and their obvious further disadvantages.
Safe enclosure of nuclear facilities during deferred dismantling, p.15

Mothballing an operating nuclear-power plant via SAFSTOR can allow it to be restarted afterward, such as when natural-gas prices naturally rise with growing domestic demand and international exports, making Vermont Yankee again profitable to operate.

When electricity generated by burning natural gas, already half of New England’s electricity supply, becomes sufficiently costly, Vermonters and our employers may want Vermont Yankee to be restarted to lower our electricity bills.

Moreover, quoting ISO New England: “Given current and anticipated levels of gas usage, potential gas unavailability threatens the reliability of the electric system due to the limited-capacity pipelines used to transport gas, potential gas supply interruptions, and the ‘just-in-time’ nature of the resource.”
ISO New England: Addressing gas dependence (July 2012), p. 1

Quoting the Boston Business Journal dated yesterday, October 27:
New England’s reliance on natural gas drives power bills up nearly 20% this winter

Vermont Yankee, while in SAFSTOR, can be sold along with its decommissioning fund and liabilities to investors betting that future technological improvements and/or enhanced investment performance will leave unspent millions as windfall profits after successful decommissioning, if Vermont Yankee is not instead profitably restarted.

SAFSTOR benefits Entergy Nuclear and potential buyers of Vermont Yankee.

Vernon and Vermont will benefit when Vermont Yankee has been removed entirely and the site has become a greenfield available for creation of new jobs and tax revenues.

Until then, the Town of Vernon and Vernon Town School District, in compensation for enforced unavailability of the Entergy Nuclear Vermont Yankee site for new economic development, should receive annual hosting payments equal to Entergy Nuclear Vermont Yankee’s current municipal and education property taxes indexed for inflation.

Who owns Green Mountain Power?

[November 4, 2013: Hyperlinks reviewed and updated.]

An open letter to:
Members of the Vermont House of Representatives
Members of the Vermont Senate

Cc:
Governor Peter Shumlin

FYI:
Associated Press Vermont Bureau
Vermont Press Bureau
VTDigger

[My sources are: official corporation registrations by the Vermont Secretary of State and Revenu Québec (French only); and official Web sites of the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec, Gaz Métro, Northern New England Energy Corporation and Green Mountain Power. All are hyperlinked below.]

At this eleventh hour of Vermont’s energy independence, public and legislative opinion are unaware that the merger of Central Vermont Public Service into Green Mountain Power is fundamentally different from any other, because Vermont’s electricity (and natural gas) future will be controlled forever by a foreign government.

Gouvernement du Québec (no official name in English) owns Green Mountain Power via its $176.2 billion (December 31, 2012) Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec (Québec Deposit and Investment Fund, which has no official name in English).

“Created in 1965, the Caisse is now one of the largest institutional fund managers in Canada and North America. The leading private equity investor in Canada, it is also one of the 10 largest real estate asset managers in the world.”

The Caisse invests the capital of public (equivalent to our Social Security trust funds) and semi-public pension and insurance plans and similar trust funds.

The Caisse’s government-appointed chairman of the board, Robert Tessier, also was chairman of Green Mountain Power, attesting Gouvernement du Québec’s close supervision of the merger of Green Mountain Power and Central Vermont Public Service.

[November 4, 2013: Green Mountain Power’s Web site no longer lists its board of directors, but Bloomberg Businessweek does.]

Northern New England Energy Corporation wholly owns Green Mountain Power (and Vermont Gas Systems).

Gaz Métro Limited Partnership wholly owns Northern New England Energy Corporation.

Gaz Métro Inc. owns a controlling 71 percent of Gaz Métro Limited Partnership.

Silent partner (taking no part in management) Valener Energy Company (Toronto Stock Exchange: VNR) owns 29 percent of Gaz Métro Limited Partnership.

Noverco Inc., a holding company officially registered at the same business address as the Caisse, wholly owns Gaz Métro Inc. (Click on “Find an enterprise”; enter Noverco.)

Trencap Limited Partnership, officially registered at the same business address as the Caisse, owns a controlling 61.11 percent of Noverco. (Click on “Find an enterprise”; enter Trencap.)

Enbridge Inc. (New York Stock Exchange: ENB) of Calgary, Alberta, owns 38.89 percent of Noverco.

The Caisse owns a controlling 65.81 percent of Trencap Limited Partnership.

Silent partners own 34.19 percent of Trencap: three pension plans and British Columbia Investment Management Corporation.

Gouvernement du Québec unconditionally governs the Caisse (the Fund) and owns its investments (An act respecting the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec):

4. “The Fund shall be a mandatary of the State.”

4. “The property belonging to the Fund shall be the property of the State.”

5. “Board members other than the chair and the president and chief executive officer are appointed by the Government.”

5.1 “The Government shall appoint the chair of the board of directors.”

5.3 “The board of directors shall appoint the president and chief executive officer taking into account the expertise and experience profile established by the Fund and with the approval of the Government.”

13. “The board of directors shall make the regulations of the Fund. Such regulations … shall be submitted to the Government for approval, and published in the Gazette officielle du Québec. They shall be laid before the National Assembly within 15 days if then in session; if not, they shall be laid before it within 15 days after the opening of the next session.”

Gouvernement du Québec also wholly owns Hydro-Québec. Within Québec, everyone buys electricity generated, transmitted, distributed and delivered by Hydro-Québec.

By law, more than 90 percent of this electricity (the “heritage pool”) is sold to Québecers at 2.79 cents a kilowatt-hour (Hydro-Québec Strategic Plan 2009‒2013, p. 6).

Export sales at market rates subsidize Québec businesses competing with us under free trade.

In March 1999, Central Vermont Public Service and Green Mountain Power proposed a forgotten, similar merger, including divestiture of their generating assets, with publicly traded, shareholder ownership.

Gouvernement du Québec is proposing to merge and integrate CVPS and GMP with its own generating assets under its majority ownership as a foreign government.

Is this what Vermonters want?

Vermont’s energy future: a Canadian view

[Note to the reader: Simply an interested observer, I have no connection with Valener Inc., such as owning or promoting its stock.]

Vermonters can explore and invest in Vermont’s Canadian energy future through investor-owned Valener Inc. (Toronto Stock Exchange: VNR; http://www.valener.com).

Public Valener owns 29 percent of Gaz Métro Limited Partnership; private Gaz Métro Inc. owns 71 percent.

Providing customary reports to investors, Gaz Métro executives and directors have informed Valener stockholders that the Canadian natural-gas pipeline serving Franklin and Chittenden Counties will be extended from Burlington to Middlebury by 2015 (Investor Presentation, May 26, 2011, p. 22).

An interesting map of CVPS’s and GMP’s territories shows that southern and central Vermont’s energy future is already Canadian, but northern Vermont’s energy future is still in play (Consolidated Financial Report, June 30, 2011, p. 14).

It also identifies just one major power plant in Vermont: Vermont Yankee. Vermont’s Comprehensive Energy Plan includes a natural-gas-fueled replacement as an anchor load to facilitate extending the pipeline to Middlebury and beyond (p. IV-93).

Environmental lobbyists may shoot down these projects as they did the proposed Albany-Bennington-Rutland natural-gas pipeline and power plants. If they do not object, we should ask why they changed their minds.

Howard Fairman
Vernon, Vermont, USA

Vermont’s energy future: Who is listening to whom?

The Rutland Herald (Vermont) wrote in an editorial (“Energy answers,” August 6, 2011 [online for subscribers]):

“Findings from the state Department of Public Service confirm the conventional wisdom about the possibilities for the state’s energy future and point in the direction of common sense.

“The department is drawing up a much anticipated new energy plan that could provide direction for policy choices as the state confronts the many challenges related to energy and the environment.

“As part of the process of drawing up the plan, the department has collected comments from thousands of Vermonters in order to assess public opinion on energy issues.”

Nevertheless, the CEP (Comprehensive Energy Plan) Public Involvement Report (Vermont Department of Public Service, August 3, 2011) is not a “public opinion survey.”

According to this report (page 4):

“It is not an exhaustive record of public comments, nor is it a scientific survey of Vermonters. Rather, it captures general trends and suggestions to form a snapshot of public opinion across a variety of energy issues.

“It reflects the views of the comments received, but it is not necessarily representative of the views of all Vermonters or the Administration. Comments have not been edited for factual accuracy.

“Comments were received via email and the CEP website, as well as verbally at stakeholder meetings and public forums.”

In other words, advocates for or against particular energy options, not necessarily Vermonters, shared their views. Feasibilities, environmental impacts and true costs (including subsidies) have not been determined.

The Rutland Herald wrote: “For example, Vermonters like the idea of decentralized, small-scale, ‘distributed power generation’.” Some Vermonters do, though perhaps not if their properties turn out to be affected or taken by the generation facilities or the transmission lines connecting them to the Vermont grid.

A century ago, Vermont had decentralized, small-scale, distributed power generation. Everyone outside of those neighborhoods waited until electricity came to their neighborhoods. My already settled neighborhood, a mile from the 1909 Vernon hydro plant, waited until 1956 — 47 years.

Nowadays, every Vermonter’s work and leisure depend on electricity. Availability, reliability and affordability will be our demands, whatever the energy source.

Howard Fairman
Vernon, Vermont, USA

Vermont Uncommon Taters: plain, nutritious, organic, underground, local food for thought about Vermont.

 

 

Vermont’s energy future is Canadian

[Updated August 16, 2011: Gaz Métro’s announcement to investors that the existing Canadian natural-gas pipeline will be extended from Burlington to Middlebury (Vermont) by 2015; management’s investor discussion and analysis of the Central Vermont Public Service (CVPS) acquisition.]

Why does Gaz Métro — pipelining Canadian natural gas to Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine and Massachusetts — own Vermont Gas Systems and Green Mountain Power, and covet Central Vermont Public Service?

The Québec government, owner of Hydro-Québec, governs La Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec, a $151.7-billion provincial investment fund. (“Québec Deposit and Investment Fund” has no official name in English.)

La Caisse controls Trencap, which controls Noverco, which owns Gaz Métro Inc., which controls Gaz Métro Limited Partnership, which owns Northern New England Energy, which owns VGS and GMP, and would own CVPS, “a clear consolidation opportunity.” (details)

La Caisse’s chairman is chairman of GMP. Noverco and subsidiaries’ boards share key members.

In Québec, Gaz Métro must sell natural gas at cost and Hydro-Québec must discount electricity. Both profit by selling their surpluses to the neighbors, subsidizing Québec employers and employees competing with us for free-trade business and jobs. (speech)

The Vermont Comprehensive Energy Plan includes a natural-gas power plant on the pipeline in Franklin or Chittenden County “as an anchor load to leverage expansion of the VGS network to communities that are currently without natural gas.” (plan)

(August 16, 2011) Valener, Gaz Métro’s investor-owned business partner (Toronto Stock Exchange: VNR) has announced a “significant extension of the natural-gas distribution network in Vermont [from Burlington to Middlebury], a US$65-million project, expected to be operational by 2015” (Investor Presentation, May 26, 2011, page 22).

Gaz Métro’s pipeline partner, TransCanada of Calgary, Alberta, provides the natural gas and owns a modern, 560-megawatt, natural-gas power plant in Rhode Island, easily duplicated here. Gaz Métro’s merged GMP and CVPS will buy the electricity and resell it to us at attractive rates as long as natural-gas prices remain low.

Closing 605-megawatt, federally relicensed Vermont Yankee eliminates their principal competitor.

(Transmitting electricity from Québec through Vermont to other states is impossible without new transmission lines similar to the Northern Pass project in New Hampshire.)

Howard Fairman
Vernon, Vermont, USA

Vermont Uncommon Taters: plain, nutritious, organic, underground, local food for thought about Vermont


Background:

My researching and writing of this uncommon tater was inspired by two contrasting press releases:

Competing to buy Central Vermont Public Service, Fortis of St. John’s, Newfoundland, said in a press release: “Approximately 50 percent and 40 percent of the energy supply in 2010 for CVPS was derived from nuclear and hydroelectric sources, respectively, making it one of the cleanest energy supplies in the United States. Most of the energy sold by CVPS is acquired from Hydro-Québec and the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant through power purchase agreements.”

Shunning Vermont Yankee, but contracting to buy “low cost, low-carbon, reliable” New Hampshire nuclear power from Seabrook, Green Mountain Power said in a press release: “This agreement is very favorable for our customers, and delivers on the vision Green Mountain Power launched three years ago to move to a cleaner, greener future in a cost-effective way. We set out to accomplish this by ramping up cost effective renewables while we built a solid portfolio that is low in carbon, cost and is incredibly reliable. This provides the perfect platform for our continued efforts to pursue cost effective renewable energy options.”

Buying and merging with Central Vermont Public Service, how could Green Mountain Power rationally reject and replace Vermont Yankee nuclear power?

Having explored a rationale, I offer this uncommon tater as food for thought about this question.

Another question: Backed by La Caisse and therefore far better financed than Fortis, did Gaz Métro let Fortis set the price of CVPS before bidding slightly higher to dissuade Canadian and international competitors hoping to buy lucrative, increasingly scarce, investor-owned American utilities?

(August 16, 2011) Gaz Métro management, via investor-owned business partner Valener, offer an informative discussion and analysis of the CVPS acquisition (Consolidated Financial Report for the Third Quarter of Fiscal 2011 Ended June 30, 2011, page 14).