Energy & Environment

Federal review finds no issues with Vermont Yankee cleanup plan

vermont Yankee

The spent fuel pool at Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant holds fuel assemblies that are awaiting a move to dry cask storage. File photo courtesy Vermont Yankee

[V]ERNON — Federal regulators have given their blessing to Vermont Yankee’s decommissioning plans.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission on Thursday announced that the Vernon plant’s post-shutdown decommissioning activities report is consistent with federal guidelines. The report includes plant owner Entergy’s decommissioning cost estimate and the company’s schedule for Vermont Yankee’s radiological cleanup.

Before making any future changes to its plans — including those that would “significantly” boost decommissioning costs — Entergy must notify the NRC in writing, officials said in a Jan. 29 letter to plant administrators.

Entergy ceased power production at Vermont Yankee in December 2014 and submitted the post-shutdown report that same month. While formal NRC approval of the document is not required, the agency performed a detailed review.

The NRC also took public comment and held a public meeting in February 2015 in Brattleboro. Federal officials say they received a large number of comments from individuals and from Vermont officials.

The federal agency’s staff considered some of the issues the public had raised, documents show. Those included the adequacy and appropriate use of the plant’s decommissioning trust fund; long-term storage of spent nuclear fuel at the plant; the status of offsite emergency plans after Vermont Yankee shut down; and Entergy’s choice of the long-term decommissioning option dubbed SAFSTOR.

Other public concerns were not considered, either because they were outside the NRC’s authority or “were not relevant to the review performed by the NRC staff,” officials wrote. Those issues included questions or comments about the specific condition of various plant components including spent fuel; thermal pollution in the Connecticut River; transportation and storage of low-level radioactive material; and the acceptability of current NRC regulations.

In the end, the NRC came to several conclusions:

  • Entergy “adequately described the activities associated with the major periods or milestones” in Vermont Yankee’s decommissioning.
  • The company’s proposed decommissioning schedule “is adequate to achieve VY license termination within 60 years of permanent cessation of operations.” That’s the maximum amount of time allowed under the federal SAFSTOR program.
  • Entergy’s estimated cost to terminate its Vermont Yankee NRC license — $817 million — was found to be “not unreasonable,” and the company gave “sufficient details associated with the funding mechanisms,” federal officials wrote. In addition to that license termination cost, Entergy also expects to spend $368 million on long-term spent fuel management and $57 million on site restoration, for a total of $1.24 billion.
  • The company’s environmental impact assessment for decommissioning meets federal requirements.

Entergy Vermont Yankee spokesman Marty Cohn said Thursday’s announcement shows that the company’s decommissioning plan is consistent with all NRC requirements.

“We are proud of the efforts all our employees have provided and will continue to provide to ensure the decommissioning of Vermont Yankee is done as safely and cost-effectively as possible,” Cohn said.

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Mike Faher

About Mike

Mike Faher reports on health care and Vermont Yankee for VTDigger. Faher has worked as a daily newspaper journalist for 19 years, most recently as lead reporter at the Brattleboro Reformer where he covered several towns and schools as well as the Vermont Legislature and Windham Superior Court. He previously worked for 13 years in his native Pennsylvania at The Johnstown Tribune-Democrat.

Email: [email protected]

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