Anti-Nuclear Climate Inaction: Vermont

Guest articles from Meredith Angwin. You can follow her on twitter at @yes_VY.

Air Pollution and Vermont Yankee – NOVEMBER 11, 2012

My name is Meredith Joan Angwin and I live in Wilder Vermont.  I am here to speak in favor of granting Vermont Yankee Certificate of Public Good for continued operation.  I am the Director of the Energy Education Project of the Ethan Allen Institute, I blog at Yes Vermont Yankee.

I am a physical chemist by training. I worked at improving pollution control methods and corrosion resistance of nuclear, gas, geothermal and coal plants. I was a project manager at the Electric Power Research Institute. I also consulted with many utilities, in the U. S. and abroad.

I am here today as a citizen of Vermont who wants Vermont to remain the clean, green and attractive state that it is today. Nuclear power has the least environmental impact of all baseload types of electricity.  Specifically, it creates no air pollution. Nuclear power creates no nitrogen oxides.

Intermittent renewables like solar and wind must have be backed up by baseload power and dispatchable power.  What kind of backup power will Vermont choose? Hydro, nuclear or fossil?

New hydro plants and new nuclear plants are unlikely to come on-line in this region. Our practical choices are Vermont Yankee, new fossil plants, or buying power from outside Vermont. I will discuss the environmental issues of natural gas versus Vermont Yankee, because I have technical expertise in this area.

Fossil power means air pollution. Natural gas plants are the best in terms of emissions, but they emit acid gases to the air: carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxides.  I will talk about nitrogen oxides, an acid gas that contributes to acid rain and smog.  I have patents in the control of nitrogen oxides.

Controlling nitrogen oxides is difficult. At the high temperatures in gas turbines, the air actually burns itself. That is, the nitrogen in the air combines with oxygen in the air and makes nitrogen oxides (NOX). NOX is only partially controlled by ammonia addition at the end of the process. Sometimes the ammonia itself becomes a pollutant.

NOX is a very acid gas, contributing to acid rain. NOX is also the main cause of smog, which can happen on any sunny day. You don’t have to be in Los Angeles to get smog.  All you  need is NOX and sunshine.

Nuclear plants do not release NOX. They keep our air clean. For clean Vermont air, we need to make our baseload power with Vermont Yankee, not fossil fuels.



Where Vermont Power Will Come From After Vermont Yankee – NOVEMBER 18, 2013

Rainfall in U S during ice storm Does not include rainfall Jan 4 and 5

On Sunday, the Valley News published my op-ed Yankee’s Closing Will Hurt Vermont. 

I always enjoy having an op-ed in the my local Sunday paper.  I hope you read it. It’s about the probable effects on Vermont when Vermont Yankee closes.

Factors Affecting Vermont Electricity 

As I wrote in the op-ed:

Vermont Yankee’s closing will affect everyone in Vermont. It will make our electricity more expensive, more fossil-fuel based and less reliable.

I explained the factors that will affect our power supply and pricing after Vermont Yankee closes.  Specifically:

  • The plant will not be replaced by renewables.  Wind turbine construction in Vermont is practically at a standstill, for example.
  • Our power will come from outside Vermont, and be subject to various sorts of interruption, including too few natural gas supply lines, ice storms, and HydroQuebec needing to use its electricity in Quebec during a cold snap.
  • The electricity price will follow the grid price of natural gas.  According to FERC, the New England price of natural gas is set to rise substantially (from $6.60 MMBTU to $11.75 MMBTU).  In the rest of the country, the price of natural gas is set to remain stable.
  • Grid payments of $75 million to oil-burning plants (the ISO-NE Winter Reliability Program) will be rolled into our electricity costs.
What About the People at Vermont Yankee?

Realtor map of my area Map shows town boundaries Dartmouth is in Hanover My home is in Hartford

Several people asked me why I didn’t mention the people at Vermont Yankee, the effect of the plant closing on the local economy, the effect on the state economy, the effect on the state taxes?

There’s a simple reason.  I live about sixty miles north of the plant, and I think people in this area don’t care very much about southern Vermont.  People here generally commute across the bridge to New Hampshire, where they work at Dartmouth College, Dartmouth Medical Center, and many high-tech industries spawned by Dartmouth (for example, HyperTherm).
People here care where their electricity comes from. They care about reliability and about environmental impact.  They care somewhat about their electric bills.  My own feeling is people here don’t care that much about what happens to Brattleboro or Vernon. They are insulated from many aspects of the Vermont economy through their jobs in New Hampshire.
Therefore, for my local paper, I wrote about things that affect all of Vermont: where our electricity comes from, how reliable it is, how fossil fuels will be used to produce our electricity, and how expensive electricity may become.
The Op-Ed
For an op-ed, Yankee’s Closing Will Hurt Vermont was  very data-dense! Sometimes I wondered–where was the “opinion” part?  Why did I write it this way?
Still, it was fun to write, and I plan to reprint it on this blog in a week or so.
However, I always like to have people access the op-ed at the newspaper for a few days before I begin putting it on my own blog.  I hope you enjoy the article.


These articles were originally posted at Yes Vermont Yankee.

Further reading on the impacts to society of VY’s early closure.