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Vermont Nuclear Plant Seeks Decommission But Lacks Funds

Unknown Lamer posted about 7 months ago | from the just-keep-it-running? dept.

Power 179

mdsolar (1045926) writes with this bit of news about the Vermont Yankee Nuclear Plant shutdown. From the article: "On Friday, the Vermont Public Service Board voted to authorize Entergy Nuclear Operations, Inc., the operators of the Vermont Yankee electricity generating station ..., to close down their nuclear power plant by the end of this year. Because Entergy planned to shut the Vermont nuclear plant down prior to its licensed end-term, the board was required to approve the shutdown....

Entergy has reserved just over $600 million to date for decommissioning the Vermont nuclear plant, according to the Department of Public Service. This amount will not be adequate to meet the costs of full deconstruction, estimated at more than $1 billion according to the company's 2012 Decommissioning Cost Analysis report."

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and yet even more (2)

polar red (215081) | about 7 months ago | (#46638509)

and yet even more subsidies for the nuclear industry will follow.

Re:and yet even more (4, Insightful)

imikem (767509) | about 7 months ago | (#46638559)

Of course. It's so silly that no other industries ever get subsidized by tax dollars.

Re:subsidy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46638657)

Neither to the extent, nor in the manner of nuclear. Other industries get tax breaks, free use of government research, etc.

Nuclear gets to walk away and leave the mess for someone else.

Captcha: remorse

Negative subsidy [Re:subsidy] (4, Informative)

Geoffrey.landis (926948) | about 7 months ago | (#46639269)

Neither to the extent, nor in the manner of nuclear. Other industries get tax breaks, free use of government research, etc.

It's worth pointing out that nuclear power actually gets a negative subsidy. They have been charged a fee for nuclear waste disposal... but the nuclear waste disposal program was cancelled, and there is no replacement plan.

The fee was suspended by court order last November... but the money collected has not been refunded.

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11... [nytimes.com]

Bogus (2)

mdsolar (1045926) | about 7 months ago | (#46639473)

The waste still needs to be disposed of. It looks like it is going to cost more, not less, so the industry has been undercharged.

Re:Bogus (3, Insightful)

interkin3tic (1469267) | about 7 months ago | (#46639547)

Carbon still needs to be disposed of too, we're just allowing coal plants to pretend it doesn't. Simply because it floats away and negatively impacts everyone across the globe a slight bit, most of whom are in other countries.

In other words, yes, you're right, fossil fuels externalize the costs of waste disposal while nuclear does not. To me, that's an argument in favor of subsidizing nuclear rather than coal: it's a lot easier to deal with nuclear waste that's in one place rather than deal with the effects of carbon in the atmosphere.

Re:Bogus (1)

mdsolar (1045926) | about 7 months ago | (#46639643)

Actually not. The RPC2.6 scenario used by the IPCC has an additional 270 GT of carbon emissions without much environmental damage. The carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere falls somewhat naturally, no need to pay for disposal. Above a threshold we have not yet crossed, a disposal effort would be needed, but we are not there yet and won't get there if we start cutting emissions globally. If we don't, China will have to bear the cost of disposal. And, that is easily arranged through the environmental clause in the GATT.

Re:and yet even more (2)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about 7 months ago | (#46638849)

Of course. It's so silly that no other industries ever get subsidized by tax dollars.

It is silly to justify something stupid by pointing out that we also do other stupid things. That is just circular logic that results in a lot of stupidity.

Re:and yet even more (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46639061)

"It is silly to justify something stupid by pointing out that we also do other stupid things. That is just circular logic that results in a lot of stupidity."

Thank you!

It just burns me up to listen to some moron (for example) who carries on about how Bush (or Clinton,etc) did it before Obama did! As if it makes it right or acceptable.

Obamatrons HOOOOOOOOOO!

Nuclear gets the biggest subsidy (0)

mdsolar (1045926) | about 7 months ago | (#46639183)

You might think that oil gets the biggest subsidy, with all the military hardware we keep in the Mideast, but that stuff is multi-use and optional use (aside from attacks on Israel) while the Price Anderson subsidy for nuclear power could bring down the Federal Government if a large accident occurred at Indian Point. The cost to cover the homeowners insurance nuclear accident exclusions could make it impossible for the US to service its public debt. And clean up costs are estimated to be over $1 trillion. http://archive.lohud.com/artic... [lohud.com] No other subsidy puts our entire way of life on the line like that.

Re:Nuclear gets the biggest subsidy (2)

mellon (7048) | about 7 months ago | (#46639367)

What would actually happen in this situation is that homeowners would get shafted, just like they always are when government-sponsored corporate welfare goes wrong (e.g., the crash of 2008). So no worries about the government running out of money. As a neighbor to Vermont Yankee, I am keenly aware that if it were to have a serious radiation-releasing accident, I would simply have to walk away from my rather substantial real estate investment. This is why it always pisses me off when people rant about how cheap nuclear is. Of course it's cheap: when you can get local property owners to indemnify you against accidents, you are getting a subsidy, and subsidies are great for the bottom line.

Re:Nuclear gets the biggest subsidy (1)

mdsolar (1045926) | about 7 months ago | (#46639541)

Price Anderson say one thing, debt obligation says another. Which way it breaks is not that important to the fact that it would break. With Indian Point, a big chunk of economic activity would be gone too so an economic depression might further wreck things. For an Vermont Yankee accident, since less is at risk, Price Anderson might come through for you.

Re:Nuclear gets the biggest subsidy (1)

gtall (79522) | about 7 months ago | (#46639497)

And the cost to the atmosphere from burning all that fossil fuel is also a subsidy...I note you conveniently have forgotten it. So a nuclear accident can take out a region, global warming or acidifying the oceans can take down the entire planet.

Re:Nuclear gets the biggest subsidy (1)

imikem (767509) | about 7 months ago | (#46639661)

Your cite mentions $1T in some unspecified "worst case scenario", e.g., simultaneous earthquake/tsunami/terrorist-attack/landslide/zombie-apocalypse. Sorry, not very credible, and certainly not to be conflated with "estimated clean-up costs".

Re:Nuclear gets the biggest subsidy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46640007)

What a pile of bullshit!

WTF do you think would happen if a major tsunami hit the east coast of US? There would be lots money coming down to help rebuild. That $1T would be nothing.

What IF an asteroid hit a major city? What IF an earthquake flattens San Francisco and surrounding area? Who's paying for the recent landslide in Washington that killed so many?

Re:and yet even more (4, Insightful)

jythie (914043) | about 7 months ago | (#46638623)

Well, that is how they stay competitive with all the other subsidized industries.

Yep, you pegged it. (3, Insightful)

Medievalist (16032) | about 7 months ago | (#46639793)

Well, that is how they stay competitive with all the other subsidized industries.

In theory, the government subsidies are intended to further social goals that the free market cannot adequately address without regulation.

In practice, the government subsidies are treats that the political powers (such as congressmen) hand out to economic powers (such as favored contributors).

Since our economic powers have evolved into multinational corporations that actively oppose our social goals and purposely subvert our cultural values, this means that the government subsidies are quite often doing the exact opposite of what they are nominally intended to do.

Re:and yet even more (1)

KiloByte (825081) | about 7 months ago | (#46639735)

Then what about massive subsidies for coal and oil industries?

Let me know when every single power plant, every car is required to collect its waste and deposit it for storage. Only then you can call it equal.

But I thought nuclear power was cheap (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46638511)

This issue demonstrates that arguments about the low lifetime cost and impacts of nuclear power tend to externalize significant costs. Decommissioning can be added to waste handling/storage and subsidized insurance.

Re:But I thought nuclear power was cheap (3, Insightful)

bobbied (2522392) | about 7 months ago | (#46638919)

This issue demonstrates that arguments about the low lifetime cost and impacts of nuclear power tend to externalize significant costs. Decommissioning can be added to waste handling/storage and subsidized insurance.

Partly true, but the real problem is that though out the lifetime of this plant, the expected costs for decommissioning have gone though the roof by a mass of changing rules, laws and policies which have conspired to not only raise the costs but shorten the useful lifespan of the plant. As such, this is not really the operator's fault, but the cold economic facts of changing political climate are really to blame. IMHO...

Re:But I thought nuclear power was cheap (2)

Mr D from 63 (3395377) | about 7 months ago | (#46639009)

Not to mention being shut down earlier than planned due to a vitriolic political environment coupled with the price pressure of shale gas and excessive subsidization of renewables.

For those that speak of nuclear subsidies...on a $ per KWh generated basis, nuclear subsidies are nowhere close to other energy technologies.

Re:But I thought nuclear power was cheap (4, Informative)

mellon (7048) | about 7 months ago | (#46639423)

Um. The plant was originally licensed to operate for 40 years. It is falling apart. Literally: a few years back one of the cooling towers collapsed. Buried pipes are leaking, and nobody knows where the pipes are or where the leaks are. Sources for backup power have dried up because the providers don't want to be held liable in the event of an accident. The idea of extending its operating permit for another 20 years was incredibly irresponsible. The State of Vermont refused to certify its continued operation, but the courts overrode the state.

It is bloody unfortunate that the low cost of shale oil is what finally did the plant in, but closing it is the right move. The only decent alternative would be an extremely costly remodel, which would not likely be cheaper than closing it and building a new one with better technology. The alternative Entergy wanted was to keep running it, and damn the safety concerns, because they wouldn't have to pay if it failed catastrophically anyway.

Re:But I thought nuclear power was cheap (1)

timeOday (582209) | about 7 months ago | (#46639065)

the real problem is that though out the lifetime of this plant, the expected costs for decommissioning have gone though the roof by a mass of changing rules, laws and policies which have conspired to not only raise the costs but shorten the useful lifespan of the plant.

What you call the "real" problem is actually re-stating the GP's point - that is, during the lifetime of the plant, some of the externalizations mentioned by the GP have been internalized through the rules you mentioned. Is that unfair? Perhaps, only in the sense that the gaping externalities of fossil fuels, by comparison, have not been internalized whatsoever.

Re:But I thought nuclear power was cheap (1)

khallow (566160) | about 7 months ago | (#46639315)

You make the broad assumption that they were externalities in the first place. It's trivially easy to add costs to someone else's project which don't have any benefits to them. That happens a lot to nuclear power.

Re:But I thought nuclear power was cheap (1)

bobbied (2522392) | about 7 months ago | (#46639397)

OK, but you understand that all the financial arrangements for the decommissioning of this plant where made starting nearly 50 years ago based on the assumptions of the day. Plus they managed to come up with 1/2 to 2/3 of what they need despite the regulatory changes and wholesale electricity. Finally, owner's of Vermont Yankee can afford to cough up the costs if they get amortized over a few years. They had a billion dollars in just profit in 2013. They won't like coming up with the money, but they can without taking too much of a stock price hit.

Re:But I thought nuclear power was cheap (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46639071)

The plant's original operating license expired in March 2012. So a 2014 Q4 closure is a increase rather than a shortening of the original scope of the project.

Re:But I thought nuclear power was cheap (1)

khallow (566160) | about 7 months ago | (#46639277)

But it is a shortening of the new scope of the project.

If you take the profits (4, Interesting)

Pop69 (700500) | about 7 months ago | (#46638533)

Then you pay the costs associated with them.

If they've failed to properly provide for shutdown and decomissioning costs then it's their problem, they should be forced to pay them rather than pleading poverty and being allowed to walk away from their responsibilities

Re:If you take the profits (4, Interesting)

peon_a-z,A-Z,0-9$_+! (2743031) | about 7 months ago | (#46638581)

Except in this case the plant was approved for twenty additional years of operation in 2011 and is now being shut down.

Therefore, contrary to your assertion, they were properly planning for the costs but that planning did not encompass irrational public opinion shutting down the plant ahead of schedule.

The people therefore who demanded it be shut down will also be the people who pay the extra costs associated with shutting it down.

Re:If you take the profits (4, Informative)

n1ywb (555767) | about 7 months ago | (#46638605)

Entergy is shutting it down because it's unprofitable. It's purely by choice. The state's efforts to shut it down were thrown out in court.

Re:If you take the profits (2)

bobbied (2522392) | about 7 months ago | (#46638981)

But the legal effort to resist the state's efforts cost the utility money as did the public relation campaign.

The real reason here is that electricity rates have dropped do to Natural Gas production and operating/decommissioning costs have risen since the plant was commissioned due to changing regulations. All this as conspired to give us the problem we now have and like it or not, pretty much everybody will be paying for this in some way.

Re:If you take the profits (1)

mdsolar (1045926) | about 7 months ago | (#46639307)

Vermont Yankee could not outbid Seabrook and HydroQuebec, in fact. Natural gas is playing a role though. http://vtdigger.org/2013/08/28... [vtdigger.org]

A lot of nuclear plants are uneconomic (1)

mdsolar (1045926) | about 7 months ago | (#46639017)

It turns out that natural gas and renewable energy are making a lot of nuclear plants uneconomic. http://will.illinois.edu/nfs/R... [illinois.edu] This situation is bound to accelerate as renewable energy gets even cheaper as projected. (see appendix B) http://www.nrel.gov/docs/fy10o... [nrel.gov] So, it is time to fully fund decommissioning before that happens over the next seven to twelve years.

Different power sources have differences (2)

Geoffrey.landis (926948) | about 7 months ago | (#46639333)

It turns out that natural gas and renewable energy are making a lot of nuclear plants uneconomic.

Not really. Nuclear and renewable cover different portions of the demand curve. Nuclear is good for baseline power-- 24 hours a day. Renewable (other than hydro) tends to be a variable power source. Solar, in particular, is a good source for daytime peaking power, particularly in summer. Valuable-- but a different portion of the demand curve

Natural gas is indeed changing the structure of the electrical power market. One significant reason it's changing it is because gas turbines can vary output rapidly. They're good for load variations, where nuclear is best for baseline.

Different power sources have different characteristics, and serve different segments of the market.

Re:Different power sources have differences (1)

mdsolar (1045926) | about 7 months ago | (#46639867)

Nuclear power plants are shutting down for economic reasons. Analysis (linked above) shows that it is the economics of natural gas and renewables that is doing this. So far, wind has played a big role, forcing zero pricing at night. A number of Midwestern nuclear plants may close this year. http://articles.chicagotribune... [chicagotribune.com] Obviously, if low cost gas can backstop supply of even cheaper wind, the concept of baseline power is useless. And it only made sense if nuclear could be the lowest cost supplier, which it can't. No cost savings from being inflexible and brittle save nuclear if everything else is cheaper.

Re:A lot of nuclear plants are uneconomic (1)

khallow (566160) | about 7 months ago | (#46639393)

Eh, looking at the most pessimistic EIA cost columns in that list, I don't see the cost benefit increasing fast enough to justify your claim. We'll have to see how it works out. I would like it if the cost decline is more aggressive than forecast.

Well, at least the cost will be better for bargain hunters. They already can put together small economical systems with decent ROI.

Re:A lot of nuclear plants are uneconomic (1)

mdsolar (1045926) | about 7 months ago | (#46639969)

I think learning curve models are the most realistic in this situation because there are still so many new materials to try. It is worth noting too that the EIA model is already well off the real world data which has seen much stronger cost reductions. So, if you like the EIA curve, you have to reset it to today's prices, which probably covers your objection.

Re:A lot of nuclear plants are uneconomic (2)

rahvin112 (446269) | about 7 months ago | (#46639989)

Utility scale solar and wind is almost as cheap as coal on a per kw basis and prices continue to fall. With all the cheap gas for the night time energy use (and how ridiculously cheap NG generators are) it's no wonder utilities are running away from nuclear.

Exactly (3, Interesting)

Giant Electronic Bra (1229876) | about 7 months ago | (#46639539)

Nothing the State of Vermont did caused the plant to be shut down. It was entirely Entergy's own stupidity on multiple levels. First they decided to run as a 'Merchant' plant, refusing to sign a contract to provide VT with power (ironic as it was us who bore the burden of the threat of some disaster, etc). They could have locked in a profitable rate but they were stupid and greedy and screwed themselves. Secondly they were INCOMPETENT, or at least in many instances managed to LOOK incompetent. Parts of the cooling tower fell down, they lied to the regulators about tritium leak issues, etc. Thirdly they failed to do basic good cost accounting, for instance not planning for the replacement of a condenser who's rebuilding was MUCH MUCH more expensive than they 'guessed' it would be.

As for the decommissioning cost thing, this is not some new thing or a bolt out of the blue. The original operators sold the plant to Entergy to get out of these liabilities and Entergy never properly funded the fund. It was a routine matter of discussion in VT TEN YEARS AGO that this day would come. What they did back then was come up with a plan to 'invest' the fund in something-or-other and then decommission in 60 years using the projected proceeds (and then of course get hammered in 2008, like they cared). After that they tried to spin the plant off so they too could escape from the burden of dealing with the twin messes of decommissioning and waste disposal.

Overall Entergy has been rather dishonest and conniving, not to mention a bit less than totally competent at some level. Mark my words, the state will end up getting boned. Everyone will be paying for decades, yet magically "Nuclear power is cheap!" continues to be the mantra. All I can do is roll my eyes.

Re:If you take the profits (1)

Pop69 (700500) | about 7 months ago | (#46638649)

From TFA

"Entergy announced last August that it intended to shut down the reactor late this year for economic reasons."

Try to keep up at the back there please ?

Re:If you take the profits (1)

sunking2 (521698) | about 7 months ago | (#46638655)

Perhaps is said company wasn't running an operation that leaked tritium into the ground water on site the public may not have turned against them.

Re:If you take the profits (2)

peon_a-z,A-Z,0-9$_+! (2743031) | about 7 months ago | (#46638879)

We need to start having "radiation leaks" in terms of units that people can understand, like "bananas."

Would you really care if you were instead told that it was leaking tritium equivalent of "3 bananas per day" into the ground water?

Radiation is a part of life on Earth.

Re:If you take the profits (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46638959)

Look fuckwit. What if all companies released 3 bananas worth of radiation into the ground water per day, because there is no penalty?
 
    It's only three bananas. PS Tell me how my ass tastes.

Re:If you take the profits (2)

khallow (566160) | about 7 months ago | (#46639769)

What if all companies released 3 bananas worth of radiation into the ground water per day, because there is no penalty?

Nothing would happen. That's the outcome of releasing insignificant amounts of radiation into the environment.

Re:If you take the profits (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46639157)

We need to start having "radiation leaks" in terms of units that people can understand, like "bananas."

There is a metric for that, and a handy diagram [xkcd.com] , but the news never uses it because it could lead to people actually having a clue what is going on.

Conveniently, that graph even has a banana-equivalence: one tenth of a microsievert. If you consumed 50,000 bananas in a year, you would reach the standard dosage limit for workers in irradiated (as in, the time they're told to go home and stay out of the glow). 100,000 bananas in a year and you may see an increased risk of cancer. However, the concept of eating 23 1/3 tons of bananas in a year is rather absurd when the average human food consumption in a year is less than half a ton. [stackexchange.com]

Re:If you take the profits (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46639827)

Sorry, I forgot a 0. Should be 500,000 bananas in a year to match the legislated dosage limit and 1,000,000 bananas to risk cancer, weighing in at 233 1/3 tons of bananas in a year.

Re:If you take the profits (1)

Minwee (522556) | about 7 months ago | (#46639387)

Or perhaps you could express the amount of radiation leaked by a nuclear plant by comparing it to the normal operation of a coal power plant.

On average, a nuclear plant leaks about 10 milli-coal-plants [ornl.gov] worth of radioactive material. Which is why you see the coal industry being hit with billions of dollars in cleanup costs every time they dump radioactive uranium and thorium in the form of coal ash [scientificamerican.com] .

Oh, wait. You don't, really. Because coal power plants aren't regulated the same way nuclear plants are they can just blow it into the air and forget about it. And if that coal ash just happens to contain enough radioactive Uranium 238 to power every nuclear power plant in the country with a few hundred tons left over, then so be it. At least they're not nuclear so that's okay, right?

Re:If you take the profits (2)

gtall (79522) | about 7 months ago | (#46639641)

That and when the coal industries get in bed with local government, then you get the coal ash slurry dumps like what happened in North Carolina. And those coal slurry accidents are not all that rare. And as usual, the locals take it in the neck when it happens.

Re:If you take the profits (1)

mellon (7048) | about 7 months ago | (#46639467)

The tritium leaks aren't likely a problem at all, except that they indicate that the infrastructure is decaying. It's unfortunate that people go "oh noes! tritium" when really they should be going "oh noes! plant is falling apart!"

Re:If you take the profits (2)

Bengie (1121981) | about 7 months ago | (#46638681)

If it's not one of the newer designs, like thorium, I would also like it shutdown. All nuclear power plants should be using modern negative-feedback self-limiting designs that consume most of their fuel, resulting in relatively short lived radioactive waste.

Re:If you take the profits (1)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | about 7 months ago | (#46638973)

All nuclear power plants should be using modern negative-feedback self-limiting designs that consume most of their fuel, resulting in relatively short lived radioactive waste.

Can you please explain how this helps the interests of the fossil fuel corporations? I fail to see the relevance to this conversation when we're talking about government regulators.

Re:If you take the profits (1)

TubeSteak (669689) | about 7 months ago | (#46638897)

Therefore, contrary to your assertion, they were properly planning for the costs but that planning did not encompass irrational public opinion shutting down the plant ahead of schedule.

Uhh... no.
Their plan is to idle the plant and let the decommissioning fund appreciate.

What it really sounds like is the State of Vermont & the NRC made some poor assumptions about decommissioning costs and didn't require the operator to set aside enough money over the last 42 years.
Irrational public opinion has nothing to do with this, even if Entergy wasn't shutting the plant down because of profitability concerns.

Re:If you take the profits (1)

tlhIngan (30335) | about 7 months ago | (#46639527)

What it really sounds like is the State of Vermont & the NRC made some poor assumptions about decommissioning costs and didn't require the operator to set aside enough money over the last 42 years.
Irrational public opinion has nothing to do with this, even if Entergy wasn't shutting the plant down because of profitability concerns.

No, it's not the NRC or Vermont's fault. The plant was life-extended another 20 years. Entergy however sees it as uneconomic, so they applied to Vermont and the NRC to approve an early shutdown.

The decommissioning fund was expected to grow another 20 years to be sufficient, but since the plant was closed early, it doesn't have enough money.

Entergy is 100% at fault here because they want to close it early.

It's really along the lines of you saving for retirement until you're 65, then at 45 declaring you want to retire early. Well, your retirement fund (decommissioning fund) was planned out for you retiring at 65, not 45, so now there's going to be a shortfall, obviously.

Should the taxpayer be forced to fund your retirement because you decided to retire early and your savings are short?

No, because it's purely a choice to do it early - you could very well continue to work until 65 and realize your retirement plans, just like you could operate the power plant until it's time to close it down, contributing to the decommissioning fund the extra few years.

Especially since circumstances like cheap natural gas aren't sudden overnight events - natural gas prices have been falling for over a decade or so after peaking.

Re:If you take the profits (1)

Minwee (522556) | about 7 months ago | (#46639529)

Suppose that you just started University. Tuition and expenses run about $20,000 a year and you have $75,000 in a trust fund to pay for it all, so you should be able to make it through your four year program without having to go into debt. Yay!

After your first year you have around $57,000 left but your on-campus housing is shut down without warning. This raises your costs for the next year to $25,000 because you have to move into a more expensive place, but you can manage that.

By the start of the third year you are left with $33,000 and the school announces that they need to raise tuition because of a change in the education act so it's going to cost you $35,000 for your third year. By the end of the year you are $2,000 in debt and still don't have your degree.

Tuitions continue to rise and for your fourth year you end up paying $40,000. By the time you graduate you are over $42,000 in debt and wondering what went wrong. At what point did you "make some poor assumptions about [education] costs" and fail to set aside enough money to last four years?

Re:If you take the profits (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46639893)

When you didn't consider that your estimate of $20,000 was based on Year 1 assumptions,
and they probably won't hold in year 4, and that costs are much more likely to go up
from your initial assumptions than go down?

What do I win?

Re:If you take the profits (2)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about 7 months ago | (#46638639)

If they've failed to properly provide for shutdown and decomissioning costs then it's their problem, they should be forced to pay

Who are "they"? The decommissioning charge tacked onto utility bills is set by the public utility commission, which is a government entity. So if the people responsible are held accountable, then "they" are the taxpayers of Vermont who voted in the past to push costs off into the future ... which has now arrived.

Re:If you take the profits (1)

mellon (7048) | about 7 months ago | (#46639503)

Incorrect. VY sells power to utilities. They are supposed to factor the cost of decommissioning into the cost of the power. The utilities then charge what they have to to pay for the power they buy. The PUC just makes sure that they get a fair return, but no more, based on actual costs.

Re:If you take the profits (1)

erroneus (253617) | about 7 months ago | (#46639025)

Yes, you would think that was the case. Problem is, these "people" are corporations and the humans behind the corporations rotate in and out of seats regularly. So it's just not as simple as all that is it?

To that end, one thing that is most definitely true: When commissioning a nuclear plant, the cost of decommissioning should be paid for in advance or at the very least, paid for over the first years of its operation to an account set aside specifically for decommissioning. (I'm not a brilliant person so I'm quite sure someone else has thought of this idea too.) Such a plan, which is clearly not in place, would enable the decom of a plant to be funded already and wouldn't be such a concern.

Perhaps it's beyond time for these matters become addressed by the NRC when licensing new plants and also added to the licensing requirements of current plants.

Re:If you take the profits (1)

erroneus (253617) | about 7 months ago | (#46639083)

(P.S. Yes, I know they already do that. I guess what I'm rhetorically getting at is that either someone has been raiding that honey pot or they didn't estimate decom costs well enough... you know, accounting for the devaluation of the US dollar and all that?)

Re:If you take the profits (1)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | about 7 months ago | (#46639175)

you know, accounting for the devaluation of the US dollar and all that?)

Alas, Fed policy changes with the winds, so anticpating the devaluation of the dollar is really hard to do.

Face it, ten years ago, would anyone have been believed if they'd said that the Fed would start printing a trillion dollars a year in (what was then) the near future?

that's ok (2)

jsepeta (412566) | about 7 months ago | (#46638571)

the government (us citizens) always foot the bill for building and decommissioning nuclear plants. why should the actual businesses have to pay their own expenses?

Re:that's ok (3, Insightful)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | about 7 months ago | (#46638599)

You regulate the electricity costs, so your fingerprints are all over it already, "The People".

Re:that's ok (2)

plopez (54068) | about 7 months ago | (#46638705)

What's needed is a full accounting and transparency. Then and only then will people be able to make good decisions. And the private sector is guilty of cooking books and "selling" things as well, unless fear of regulators or lawsuits causes them to come clean. And that means personal responsibility from the managers who make the decisions.

Re:that's ok (1)

bobbied (2522392) | about 7 months ago | (#46639121)

You do realize that the "managers who make the decisions" are likely all retired and many are dead by now right? This plant was commissioned in 1972, 44 years ago which means that the decision to build was made over 50 years ago now. If the average age of this management team was 40 years old, that puts the average age now at 90 years, which means a good portion of that group are likely dead. I don't know how you suggest we "hold them responsible" for this.

What needs to happen is what will likely happen. The owners of this plant will likely go though bankruptcy and get liquidated (worst case). Their creditors (including the decommissioning fund) will get what they can and the stockholders will loose their investment. The government will make up the difference and all of us will pay, at least in some way.

Re:that's ok (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46638865)

A loan guarantee is not paying for construction (and lowers the cost to the ratepayers), and nuclear companies are required both to fund long term waste disposal and the decomissioning costs of the plants. See: Maine Yankee [wikipedia.org] .

Executives interested in quarterly profits above everything else (like natural gas is going to be cheap a few years from now) and concerned citizens manipulated into supporting what is worst for them caused the short fall. The plant was just approved for a 20 year operating extension not that long ago.

Re:that's ok (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46639931)

You are free to start your own Nuclear power plant in America because of Free Market!

Re:that's ok (1)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | about 7 months ago | (#46639113)

There is something fairly wrong with this article, as it's generally believed that the costs of decommissioning a nuclear power plant are on the order of 300-400 million. 600 million should be adequate.

Re:that's ok (1)

Giant Electronic Bra (1229876) | about 7 months ago | (#46639607)

Yes, except those are the fantasy numbers that the nuclear industry and its dog, the NRC, publish. We're talking about REAL costs, what you actually pay, not the bogus ones.

Re:that's ok (1)

mdsolar (1045926) | about 7 months ago | (#46640043)

Main Yankee cost $500 million and did not have so much contaminated soil as Vermont Yankee. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M... [wikipedia.org] Entergy's cost analysis may have some basis.

Re:that's ok (1)

interkin3tic (1469267) | about 7 months ago | (#46639615)

To be fair, most successful businesses of all types find ways of getting the citizens to foot the bills. I mean, businesses can't really give back 100% of what they get from a community and still be profitable, that would probably violate the laws of thermodynamics. Furthermore, a business which leeches off the community is going to have a huge advantage over a competitor that doesn't.

wait, what? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46638575)

I don't think a single aspect of the summary was accurate. They didn't need approval from Vermont to shutdown, they needed approval to run the plant until the end of the year. And of course they don't have enough money to decommission the plant today - they only made the decision to close the plant about a year ago. The plant needs to continue saving up money in their fund until they have enough to decommission the plant - no surprises there. So what is the point of this story?

No (1)

mdsolar (1045926) | about 7 months ago | (#46638853)

This is permission to close down, part of a deal on economic development funds. http://www.masslive.com/news/i... [masslive.com]

Re:wait, what? (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | about 7 months ago | (#46639057)

So what is the point of this story?

One of Slashdot's most beloved features - the hourly Two Minute Hate.

Re:wait, what? (2)

Giant Electronic Bra (1229876) | about 7 months ago | (#46639687)

The plant was originally licensed for 20 years and had an expected design lifetime of 40 years, that is 2012. The fund was set up in 1972 and should have been managed such that it would be adequate in 2012 to shut the plant down. Thus the point is quite valid since said funds clearly are short by 40% or so. Entergy tried to extend the lifetime of the plant by another 20 years (and succeeded, they can legal go ahead and run it until 2032 and I believe even do so at a higher power output). They didn't need 'approval to run to the end of the year' except in the sense that there were certain regulatory questions that they needed answers for. If they HAD continued to operate then its possible the State would have continued various legal actions to get them shut down, but they weren't required to do so as of a year ago.

Nuclear energy, so much cheaper than other forms (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46638607)

... because they fail to count half the costs when they do their calculations.

Re:Nuclear energy, so much cheaper than other form (1)

Joce640k (829181) | about 7 months ago | (#46638685)

Fail.

The real reason the economics don't work for private companies is here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

Short version: Private investors who make 20-odd year investments want guaranteed returns of 1000%. This multiplies the cost of the plant by an order of magnitude just to pay back the initial investors.

Solution: Let governments build them.

Wrong (1)

WindBourne (631190) | about 7 months ago | (#46639477)

The issue with economics is NOT the fact that it is nuclear. The issue is that companies such as GE and others want to build massive on-site reactors where they get 5-10 B for it, rather than only .5B for a small reactor.
In addition, much of the issues is the initial starting price which is typically doubled due to opposition.

What is needed is to require that once a license is approved, then it is over for protests.
In addition, building a massive nuke reactor in place is the WRONG way to do it. By going with smaller ones that are pretty much shipped via rail and then dropped into the ground, makes it dirt cheap.

Re:Nuclear energy, so much cheaper than other form (1)

bobbied (2522392) | about 7 months ago | (#46639259)

... because they fail to count half the costs when they do their calculations.

And changing government regulations over the last 40 years of operation hasn't *ever* been a cost driver.

You can only calculate costs into the future 50 years when you know all the variables that drive cost. In this case, they didn't do too bad considering that most of the initial calculations would have been done in the 60's, there has been significant regulatory changes since then and they have nearly 2/3rds of what they need. 600 Million is chump change when we are dropping $1 Trillion/year onto our debt at the federal level.

Taxman (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46638621)

By - The Beatles

John, Paul, Jones
and Ringo

Increased rates (1)

plopez (54068) | about 7 months ago | (#46638653)

Looks like all the customers will be paying more for their power.

Wait, I thought it was the future? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46638663)

Won't 3D printing totally revolutionize everything and dramatically reduce costs for everything and allow anything at all to happen?

Hm. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46638753)

Hm. Sounds like it's time for the Entergy management and shareholders to pony up some of the money they've made of this thing.

Most appropriate tag line ever (4, Funny)

wayne_t (668999) | about 7 months ago | (#46638769)

The Slashdot quote at the bottom of the page when I scrolled down was:

"Consequences, Schmonsequences, as long as I'm rich." -- "Ali Baba Bunny" [1957, Chuck Jones]

That may be the most relevant one I've ever seen.

Your only source for safe, cheap, nuclear energy: (3, Informative)

Rambo Tribble (1273454) | about 7 months ago | (#46639169)

It's still the Sun, providing reliable, local service for over 4 billion years.

Re:Your only source for safe, cheap, nuclear energ (1)

Overzeetop (214511) | about 7 months ago | (#46639207)

Agreed. It's a shame we can't harness it properly. (note: it takes almost as much energy - 95% as fossil fuel - to produce a working solar collection system as that system will provide over its entire life)

Bogus (1)

mdsolar (1045926) | about 7 months ago | (#46639437)

Energy payback times are about 5% of the system lifetimes for solar. http://cleantechnica.com/2013/... [cleantechnica.com] That comes to an energy returned on energy invested of about 20, not counting the effect of recycling which can bring that up over 80 over a century or so. Nothing, aside from early shallow oil deposits, now long since depleted, is as good as solar PV on this score.

Re:Bogus (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46640017)

Only if you ignore the 50%+ installation cost subsidy and the cost of lost wasted baseload generation due to regulations forcing producers to purchase all renewable power production regardless of reliability and demand. When you take those into account, solar costs around 4 times more than coal/gas/nuclear.

If we relied on wind and solar for 50% of our energy needs, electricity costs would at least double. Since the availability and price of energy is tied to the cost of every good and service you consume, effectively you are halving the income and standard of living of everyone.

Progressivism - forcing horribly regressive policies to ensure the people become and stay poor so they are easier to control since 1900.

Some one doesn't know (1)

mdsolar (1045926) | about 7 months ago | (#46640085)

what energy is.

Re:Your only source for safe, cheap, nuclear energ (1)

Giant Electronic Bra (1229876) | about 7 months ago | (#46639761)

Agreed. It's a shame we can't harness it properly. (note: it takes almost as much energy - 95% as fossil fuel - to produce a working solar collection system as that system will provide over its entire life)

This is uttermost nonsense.

Use the 600 million for new reactor (1)

WindBourne (631190) | about 7 months ago | (#46639365)

Seriously, it is far better to use the 600 million to get new mPower reactors, and continue this with CHEAPER energy. In addition, ideally, some money from these plants will be used to get thorium reactors going that can burn up the old nuke waste.
Regardless, while having new cheap reactors running on-site, you can then slowly dismantle the old reactors, while using the rest of the equipment.

Re:Use the 600 million for new reactor (2)

Giant Electronic Bra (1229876) | about 7 months ago | (#46639797)

Gosh yes, and we should just leave this nuclear plant to rust in the middle of a flood plain, you know full of all kinds of fuel. You realize this is a GE MK1, the same as the reactors at Fukushima, with all the same design flaws, the nice spent fuel pool on the top floor, etc. Sorry, cleanup isn't an OPTION, its a necessity.

nothing adds up here (1)

slashmydots (2189826) | about 7 months ago | (#46639507)

This is really strange. It takes a billion to cleanup a not-exploded nuclear plant? Just ship out the radioactive stuff, erase the computers, destroy the classified tech, and it's a medium sized corporate demolition job. That's a millions tops. I don't see where the billion parts comes in.

And then there's why the heck are they shutting it down early? If it's safety reasons, just fix the safety issues. I bet that doesn't cost a billion.

Need to consult Tepco (1)

ThatsDrDangerToYou (3480047) | about 7 months ago | (#46639825)

Tepco seems to have a lot of experience in decomissioning lately. Just follow their model..

Why is this important? Entergy has tne money... (3, Insightful)

bobbied (2522392) | about 7 months ago | (#46639563)

The owner of Vermont Yankee is Entergy Corp. and they are HUGE.

Looking at their most recent annual report filed in February of 2014. This company made about a billion dollars in profit last year. They might not like having to pony up another 500-600 Million dollars over the next 5 years, but it's not like they couldn't. It would barely be a blip on the radar in the grand scheme of things for them. It's obvious they will easily pay for this and the government won't have to take over.

Tell me again why this is news?

Re:Why is this important? Entergy has tne money... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46639975)

Tell me again why this is news?

Because the submitter (mdsolar) is a notorious anti-nuclear troll and it fits his agenda.

What I don't understand is ... (1)

jandersen (462034) | about 7 months ago | (#46639617)

why they don't just sell their spent fuel? It shouldn't be difficult to find buyers in, say, the Middle East.

No problem (1)

CODiNE (27417) | about 7 months ago | (#46639897)

Use the allocated funds to remove the radioactive components.

Then simply dial 1-800-GOT-JUNK and they'll take care of the rest.

Re:No problem (1)

Sockatume (732728) | about 7 months ago | (#46639995)

Nah, the last time I used CASH-4-URAnium they took five billion years and I only got half the quoted value for my stuff.

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