Comments by Meredith Angwin Subscribe

On If Vermont Yankee had an Accident Like Fukushima

John. You are right. Also, I don't like charred meat. I'm a chemist, and to me, the "char"  on meat looks like the "tar" in the bottom of a beaker of heated organic chemicals! A metric for  charred-meat, CGMU, could be the equivalent of Banana Equivalent Dose.  

Dr. Swartz was wrong about several nuclear engineering issues.  He said there was "uncontrolled fission" at Fukushima, but there wasn't.  There was fuel melting but not criticality, as I understand it. He also made some incorrect statements about control rods. I liked his information about safety and dose, but he was not knowledgable about power plant operations.

October 12, 2011    View Comment    

On Broken Windows and Nuclear Plants

Thank you all for your comments.

The point of the broken window fallacy is that we can see what we get (the glazier getting paid) but we can't see what we don't get (the tailor being paid).  At the end of the window-breaking incident, the window is fixed, but nothing else has been added to the town.  Without the broken window, there would be an intact window in the town, and also a new suit for someone.

We can see this happening in my own town, right now.  For once we can see what we aren't getting!

The town has decided to cancel the Glory Days of the Railroad Festival Saturday, because there is too much clean-up to do. It is also canceling or postponing a bond offering to fix up the ice rink and the town hall (municipal building) because money will have to be spent on fixing up the roads.  So after Irene, we will see people employed on the roads, but they will NOT be employed at the municipal building or ice rink.  For once, what we don't get (with the broken window) is visible.  We'll get our roads back, but the improvements to town properties won't be made, or will be put off for a long time.  

Ww won't have a festival. We won't have a good ice rink. We won't have insulation in the municipal building. We will get the roads fixed, but we will be poorer (less fun, no improved town infrastructure) for Irene's broken windows


September 7, 2011    View Comment    

On Slide Show on Vermont's Energy Future

Thank you to all who commented. I am glad you enjoyed it!  

The opponents to Vermont Yankee are very loud, and you can begin to think that the tritium leak is the worst environmental disaster in Vermont history (our governor said that) and so forth.  There's a lot of fear-mongering out there, indeed.  Fear sells.  

August 13, 2011    View Comment    

On Potassium Iodide Is Not Your Friend: To Be Taken Only as Directed

Geoffrey. Thank you for the comment!

Damon.  I sleep quite well at night, thank you.  Your perceptions of the risk of nuclear power are quite different from mine. If the effect of "I am prepared" helps you sleep, that is good. My perceptions of the risk are based on reality, however. "Our aging reactors" and "plutonium" are extraordinarily unlikely to have any effect on my health, or the health of my family.

Zeolit. There are many snake-oil tablets out there, with people preying on the credulous ("ladies and gentlemen, this miracle tablet will protect you against radiation.") I am sorry to see you referencing some of these things in your post.  At least KI does protect against certain types of radiation, in certain circumstances.  The other products tend to be fraud, plain and simple.

April 2, 2011    View Comment    

On Japan's Nuclear Plant The Least Of Its Worries


I completely agree. There are people buried under buildings, entire towns swept burning into the sea, and the media focuses on the evacuation and possible harm in the area right around the reactor. Possible harm?  People are swept out to sea in commuter trains and the media is concerned with possible long-term harm?  

One of the wonderful thing about nuclear is that people can discuss the harm, make pronouncements it, decide whether evacuation is necessary, etc.  Because they have time to do so.  When a LNG terminal explodes, there is no time for pronouncements.  

By the way, the Wall Street Journal today, page B3, quoted Platt's that LNG rose 5% on Asian spot markets due to probably increased demand because of idled nuclear facilities.

March 12, 2011    View Comment    

On A Bad Deal with Hydro-Québec

I totally agree.  If gas prices are low, I would bet on them rising.  If they are high, I would bet on them falling. They are very cyclical!  Also, the ISO graph in my post shows ISO NE and New England gas prices in lockstep.  Two lines on the graph..electricity prices, gas prices.  Sometimes you can't tell them apart.

December 31, 2010    View Comment    

On A Bad Deal with Hydro-Québec


Thank you for your thoughtful post.  I am glad to hear that the HQ partnership has had renegotiation room and HQ has been a good partner in renegotiations. Thank you for the information.  

On the other hand, I believe that using 2009 or 2010 as the example years for electricity prices is a bit misleading.  These have been the lowest-price years for at least a decade. (There's been this recession happening.)  Your forward prices are more interesting.  Apparently, the market doesn't think we are going to get over the recession very quickly, or perhaps it thinks there will be abundant natural gas.  If I had money to speculate, I would bet against this estimation and bet for rising electricity prices.  However, I do not mean to dismiss the forward numbers.  They may be right.  I will say, however, that they are not certain.  Also, as you correctly noted, those are prices for the entire year, day and night, not the hours that HQ will supply power. HQ will mostly be supplying power in the high-demand, high price hours.

Also in terms of pricing, I encourage you to look at the electricity price graph in this blog post

You will see that prices have spent a significant portion of the past ten years above 6 cents.  The graph comes from ISO-NE.

I believe you have missed my point about the variable market and the profits.  I have no problem with companies making profits by selling electricity. I don't even have a problem with variable pricing,

However.  Some context here. The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for Vermont power purchases after 2012 with Entergy was signed in 2002. It said that for ten years after 2012:

  • Entergy will sell at the market AND
  • if the market goes above 6.1 cents, Entergy will split the extra money with the utilities.  

This was a Revenue Sharing Agreement.  If the market was below 6.1 cents, Entergy would just sell at the low market price.  If electricity prices went up, there were estimates from the DPS (Department of Public Service) of Entergy returning tens to hundreds of millions of dollars to the utilities over the length of the contract.  This money could have improved transmission lines, implemented the smart grid, or been returned to ratepayers in the form of lower prices. 

The Senators and Representatives in Montpelier said this was totally unacceptable.  That lousy Entergy wasn't giving them a fixed price!  Those Entergy scumbuckets!    What they try to get away with! 

Actually, this MOU was a great deal for Vermont, because if the price was electricity was low, that is the price Vermont utilities would pay Entergy.  If the price went up, Vermont got partially re-imbursed.  And you should have heard the legislators screaming about this, endlessly. "You have to give us a fixed price!"  So, now they have a fixed price, and they don't like that, either.  From what I know, and I am NOT an Entergy insider by any means, Entergy would be quite happy to stay with the Memorandum of Understanding, but the legislators objected to it.

Instead, the legislators of Vermont are willing to take market-price power from HQ, support HQ profits, and support HQ jobs while letting Vermont people hit the unemployment lines.  These are Vermont people whose company offered a better deal for Vermont than HQ did.  The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) is a much better deal for Vermont than the HQ contract. The MOU is public, it includes revenue sharing, it's transparent, it's cheaper power, if only because of transmission costs at the same ISO price.  End of story. It's a better deal for Vermont.

This answer is getting really long!  Sorry.  One more point.  About big and small hydro.  My point in the blog wasn't that big hydro was evil and small hydro was good.  My point was that people in Vermont were willing to lay down and allow HQ to print their boots all over us, even getting our legislature to vote special names for HQ's power.  Oh, we are so eager to please HQ!  After all, they gave us a worse deal than Entergy was giving, so of course we are grateful. (sarcasm alert.) 

By the way, I notice that you don't mention nuclear as part of carbon-light energy mix.  An oversight, perhaps?  Your comments are well-researched and thoughtful, and I hope they are not simply justification for Vermont accepting a lousy power contract--- because--- at least it isn't nuclear?

December 31, 2010    View Comment    

On Radioactivity and Shale Gas: Some Like It Hot?

Terrific post!  I was in a debate a few days ago with the local VPIRG (Vermont PIRG)  energy person.  He said that we didn't need Vermont Yankee: "It's an old plant leaking tritium."  He was pleased to explain that abundant shale gas will be available and keep electricity prices low.  I wish I had known some of these numbers before debating him.

December 5, 2010    View Comment    

On Will Entergy Get an Offer On Vermont Yankee? Three Myths Dispelled

Thank you John.  The opponents have done an amazingly effective job of running up legal costs.  For example, opening a new docket on "shutting the plant down early because of the tritium leak."  Setting up an oversight panel, two of whom were dedicated foes of the plant (Gundersen and Bradford) with an almost completely open checkbook to charge $300 an hour for their investigations...costs paid by Entergy as part of the costs of asking for renewal of the license.

These things are not hidden from potential buyers.  The executive who let that slip was not giving away any new information, in my opinion!

VPIRG wrote a report on Repowering Vermont "after Vermont Yankee."  They suggested another 50 MW of biomass (trees) which is actually do-able.  Not more than that, but 50 MW could be installed in Vermont without creaming all of our forests.  However, I don't see VPIRG down in Pownal arguing for the 30 MW biomass plant planned for that area!  No, they are happy to fight every form of power production.  

People think Santa Claus brings electricity. It's beyond NIMBYism in my opinion.  It is a fundamental misunderstanding of energy.

November 29, 2010    View Comment    

On Without Vermont Yankee, ISO NE Predicts Possible Transmission Line Melting

Willem and Ed

Thank you for the comments.  Yes, stretching and slumping is what happens, not melting into a puddle of metal. Still, the fact is that the line would fail through overheating.  Perhaps I should have put "overheats and fails" into the title.  I think I am just as bad at writing headlines as anyone else!

However, Willem, I must disagree with your assertion that "VY being off line merely means a different routing."  The ISO report shows that the lines for that "different routing" are close to capacity already, and putting VY power on to them on a heavy power day would lead to overheating and slumping.  To prevent this, ISO would almost certainly bring in diesels close to the load centers.  This is expensive and polluting, but it is faster than upgrading lines (in general).

November 12, 2010    View Comment    

On Without Vermont Yankee, ISO NE Predicts Possible Transmission Line Melting


I am also sure that no lines will melt...because the ISO will make sure they don't melt.  In Connecticut, the ISO faced a similar situation and they brought in a  number of diesel generators.  Connecticut lines did not melt, but Connecticut has the second-highest electricity rates in the nation, partially because of this situation.  (The highest rates are in Hawaii.) When you say that VY could be replaced with  lots of "small-scale internal combustion engine-generator sets"  you are correct.  Diesels have been done before. Nothing wrong with them except imported oil, pollution and expense. And carbon footprint, of course. 

It's nice to talk about wind turbines and photovoltaics, and indeed, I am all for their use. However, they are not "dispatchable".  So they always have to have backup. Those diesels, as I said before.  Also, you hold high hopes for demand side management.  If you go to the ISO-NE web site, you will see that they implement demand-side management as fast as they can, throughout the grid.  It is not possible to demand-side manage in a way that replaces 620 MW baseload, half the generation needed for the state of Vermont.  That is my opinion, and I understand yours will differ. 

I am always surprised at the fact that those adamantly opposed to nuclear power are often so blase about fossil fuels.  "Yes to gas turbines and diesels! Bring em on!!"   I don't want to assume I know what you think about about global warming, but your note does not seem to take it seriously. 

"The lines haven't melted and VY is off line." This is true, but not totally relevant.   The ISO sets its reliability standard according to days of the highest electrical use.  Right now (pleasant fall days, around 40 degrees) is one of the "shoulder" seasons for electricity, when electricity demand is low.  These shoulder seasons, spring and fall, are the traditional times when large power plants go off-line for refueling, because the lines are not stressed at that time.  I encourage you to review the daily demand charts at the ISO NE site (or even in some of my previous posts).  Yes, VY is off-line and the lines didn't melt.  It's autumn.

Thank you for your comment.  I disagree with your conclusions, but I appreciate the thought you put into your response.



November 10, 2010    View Comment    

On Without Vermont Yankee, ISO NE Predicts Possible Transmission Line Melting

That's a very good question.  It does seem counter-intuitive.

Several big transmission lines originate at Vermont Yankee, and those lines are well-equipped to take the power from the plant.  However, if the plant isn't operating, the end-users have to get power from other plants, power carried by OTHER transmission lines.  As I see it, ISO believes those other lines are close to their carrying capacity and adding significantly more power to them could cause melting.  

I believe that ISO would do what it did in Connecticut, bring in diesels and so forth, before it would let the lines melt.  But at least, ISO is saying what might happen and what they will have to take steps to avoid.  The previous announcements that "Vermont Yankee cannot drop out of the forward power auction" were just confusing.  

November 9, 2010    View Comment