Welcome to the nuclear industry’s past and present. Case Study: Vermont Yankee. The reactor is leaking radioactive tritium from underground pipes that operator, Louisiana-based Entergy, testified under oath didn’t exist. They do. What’s more the leaks and cover-up come on the heels of a cooling tower collapse in 2007. The state legislatures have also been concerned with Entergy’s ability to properly retire the plant, if it keeps running past its current license. It could cost upwards to $1 billion to decommissioning the plant.
As a result the Vermont Senate voted on Wednesday to block a license extension for the 38-year-old reactor. A vote of no future.
Unfortunately, Vermont Yankee is not the only zombie reactor in the US fleet that is incontinent. According to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, 16 other nuclear power plants currently have radioactive leaks. It is also not the only one that faces financial questions about its ability to decommission end-of-life reactors. A 2009 Biennial Decommissioning Funding Assurance Analysis notes that at least 26 nuclear reactors had projected decommissioning fund shortfalls.
So, what about the future of nuclear power? Despite the Obama Administration’s financial pledge to building new reactors, many hurdles still remain. Nuclear power is a relentless addict. Just one more tax credit, just one more bump to the taxpayer backed loan guarantee, just one more regulatory tweak to allow more radioactive releases, just one more law that removes accountability for the waste produced, just one more extension on the insurance that limits liability in the event of an accident….it is never enough.
And at the end of the day, there is an old leaking reactor and not enough money or adequate disposal to properly put it to rest. Welcome to the future of nuclear power.
Allison Fisher is the Energy Organizer at Public Citizen