EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT’S REPORT – Steven VanSlooten, Executive Vice President
From Cradle to Grave, No One Works Nuclear Better!
Our members have been responsible for safely operating and maintaining much of our nation’s fleet of nuclear power generation facilities since they went online more than half-a-century ago.
With the so-called free market and the price of natural gas making nuclear power less profitable, three of our nuclear plants are threatened with closure. Indian Point in New York, Palisades in Michigan, and Pilgrim in Massachusetts, are scheduled to shutdown in the next several years. All are owned by Louisiana based Entergy.
A proven safety record
Our members have run and maintained these three plants for their entire lifetimes. We should be the workforce that decommissions them. No one knows them better and no one can decommission them more safely, on budget, and on time than our members. Yet, there are no guarantees that our members will be the ones doing this very important work. We will have to fight for this work.
We’ve proven our ability to decommission nuclear plants. We safely ran the Big Rock Point facility in Charlevoix, Michigan from 1962 to 1997. And we safely decommissioned it and put it to bed. We were the workforce from cradle to grave.
By so doing, we protected the public’s safety, and our members finished what they started. Then they were able to transition into other jobs at Consumers Energy, the plant’s owner, or retire, if they were eligible and chose to.
NRC’s role in decommissioning
Big Rock’s decommissioning costs totaled $390,000,000. Much of that stayed in the communities most affected. While the plant’s closing negatively impacted Charlevoix, it did not devastate the community.
Entergy has a fourth plant, Vermont Yankee, that is further along in the process of closing. Workers there are not UWUA members. We are closely monitoring the Vermont decommissioning as it may impact our members in the three plants we do represent.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission oversees the decommissioning of nuclear power plants and allows for the sale of closed nuclear facilities to a third-party decommissioning company. Such companies take ownership of a plant and are paid through a pre-established Nuclear Decommissioning Trust Fund, such as the one established for Big Rock.
There is a huge incentive for a third-party decommissioning company to do the work as cheaply (cut corners) as possible so that they can reap the maximum profit.
The public at risk
Third-party contractors do not have the detailed knowledge of the intricacies of our facilities that we do. They are not as invested in seeing that the job is done safely and correctly. And they are usually not from the surrounding area of the plants. The money they make is taken out of the communities the plants have served.
Third-party contractors could put the public at risk and there is nothing more dangerous than what can go wrong at a nuclear facility.
That’s why we have established a task force that includes the National Officers and officers from the locals representing workers at Indian Point, Palisades, and Pilgrim. This task force will begin discussions with Entergy about doing the decommissioning work at these plants as soon as possible. Our message to the company, and the public, is clear: decommissioning is risky, it’s got to be done right, and who better to do it than the men and women who have operated and maintained these plants from the time they opened.
We will do whatever it takes to protect our members’ jobs and the health of their communities. Working with our locals, community supporters, and political leaders, we will fight for this work and the safety of our communities at the local, state and federal levels.
We have the experience, the knowledge, and the drive to see that the all-important work of decommissioning our nation’s nuclear fleet is done correctly, safely, and on time. No one can afford to have the decommissioning of our nation’s nuclear fleet go wrong!