Skip to main content

Vermont Yankee Nuggets and Blogroll Update

It’s been awhile since we added anybody to our blogroll. Today we have the pleasure of adding Nuclear Fissionary who Idaho Samizdat introduced several weeks back. Jack Gamble, main contributor at Nuclear Fissionary, has done an informative job of refreshing our memories on costs, capacity factors, Chernobyl and so on.

As well as Jack’s good work, this week has been a great week for pro-nuclear bloggers out there. As many who read here know, the debate about the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant is raging on. Atomic Insights knocked out some very useful information about how much total tritium leaked at VY as well as exposed the misinformation from Vermont Senate Pro Tem Peter Shumlin on Vermont Yankee.

Apparently many people in the Vermont state legislature believe solar provides 30 percent of Germany’s electricity; an achievement that gives hope for renewable advocates. Well, Rod and Meredith from Yes Vermont Yankee squashed that false info (solar provides less than one percent) as well as corrected the Pro Tem’s facts on cobalt from VY.

It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out. This error from the Pro Tem has made some press which hopefully will get state legislators thinking a bit more realistically about replacing VY if it’s shut down.

Besides trying to keep up with all the pro-nuclear bloggers’ great content, we’ve made a few calculations on our own about VY such as carbon dioxide implications if the plant shuts down.

VY’s Impact on the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative

For those who may not know, ten states in the Northeast (Vermont included) have come together to begin reducing CO2 emissions using cap and trade. By 2014, their goal is to have stabilized their emissions and by 2018, hope to have emissions 10% less than the 2009 emissions they budgeted for themselves.

When digging into this, the closure of Vermont Yankee, 620 MW, looks like will have little impact on Vermont with regards to meeting RGGI limits. What’s interesting, though, is that it looks like the state of Vermont planned ahead that VY could be closed and budgeted enough allowances that a gas plant plus a small amount of renewables will be able to meet the lost supply. What’s even more interesting, is that the percent difference between what was emitted over the past three years versus budgeted is the greatest for Vermont (highlighted below). The following table contains data from the RGGI website showing the ten state’s three-year average of CO2 emissions (2006-2008) as well as their final budgeted allowances.

CO2 Data for RGGI States (short tons)

image

Since Vermont only buys 55% of VY’s generation, the state needs to find about 2.7 million MWh per year for replacement power (see calculations below). If a gas plant replaces this power, then it is estimated to emit about 1.3 million short tons per year (almost half a short ton of CO2 is emitted per MWh generated by gas).

To meet RGGI targets by 2018, which is to reduce CO2 emissions by 10% from the 2009 budget (pdf), Vermont will have 1.1 million short tons for allowances by 2018. Thus, conveniently, a gas plant and a little bit of renewables should allow Vermont to satisfy its RGGI requirements. It’s almost like the people involved in the RGGI deal-making for Vermont knew that VY can’t be replaced without fossil-fuels, a fact that all of us in the nuclear community are well aware of.

<Aside> Interestingly enough, the ten states set up the allowance program such that they’re actually allowing themselves to be able to increase emissions by a total of 4 percent by 2018 compared to the average they’ve emitted over the past three years (see table above). Though, since 2000, the ten states have reduced CO2 emissions by 18 percent due to more gas and nuclear instead of coal and oil in New York.</Aside>

CO2 Emissions Increase

A few more nuggets: assuming Vermont receives its replacement power for Vermont Yankee from its US NERC electric region mix, the estimated increase in CO2 emissions for the state would be about 1.1 million metric tons per year, equivalent to adding about 218,000 passenger cars to the road. And that’s for replacing only 55 percent of the plant’s electricity, see below.

Calculations

According to Vermont’s 2005 electric plan (p. 4-6, pdf), Vermont utilities “have a 55% contract-based share of the plant’s power output.” In 2008, VY generated 4.9 billion kWh; 55 percent of the generation is 2.7 bkWh.

The NEPOOL mix comprises of six states that are in ISO New England (CT, ME, MA, NH, RI, VT). These states also comprise of the NERC region called Northeast Power Coordinating Council New England. According to EPA’s 2005 CO2 emissions data (latest available), the NPCCNE has an annual CO2 emission rate of 928 pounds/MWh.

If we multiply 2.7 bkWh times 928 pounds/MWh and convert to metric tons (divide by 2,205 pounds), we find that the CO2 emissions increase for Vermont would be 1.1 million metric tons per year. The metric tons of CO2 released per passenger car according to EPA is 5.19 per year - 1.1 million metric tons divided by 5.19 metric tons equals 218,000 passenger cars.

If you’re not yet tired of reading these calculations, just remember that if you use these for CO2, some in this post are in metric tons and some are in short tons. We at NEI use metric tons for CO2 because EIA and EPA use it as well. RGGI doesn’t, however, so keep that in mind just in case a nuclear critic gets real picky.

Hope you find this useful!

Comments

Jack Gamble said…
Thanks for the plug David. Hopefully we'll live up to your expectations.

Popular posts from this blog

How Nanomaterials Can Make Nuclear Reactors Safer and More Efficient

The following is a guest post from Matt Wald, senior communications advisor at NEI. Follow Matt on Twitter at @MattLWald.

From the batteries in our cell phones to the clothes on our backs, "nanomaterials" that are designed molecule by molecule are working their way into our economy and our lives. Now there’s some promising work on new materials for nuclear reactors.

Reactors are a tough environment. The sub atomic particles that sustain the chain reaction, neutrons, are great for splitting additional uranium atoms, but not all of them hit a uranium atom; some of them end up in various metal components of the reactor. The metal is usually a crystalline structure, meaning it is as orderly as a ladder or a sheet of graph paper, but the neutrons rearrange the atoms, leaving some infinitesimal voids in the structure and some areas of extra density. The components literally grow, getting longer and thicker. The phenomenon is well understood and designers compensate for it with a …

Missing the Point about Pennsylvania’s Nuclear Plants

A group that includes oil and gas companies in Pennsylvania released a study on Monday that argues that twenty years ago, planners underestimated the value of nuclear plants in the electricity market. According to the group, that means the state should now let the plants close.

Huh?

The question confronting the state now isn’t what the companies that owned the reactors at the time of de-regulation got or didn’t get. It’s not a question of whether they were profitable in the '80s, '90s and '00s. It’s about now. Business works by looking at the present and making projections about the future.

Is losing the nuclear plants what’s best for the state going forward?

Pennsylvania needs clean air. It needs jobs. And it needs protection against over-reliance on a single fuel source.


What the reactors need is recognition of all the value they provide. The electricity market is depressed, and if electricity is treated as a simple commodity, with no regard for its benefit to clean air o…

Why Nuclear Plant Closures Are a Crisis for Small Town USA

Nuclear plants occupy an unusual spot in the towns where they operate: integral but so much in the background that they may seem almost invisible. But when they close, it can be like the earth shifting underfoot.

Lohud.com, the Gannett newspaper that covers the Lower Hudson Valley in New York, took a look around at the experience of towns where reactors have closed, because the Indian Point reactors in Buchanan are scheduled to be shut down under an agreement with Gov. Mario Cuomo.


From sea to shining sea, it was dismal. It wasn’t just the plant employees who were hurt. The losses of hundreds of jobs, tens of millions of dollars in payrolls and millions in property taxes depressed whole towns and surrounding areas. For example:

Vernon, Vermont, home to Vermont Yankee for more than 40 years, had to cut its municipal budget in half. The town closed its police department and let the county take over; the youth sports teams lost their volunteer coaches, and Vernon Elementary School lost th…