Entergy, NorthStar push for speedy review from NRC

  • The containment building and the turbine building of the now decommissioned Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Plant in Vernon, VT, January 25, 2017. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

Rutland Herald
Sunday, February 19, 2017

VERNON, Vt. — Entergy Nuclear and NorthStar Group Services Inc., have told federal regulators they needed a prompt decision on their plan to transfer ownership of the shuttered Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant by the end of 2017.

“The transfer is desirable and of considerable benefit to the citizens of Vermont,” the two companies said in their 200-page filing.

But the Nuclear Regulatory Commission on Tuesday said it could not commit to making the decision that quickly. Such license transfers usually take longer than 10 months, the NRC had said previously.

“This is a first-of-its-kind proposal and the NRC staff will likely have many questions as it performs its review. The timeliness and thoroughness of the companies’ responses will be one factor with respect to the length of our evaluation process,” said NRC spokesman Neil Sheehan on Tuesday.

Entergy and NorthStar filed for its formal license transfer application with the NRC on Friday, roughly two months after it filed for a Vermont certificate of public good concerning the sale.

NorthStar, along with its three partners, says it can demolish and clean up the Vernon reactor decades ahead of Entergy’s original decommissioning schedule.

While Entergy had estimated it would take upwards of 60 years and $1.24 billion to return the former Vernon dairy farm to a “green field,” NorthStar says it can do it for about half that amount and complete it by 2030, instead of 2075.

Neil Sheehan, a spokesman for the NRC, said the NorthStar project was unique in the history of nuclear power plants in that a demolition company would purchase a shut-down nuclear plant, demolish it and clean it up and also handle the plant’s radioactive spent nuclear fuel.

“This will be the first time a company is seeking to purchase a permanently shutdown U.S. nuclear power plant, carry out the decommissioning work and serve as caretaker for the spent fuel — which will have been transferred to dry-cask storage — until the Department of Energy is eventually able to remove all of it,” Sheehan wrote in an email.

In its filing, Entergy and NorthStar said they would file an amended post-shutdown decommissioning activities report, or PSDAR. That document is expected to contain an update on what it would cost to demolish and clean up the almost 50-year-old reactor.

Sheehan said that the post-shutdown report had not been filed along with the license transfer request. He said NRC would review it “in parallel” with the license transfer.

“We just received the license-transfer application late last week, and the NRC staff’s first order of business will be to perform an acceptance review. That is, the staff will need to determine if the application contains sufficient information and of sufficient quality to allow them to embark on a formal review,” he said.

Such an initial assessment can typically be accomplished in a relatively short timeframe, he said.

Neither spokesmen from Entergy or NorthStar could be reached for comment.