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November 04, 2010

Entergy Makes it Official: Vermont Yankee is For Sale

VermontYankeeNPP Entergy made it official this morning: They are exploring the sale of Vermont Yankee.

In an announcement posted to Entergy's website this morning, the company said, "The sale process is being conducted on a confidential basis and no additional details will be released at this time. While no decision has been made to sell the plant, the company expects interest from multiple parties," the company noted.

Entergy bought the plant back in 2002 for $145 $180 million. A possible sale of Vermont Yankee has been rumored for weeks and became a campaign issue when Democrat Peter Shumlin, now Governor-elect Shumlin, was circumspect when asked if he could support VY's continued operation if it was sold to a new owner.

Shumlin's opposition to VY's operation beyond 2012 was a key factor to his primary win. He led the effort in April in the Vermont Senate to ensure the plant was shut down as scheduled in two years.

Continue reading "Entergy Makes it Official: Vermont Yankee is For Sale" »

October 22, 2010

New Political Ads Are All About "Choice"

McKenzie * updated *

Two days after Republican Brian Dubie dismissed women's reproductive rights as an important issue in the race for governor, the Republican Governors Association launched an ad featuring pro-choice women who support the lieutenant governor.

You can watch the RGA ad here.

The ad comes after Democrat Peter Shumlin and his allies — including  Planned Parenthood of Northern New England's Action Fund — have taken to the airwaves to assail Dubie's anti-abortion and social conservative views.

Though a recent Vermont Public Radio poll found that only 1 percent of voters ranked the issue of much importance to them when compared to the economy, the state budget and the enviornment, the issue has struck a major chord with women.

This Sunday, a pro-Shumlin, pro-choice rally will be held on Church Street in Burlington. At the same time, the Dubie campaign is having a pro-Dubie, pro-jobs rally at Battery Park.

Continue reading "New Political Ads Are All About "Choice"" »

October 21, 2010

New Leak Found at Vermont Yankee

Vy Entergy Vermont Yankee is working to plug a pinhole leak on a one-inch drain line. The leak is located in a safety-related system used to inject water into the reactor if the plant suddently shuts down.

The leak was discovered on September 24 when an operator, during normal rounds, observed a puff of steam coming off a drain line in the High-Pressure Coolant Injection (HPCI) system, said Neil Sheehan, a regional spokesman for Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

"That system would be used if the reactor had to shut down suddenly. Since high pressure levels would remain inside the reactor vessel, the HPCI system can be used to inject water inside despite those conditions," said Sheehan. "The system, and the drain line, are located inside the reactor building. As such, any leakage is captured by a sump and sent to a radioactive liquids treatment system."

Despite the location of the leak, the NRC and ENVY consider it to be of "low safety significance." Only after media inquiries did the leak become public knowledge.

"It's of low safety significance because it's a small leak on a one-inch drain line and does not affect operability of the HPCI system or, more broadly, the plant. In other words, the HPCI system could continue to perform its function despite the leak," said Sheehan.

Sheehan was unsure if the plant will have to power down in order for a repair to be made.

Continue reading "New Leak Found at Vermont Yankee" »

August 06, 2010

Filmmaker Mac Parker to Face Trial in Fundraising Scheme

MacParkerFilmmaker Malcolm "Mac" Parker has lost his bid to have a series of charges, including securities fraud, dismissed. Instead, he'll face trial in early November in Vermont Superior Court, a judge ruled this week.

Parker is under scrutiny from state regulators for allegedly failing to register investments in his film Birth of Innocence as securities. He also faces charges of failing to register as an agent to sell securities and to provide investment advice, as well as securities fraud.

In the past 10 years, Parker has raised at least $12.8 million, of which more than three and a half million was paid to a "silent partner" who has since disappeared. Another $1.2 million was spent on the film, according to court records. However, that is the amount raised and spent as of mid-February 2007, and there were reportedly more significant deposits made between then and late 2009, when the state told Parker to stop fundraising and later froze his assets.

Continue reading "Filmmaker Mac Parker to Face Trial in Fundraising Scheme" »

July 20, 2010

Report: Entergy Vermont Yankee Lacks "Questioning Attitude"

250px-Vermont_Yankee_Nuclear_Power_Plant A key legislative oversight panel is criticizing Entergy Vermont Yankee's for lacking  a "questioning attitude" that has led to a number of system failures at the aging reactor in recent years.

The Vermont Yankee Public Oversight Panel (POP) also concluded that Entergy didn't deliberately mislead a legislative panel or a state consultant when it neglected to inform them last August about underground pipes that carry radionuclides.

The three-member panel includes former Nuclear Regulatory Commission member Peter Bradford, nuclear engineer Arnie Gundersen, and retired nuclear scientist Fred Sears.

Last summer, Gundersen questioned key Entergy engineers about whether there were underground pipes that could potentially be leaking.

The response: No. Case closed.

Continue reading "Report: Entergy Vermont Yankee Lacks "Questioning Attitude"" »

June 28, 2010

Burlington Electric Weighs Contract with Hydro-Quebec

I_eastmain-1The Burlington Electric Department is considering signing a long-term power contract with Hydro-Quebec. A special meeting convenes at 4 p.m. on Tuesday seeking ratepayer input on the question.

"A deal should be resolved sometime very soon," said Daniel Shearer, chairman of the BED commission. "Anticipating that, we wanted to make sure that the public could give us feedback before we decide whether to vote yes or not on it."

BED is one of the few utilities in Vermont that did not sign a power contract with Hydro-Quebec back in the early 1990s after voters rejected the deal at the polls.

This year, Vermont lawmakers designated power from the provincial utility "renewable." Vermont is the first such state to give HQ that designation, and it could help the utility gain access to the lucrative power markets in southern New England. Prior to the designation, hydropower projects greater than 200 MW were not considered renewable, given the impact that flooding can have on the environment, and in the case of HQ, indigenous peoples' ancestral hunting and fishing grounds.

Opponents of the designation claim that granting "renewable" status to large-scale hydro projects remains misplaced, given their impacts on the environment and the lands and way of life of indigenous people.

Concern over the impact on the native Cree of northern Quebec fueled opposition to the original Hydro-Quebec contract, but the Cree have since negotiated deals that have largely benefited their tribes and allowed them to invest millions of dollars in public works projects.

Continue reading "Burlington Electric Weighs Contract with Hydro-Quebec" »

June 21, 2010

IBM-Vermont to Manufacture High-Security Chips Used in E-Passports

Images***** UPDATED BELOW with correction *****

IBM in Essex Junction will soon begin manufacturing the high-security chips embedded in a number of different electronic documents, including the "e-passports" issued by the United States and other countries around the world, according to an announcement today by the chip's designer, Infineon Technologies of Neubiberg, Germany. 

The new chips, called "highly secure integrated circuit," or "ICs," are considered "state-of the-art security technology" and have a variety of applications. They include Department of Defense ID cards, enhanced driver's licenses and Social Security cards, national ID and health cards, and  "smart" consumer credit cards, says Matt Schmidt, spokesperson for Infineon's North American headquarters. According to Schmidt, the Vermont IBM facility will be the only plant in North America to make the new high-security chip, known as the SLE-78.

In recent years, the U.S. government has made a concerted effort to find domestic supply lines for such security-sensitive products, says Schmidt. Infineon, the world's largest security-chip manufacturer, has had a long relationship with IBM and is one of only two companies in the world that supplies the e-passport chips to the U.S. government. Schmidt declined to put a dollar figure on the value of deal, but said the contract between Infineon and IBM is "open ended" and will depend on a variety of factors, including global demand for the product.

Continue reading "IBM-Vermont to Manufacture High-Security Chips Used in E-Passports" »

June 18, 2010

Welch Grills BP CEO, Asks Him to Resign

BPHearing During a Congressional hearing Thursday, U.S. Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT) bluntly asked BP CEO Tony Hayward if the embattled executive should resign.

Welch sits on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and the panel's Energy and Environment Subcomittee. The latter held a hearing on the BP oil spill where Hayward faced a barrage of questions, and criticism, about his company's role in causing, and now failing to stop, the massive oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico.

Welch noted that BP has been fined repeatedly in recent years for "willful and egregious" violations of federal safety laws. The most recent fine came last fall when the firm was fined $87 million for criminal violations of safety laws at a Texas facility that was the focus of a years-long probe after an explosion killed 15 workers. Another probe found 700 federal workplace safety violations at a Toledo, Ohio plant. The company also agreed to pay $380 million in fines for an oil pipeline leak in Alaska, and for committing fraud in energy trading.

Continue reading "Welch Grills BP CEO, Asks Him to Resign" »

June 12, 2010

What Obama Giveth, Douglas Taketh Away?

Prescription_drugs** Updated Below **

Vermont's two U.S. senators and a top aide to Pres. Barack Obama are urging Gov. Jim Douglas to back off plans to have Vermont seniors turn over nearly $600,000 in federal prescription drug rebates.

As I noted on Twitter, a story on Politico called attention to the Douglas administration's attempt to intercept the rebate checks. A story in the Times Argus on Thursday noted a similar tact by the administration, just without the national implications.

Late Friday, Heath and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, the former governor of Kansas, wrote a terse letter to Douglas urging his administration to back off its plan to pocket a total of $600,000 in federal Medicare reimbursement checks being sent to nearly 3000 Vermont seniors.

She joined Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT) who also called on Douglas to back off of his plan to make off with the seniors' rebate checks.

Why is Douglas asking seniors to hand over $250 rebate checks to the state?

Continue reading "What Obama Giveth, Douglas Taketh Away?" »

June 01, 2010

Vermont Yankee Plugs Leak, NRC Wants Answers

Vermontyankee The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has dispatched a special inspector to Vermont Yankee in the wake of yet another radioactive leak.

On Friday, a new leaking pipe was found near the same spot where Entergy Vermont Yankee found two pipes leaking thousands of gallons of radioactive water into the ground a few months ago.

In a late Saturday night press release, Entergy said the "new" leak spouted from an eighth-inch hole in a two-inch drain line.

On Sunday and Monday, Vermont Yankee engineers and maintenance personnel worked to develop a repair technique to isolate the drain line, which was discovered to be leaking during the plant's restart on Friday night. The plant had been offline for a month during a refueling outage, and during which time other leaking pipes were fixed.

Continue reading "Vermont Yankee Plugs Leak, NRC Wants Answers" »

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