Beyond the Nuclear Horizon
Our Energized Future
Our deeply held values of independence, responsibility, ingenuity and conservation will propel us beyond the polluted legacy of our region's crumbling nuclear plants. This exciting moment provides us with the unique opportunity to transform our energy economy to one based on local, efficient and renewable solutions. This transition won't be easy and will take time, but by starting now we can bring about a brighter, healthier, more prosperous future by 2020.
Imagine... homes, businesses, and public buildings outfitted with renewable technologies such as wind, solar, geothermal, and biomass... efficiency efforts dramatically reducing our electricity usage and saving us money... decisions being made locally using our creativity and skills. This will be our energy future.
What Will Our Energy Future Look Like?
Renewable Energy Creates Jobs For Vermont
The closure of Vermont Yankee could stimulate the creation of good-paying, stable jobs in Vermont-more jobs, in fact, than the plant currently provides. Given the impact that plant closures, out-sourcing production, and federal trade policies have had on employment in manufacturing, that may seem like a fantasy. Nuclear power companies often argue that closing their plants will create unemployment and hurt the economy because we are so used to the loss of jobs to overseas manufacturers.
The business of generating electricity is different than the business of making the stereos, computers and appliances that run off of it. When Vermont Yankee shuts down, we are going to have to replace it with other sources of electricity and/or efficiency measures. Both renewable energy and energy conservation are good sources of jobs- better sources than nuclear power.
According to a report by the Renewable Energy Policy Project, widely cited for its thoroughness and objectivity: solar power creates 35.5 jobs/year for each megawatt (MW) of electricity-generating capacity; and wind power creates 4.8 jobs/year for each MW. Entergy claims it employs approximately one person per mw to run the plant, or about 600 workers. If one considers only jobs in installing and maintaining solar and wind generators-jobs that are most likely be local-they still look better than continuing to pour our electricity dollars into the nuclear plant: 7.9 jobs/year per mw for solar, and 1.6 jobs/year per MW for wind. Biomass power plants (run on fuel made from crops or organic waste products) create 1.4 jobs/year per MW, providing the opportunity to help Vermont farmers and create jobs.
Also, unlike any other industry, a shut-down nuclear reactor has to employ a large number of people for many years to dismantle and decontaminate the plant. To fund this process, Vermont Yankee has been building up a trust fund through charges to ratepayers since 1972. The decommissioning plan Entergy adopts will determine just how many people continue to be employed at Vermont Yankee and for how long.
As a utility in Sacramento, California demonstrated after it shut down the Rancho Seco Nuclear Plant in 1989, a thorough, safe and effective decommissioning plan (called SAFSTOR) can maintain more than 60% of pre-shutdown jobs for 20-30 years. Retaining the knowledge and experience of the existing workforce is important in decommissioning. Given the deep job cuts that Entergy has already made at Vermont Yankee-reducing the staff to alarmingly low levels-it is possible that an even higher proportion of Vermont Yankee's current workforce could be maintained to do an effective cleanup. If SAFSTOR were implemented, most of the 600 jobs at Vermont Yankee could be preserved for up to thirty years.
Vermont could see a net increase in employment if Vermont Yankee is phased out in 2012 through renewable energy sources such as solar, biomass, and wind. Conservatively, if we replace the amount of electricity the nuclear plant supplies to Vermont (about 200 MW) with new, renewable energy sources, we could create over 700 new jobs. If the state were to adopt an aggressive plan to increase the state's reliance on renewable energy sources for electricity, according to a plan created by VPIRG, over 900 Vermont jobs could be created. If Vermont were to attract some of the manufacturing industries necessary to produce the equipment for solar and wind power generators, these numbers could increase even further.
Both of these plans would result in up to twice as many well-paying, skilled jobs as Entergy now employs, for years into the future. New Hampshire and Massachusetts also rely on electricity Vermont Yankee generates. If they replaced that energy through renewable sources as well, nearly1,500 new jobs could be created in the region in installation, operation, and maintenance alone. When considered with the other environmental and economic advantages to reinvesting our energy dollars in renewables, the potential to create so many more good jobs means that it is not a question of whether we can afford to shut down Vermont Yankee in 2012, it is a question of whether we can afford not to.
Estimated Job Creation Figures for Renewables
35.5 jobs/year/MW; 7.9 jobs/year/MW installation, maintenance and service Wind:
4.8 jobs/year/MW; 1.6 jobs/year/MW installation, maintenance and service Biomass:
1.4 jobs/year/MW biofuel cultivation and production
VPIRG "Decade of Change"
Strategy One - (55% Renewables) Wind - 450 MW :
2160 new jobs, 720 new local jobs Biofue - 153 MW:
214 new local jobs Total:
934 new local jobs
VPIRG "Decade of Change"
Strategy Two - (200 mw) Solar - 10 MW :
355 new jobs, 79 new local jobs Wind - 320 MW:
1536 new jobs, 512 new local jobs Biofuel - 100 MW:
140 new local jobs Total:
731 new local jobs
600 Decommissioning workforce:
60% of pre-shutdown level, 360 jobs
Net Job Impact
Vermont Yankee Replacement:
Total new local jobs plus decom workforce equals 1091 local jobs
Net increase/decrease equals +491 jobs or +82%
Decade of Change
Total new local jobs plus decom workforce equals 1294 local jobs
Net increase/decrease equals +694 jobs or +116%
"The Work that Goes Into Renewable Energy," Renewable Energy Policy Project, 2001.
"A Decade of Change: A Vision for Vermont's Renewable Energy Future," Vermont Public Interest Research and Education Fund, 2006.
"Energizing the Future: The Benefits of Renewable Energy for New York State," New York State Office of the Comptroller, 2005.