Feds commit to Vermont public meeting on Yankee sale

Vermont Yankee
Vermont Yankee’s reactor. Photo courtesy of Vermont Yankee
VERNON – Citizens will soon have a face-to-face opportunity to question the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission about the proposed sale of Vermont Yankee.

A spokesman said Tuesday that the NRC has “informally committed” to attending a future meeting of the Vermont Nuclear Decommissioning Citizens Advisory Panel to discuss the plant’s proposed license transfer to NorthStar Group Services.

The commitment came after multiple requests for NRC officials to travel to Vermont for a public meeting. A date for the meeting has not been set, but commission spokesman Neil Sheehan said it will happen after Vermont Yankee’s revised post-shutdown decommissioning activities report is submitted.

That report “is due in sometime soon – likely this month – and will further flesh out what NorthStar has in mind with respect to the Vermont Yankee decommissioning process, including timelines,” Sheehan said. “Having that report in hand should provide for a more fruitful discussion.”

Vermont Yankee owner Entergy in November announced plans to sell the shut-down Vernon plant to NorthStar, a New York-based decommissioning company.

NorthStar has promised to have most of the site – with the exception of a spent fuel storage facility – decommissioned and restored by the end of 2030. That’s decades faster than Entergy had been planning.

The change in ownership requires approval from both the Vermont Public Service Board and the NRC.

The state last month agreed to hold two public hearings in Vernon this year to take public comment on the proposed sale. The first hearing is scheduled for 7 p.m. March 14 at Vernon Elementary School, with an informational session at 6 p.m.

But until Tuesday, the NRC had not committed to such a meeting.

The commission had a sit-down in January with Entergy and NorthStar, but that happened at the NRC’s Maryland headquarters. Officials repeatedly had said a public hearing or meeting in Vermont was not a required part of the license transfer process.

That prompted action from the Vermont Nuclear Decommissioning Citizens Advisory Panel. Fifteen members sent a letter urging the NRC to hold a public meeting in Vermont.

“The public needs to be listened to, and the public needs to have the opportunity to say what we want to say,” Kate O’Connor, the advisory panel’s chairwoman, said at the time.

On Tuesday, Vermont’s congressional delegation threw its support behind the citizen panel’s request in a letter to the NRC.

U.S. Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., and U.S. Sens. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., wrote that it is “imperative that state and local stakeholders have meaningful opportunities to provide the NRC with input regarding the license transfer and decommissioning proposal.”

“While the proposed license transfer has the potential to bring significant benefits to the local community, it is nevertheless a complex transaction deserving of thorough scrutiny,” the lawmakers wrote.

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