Interview with Bill Mohl President, Entergy Wholesale Commodities Re: Nuclear Energy and the Future of Indian Point

William O’Shaughnessy

Interview with  

Bill Mohl

President, Entergy Wholesale Commodities 

Re: 

Nuclear Energy and the Future of Indian Point

June 12, 2013

WVOX and WVIP Worldwide

William O’Shaughnessy

This is Bill O’Shaughnessy … today we bring before you a very important topic.  We’ve talked about it endlessly on our Open Line programs over the many months.  We’re going to visit – and this is another WVOX exclusive – with the new president of Entergy Wholesale Commodities.  His name is Bill Mohl … M-O-H-L.  He’s been in the nuclear power business forever it seems.  He now is in charge not only of Indian Point but of six nuclear plants.  Three of them are located in New York State.  Mr. Mohl … welcome to WVOX.

Bill Mohl

Thanks, Bill.  It’s my pleasure to be here.

WO

I have to tell you, sir …  full disclosure.  I’m pro-nuclear.  Indian Point and your colleagues have been very good to our community radio stations.  And you come accompanied by Jim Cunningham who has been a friend of this radio station for years.  Cunningham, I’m sure you know this, ran a little entity called the entire State of New York as Governor Hugh Carey’s chief of staff when those two Irishmen literally saved New York.  I’ve got to tell you something about Cunningham … he’s your P.R. guy. No matter how much you paid him, if he doesn’t think it was alright for the general good and welfare, he wouldn’t be sitting here today.  You gotta know that about the guy.

BM

No, I sincerely believe that. And I completely agree with you.  He’s been a great ally for us and he kind of keeps me on down the straight and narrow as we address various issues associated with the business.

WO

So Bill Mohl, having said all that … will you trust me to conduct myself properly?

BM

Absolutely!

WO

Where are you with the licensing of Indian Point?  It’s about to run out.

BM

Great questions and kind of on everyone’s mind.  Here’s where we are.  We’ve got Indian Point II.  The current license was scheduled to expire in September of 2013.  However, we are able to continue to operate that plant based on a federal law that’s basically the “Timely Renewal Doctrine.”  What the timely renewal doctrine says is as long as you’ve met your filing requirements, you can continue to operate that facility past its current license expiration date under the terms of the current agreement making sure you are making all reliability and safety requirements until the NRC formally approves your license application. 

WO

Does the government of the United States look kindly on nuclear power … this administration?

BM

I think they do.  I think they understand it’s a critical part of the overall resource portfolio.  You’ve seen several of the utilities construct new nuclear units.  A southern company, SCANA is moving down the road with that and is getting some government assistance on that.   In general, I believe the US government believes that nuclear power is critical  to the overall power supply portfolio of the United States.

WO

Bill Mohl … you run six nuclear plants.  Where are the other ones beside Indian Point?

BM

We’ve got a facility located in Vermont … that’s our Vermont Yankee facility.  We’ve also got the Pilgrim facility that locates near Boston.  And we’ve got the Fitzpatrick facility which is in Oswego, New York. And we’ve got the Palisades facility which is located in Michigan.

WO

Do you have as much “dialogue” and “discussion” at the other places that you do at Indian Point?

BM

Indian Point right now is at the top of the list in terms of engagement.  You know … with the public, with the government, etc.  Obviously, you’re probably familiar with some of the challenges we’ve had at Vermont Yankee.  That’s been an area where we recently got our license renewal approved by the NRC.  We’re still in some litigation in that area in terms with the state as far as the continued operation of that facility.   But right now … by far Indian Point is at the front end of the curve.  Especially with the license renewal we’re undergoing right now.

WO

Bill Mohl of Entergy. We hear from all kind of people.  Coal.  The coal people.  They’re selling their coal.  You’re selling your nuclear power.  And the fracking thing.  What do you think about fracking?

BM

Obviously fracking in general has a huge impact on the commodity market … gas price markets … and so that has had a significant impact on our business.

WO

Natural gas? 

BM

Natural gas … that’s absolutely right.  Natural gas right now is kind of the commodity of choice in terms of power supply … because of the fact that it’s dropped so much in price because of fracking.  When you get down to the environmental impacts of fracking, it becomes more of a localized issue.  Every state has to make a determination on how they want to handle that.  But fracking has had a huge impact on the overall – not only the gas industry – but the power supply industry. 

WO

I’m a great admirer of Andrew Mark Cuomo, our governor.  Why do you think he’s so against nuclear?  His father shut down Shoreham.  Why?

BM

Well … when we really think about our objectives, we think we’re fairly aligned with the governor in terms of providing safe, reliable power,  providing clean power and providing good jobs at Indian Point.  I think where the issue comes down to is concern over safety at that facility.  We believe we operate that facility as safely as possible.  We recently got great marks from the NRC.  We are committed to the safe and reliable operation of that facility.  I think others may question that with some of the events that happened at Fukaishima.  But the fact is Indian Point is situated much differently than say the facilities at Fukaishima and has proven to be a very safe, reliable facility.  And we are committed to meeting all the safety requirements designated by the NRC.

WO

You live here now after a career in your industry, in your profession, which carried you from Louisiana … so here you are now in the Golden Apple – that’s what we call Westchester.  You even live here.

BM

Yes … absolutely.

WO

You’re sitting in the same chair Andrew once sat in, the governor.  His father before him.  Can you look us right in the eye and tell us Indian Point is safe? 

BM

I absolutely can. 

WO

You live in White Plains?

BM

I live in White Plains.  We are committed to the community.  So, while we are in business, and we have fiduciary responsibilities to shareholders, customers, our owners and our communities … we are not going to operate a facility that is not safe.  I think our track record has shown that we take that commitment very serious.  We want to be open and transparent on all the issues and we take every possible step required to ensure the safe operation of that facility.

WO

Our friends in the New York Post just had a story about a new movie out that sings the song of the nuclear industry. Did you see the movie?

BM

Actually, I did.  I had the opportunity to go to Pleasantville this week and watched Pandora’s Promise and also had the ability to listen to the debate between the producer Robert Stone and Robert Kennedy. 

WO

Bobby Kennedy … he’s in and out of here every other day.  So … who won the debate? 

BM

Here’s what I will say, Bill.  I think Robert Stone portrayed a good factual depiction with what the issues are with nuclear generation.  Obviously Bobby has got some different opinions on the potential impact of the risk associated with nuclear.  But frankly, I thought Robert Stone did a great job of providing a fact based story and he stuck to those facts. 

WO

You know, I’ve met you before this day and we’re flattered and honored that your first time before the microphone is here at WVOX  … you got some fun ahead of you … with our colleagues in the media.  Have you met our friend and colleague Phil Reisman?

BM

I have not. 

WO

You’re in for something with Reisman.  Where is this going to go from here, Bill Mohl?  You want to renew … and you want another deal to continue.

BM

Let me put it this way, Bill.  We are committed to the safe operation of that facility.  We believe we are meeting all the requirements to safely operate Indian Point.  We’re committed to working through that process.  We’re also committed to working with the State to address their concerns associated with the operation of that facility because in  the long run we believe nuclear power is critical to the nation’s energy supply.  Indian Point is really the focus of attention across the entire United States in terms of the future of existing merchant nuclear generation.

WO

Are you in better shape with the Feds than you are with the State?

BM

We believe that we meet all of the NRC requirements …

WO

Nuclear Regulatory Commission?

BM

Nuclear Regulatory Commission, yes.  Thank you.  One of my issues is I use too many acronyms so I’m glad you stopped me there. But we believe we meet all the requirements of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission will have to determine, working with the State and with us, that we meet New York State’s water requirements.  That’s just part of the process we have to go through. 

WO

Let me ask you a dumb question.  What about the nuclear waste?  Where does that go for future generations?

BM

Well at this point and time … you’re familiar with the Yucca Mountain situation …?

WO

I’ve heard something about it.  Where is it?  Tell us …

BM

Yes … it gets a little bit of press.  It’s in Nevada.  We had invested a substantial amount of money in the development of that facility.  But we know that the approval to use that facility has been stalled in Congress because there’s various concerns about the actual storing of the nuclear waste.  So right now the situation we’re in is we actually off-load spent fuel once it has – the radioactivity associated with that has been reduced by spending time in what we call a
“spent fuel pool” and it’s safe to remove – then we remove that fuel and we put it in what we call dry-cast storage.  Those are very large cylinders which actually hold the spent fuel and those are held on site.  That’s a very safe operation, a safe process that all nuclear facilities are using right now until this issue of a national fuel storage facility is resolved.

WO

So that’s going to be an issue for grandchildren or great-grandchildren? 

BM

No … because as I mentioned they ensure that the spent fuel is safe before putting it in dry-cast storage.  It’s safely stored on site.  It’s well protected.  It really does not pose any type of health risk. 

WO

Bill Mohl … you’re in charge of six nuclear facilities.  In England … or in France … Europe, there’re big on nuclear power.  Did you ever fly over the Alps … there are nuclear plants in the countryside all over the place.   The French love it.  The Germans hate it.  They’re going back to coal. 

BM

Yes … it’s really interesting to watch.  France has been very successful in implementing nuclear generation to meet their power supply needs. Germany had a substantial number of nuclear generators but after Fukaishima has decided to shut those facilities down.  The interesting part of that is now they’re moving toward – as you suggest – to coal fired generation. 

WO

What’s that …?

BM

When you think about how power is generated … it’s typically fueled by natural gas, coal, uranium and then, of course, you’ve got hydro and then you’ve got the renewables we refer to as solar and wind. But coal is clearly the dirtiest of all the generation.  So the question is – and this is actually posed in the movie Pandora’s Promise – where are you better off?  Are you better off with nuclear which is a zero emissions resource?  Or do you really want to move towards coal given the considerations we have overall to global climate change, global warming, etc.?

WO

So if you were investing now, where would you put your bucks?  Nuclear … natural gas … coal … sun?

BM

Frankly, all of the above.  There’s not a single solution of meeting the energy supplies of the United States.  Really, it’s critical that you have a balanced portfolio.  Anybody who tells you to go to one technology – solely to one technology – really doesn’t understand the power business and what the implications of that are.  So I truly believe you need all of the above and you need to keep all of those options available as you move into the future. 

WO

Bill Mohl … what about your investors?  The big money guys?  Do you think they’ll ever get tired?  You’re working awful hard on this.  Do you think they’ll ever give up?

BM

You know, Bill, I don’t think they’re going to give up because they believe in our approach.  They believe in having a balanced energy portfolio.  We play a role from that prospective in the industry.  I can tell you that obviously people wonder about what does the future hold as we move down the road with Indian Point.  I believe as they look at our safety record, as they look at how we address things as a company – our willingness to be up front and discuss the issues – they have confidence we are going to be successful. 

WO

We are having another drodsome day forecast for tomorrow.  There’s another storm coming in.  Were you a little worried when that Sandy was beating the hell out of us?

BM

I’ve got to be honest, anytime you are in the path of a storm such as that – or a hurricane.  Frankly, I’ve dealt with a number of them as I’m from Texas and in Louisiana when I ran the utilities down there.  You’re always concerned.  But I will tell you that as we went through Sandy, Indian Point weathered that storm very well.  Both those units were able to operate.  Actually, one of them tripped off because of problems on the grid – nothing associated with the facility.  And that unit came right back on line. 

WO

Bill Mohl … I liked you instantly when I met you a few weeks ago thanks to brother Cunningham.  I’m already in your corner.  But not all of our listeners are.   Tell us why Indian Point is good for our home heath … for Westchester?

BM

A couple of things, Bill.  One is it is absolutely critical to the reliable supply of power to the area.  Not only to Westchester … but to New York City.   The location of that facility is critical to meet the reliability needs. 

WO

If you didn’t have it … what would happen?

BM

Well right now, there’s not an option … they have to have it.  You would have to build new generators to replace that plant at a significant cost to customers.  There are not only reliability benefits to customers, there’s also economic benefits to customers.  And also remember as you mention Sandy, we talk about climate change … remember it’s a zero carbon emissions resource which is going to be critical to our future.

WO

As opposed to …

BM

As opposed to fossil fired generation such as coal plants and gas plants which actually do emit carbon emissions and contribute to overall global warming.

WO

So there’s no alternative to Indian Point?

BM

There is no reasonable alternative without spending a significant amount of dollars and having other related impacts both to the economy and to the cost of power and the emissions associated with power generation.

WO

In politics, the best way to head off a candidate is with another candidate.  Do your opponents, the environmentalists and the anti-nuclear people, do they have an answer to where you are going to get the money?  Where you are going to get the power?

BM

Well, they are looking at various alternatives right now.  In fact, there’s a process right now that’s under way, it’s tied to the energy highway, they are looking at reliability contingency plans in the event Indian Point would not get re-licensed.  Through that process, the State is looking at various alternatives.  But again when you look at those alternatives, they are substantially more expensive than running Indian Point.

WO

Do you have grandchildren?

BM

Yes, sir, I do.

WO

And what you’re doing is in their best interests?

BM

Absolutely!  I think we’re at a crossroads in the US in terms of energy policy.  And I think Indian Point is at the forefront of that.  We need to do everything we can to keep the continued operations of that facility and maintain nuclear as part of the nation’s energy portfolio. 

WO

Bill Mohl … thank you very much, Mr. President. We welcome you as a neighbor and as a great leader already in our community and in your profession … a national leader.

BM

Thank you very much.  I appreciate the opportunity, Bill.  I’ve enjoyed it.

 

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William O’Shaughnessy, a former president of the New York State Broadcasters Association, was chairman of Public Affairs for the National Association of Broadcasters in Washington.  He has been a point man and advocate for the broadcasters of America on First Amendment and Free Speech issues, and is presently chairman of the Guardian Fund of the Broadcasters Foundation of America.  He operates two of the last independent stations in the New York area: WVOX and WVIP.

He is the author of “AirWAVES” (1999) … “It All Comes Back to Me Now” (2001) … “More Riffs, Rants and Raves” (2004) … “VOX POPULI: The O’Shaughnessy Files” was released in January, 2011.  He is currently working on his fifth book for Fordham University Press, an anthology which will include this interview with Bill Mohl.

Contact:

Cindy Gallagher
Whitney Media
914-235-3279 … cindy@wvox.com

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