Expert: VY nuke plant closing won't hurt grid

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BRATTLEBORO -- In its lawsuit against the state of Vermont, Entergy claims if the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant was closed, it could lower the reliability of the New England grid.

Vice president at North-American Electric Reliability Corporation Economic Consulting, Edward D. Kee, wrote that if the plant were closed in March 2012 that blackouts could occur.

Robert deR. Stein, co-founder of Signal Hill Consulting Group, wrote in his testimony for the state that Kee's statements are, "an inappropriate use of the results done by the New England Independent System Operator."

"While the studies did identify reliability standard violations under certain of the sever circumstances assumed in the studies, Mr. Kee does not take into account that the ISO has identified long-term transmission system upgrades (needed whether VY retires or not) and short-term upgrades that the ISO has determined will allow its to meet reliability standards should VY retire in March 2012," he wrote.

Last month, Entergy filed a lawsuit against the state claiming its attempt to forbid continued operation of the plant past March 21, 2012, infringes on the federal jurisdiction of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

In 2002, when Entergy purchased the plant, it signed a memorandum of understanding with Vermont that included a number of conditions Entergy had to agree to prior to the sale. Entergy is arguing that two of those conditions -- that the PSB has jurisdiction under current law to grant or deny approval of the plant's continued operation and that Entergy waive any claim it might have to federal preemption of any actions taken by the board -- are no longer valid due to two actions that occurred since the memorandum of understanding was signed.

The first, that the Legislature passed Act 160 in 2006, giving itself the authority to forbid the PSB from issuing a certificate of public good; and the second, that the Legislature's discussion whether to give permission to the PSB to issue the CPG was based on an area of review that is under the sole jurisdiction of the NRC -- safety of the plant.

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Stein, who has been working as an independent energy consultant assisting New England clients to reliably interconnect new generation of the transmission system, wrote that the evidence Kee used is an unlikely combination of high loads and equipment outages to identify possible operational problems that have "a low probability of occurrence."

It's true that in electric system operation, there is no such thing as too much, and that the electric system will be less reliable without Yankee until a solution is implemented, Stein wrote.

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"However, if that were the correct standard for measuring reliability, there would be no limit to the number of transmission lines and generators needed," he wrote. "Instead, the applicable standard is whether the system is in compliance with applicable reliability criteria."

In its planning studies, ISO uses the highest electric load that has a 10 percent probability of occurring for one hour during the summer.

New England's 2010 summer peak was 27,677 megawatts while the 2013 peak for the study was estimated at 30,840 megawatts, 11 percent higher, Stein wrote.

Kee stated that there are potential reliability issues including, "thermal overloads on high-voltage transmission lines and voltage instability, either of which could damage equipment, compromise grid stability or cause uncontrolled outages."

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Stein argues that ISO has plenty of options to deal with the potential loss of Yankee including five transmission upgrades that would be required by 2020.

They include two miles of new 115kV line construction, 11 miles of 115kV transmission, which also requires reconductoring and upgrades at three substations, he wrote.

"The upgrades at one of the substations are the quick-fixes identified in the operational study and, in my opinion, will be in service by June 2012," Stein wrote.

Mike Burns, spokesman for Entergy, declined to comment.

"Our response will be in our filing," Burns said.

Josh Stilts can be reached at, or 802-254-2311 ext. 273.


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