Entergy won’t use decommission fund for plant sale

  • The Turbine building and the containment building, top, of the now decommissioned Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Plant in Vernon, VT, January 25, 2017. At left are emergency generator, rust colored building, and dry cask storage. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

Rutland Herald
Friday, February 10, 2017

VERNON, Vt. — Entergy Nuclear said Thursday it would not ask the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to use the Vermont Yankee decommissioning trust fund to finance the sale of the Vernon reactor to NorthStar Group Services.

Joseph R. Lynch, Entergy’s senior government affairs manager for decommissioning, said the company had an interval review process for seeking reimbursements from the trust fund, currently at about $561 million, and expenses associated with the sale did not make the cut.

“Entergy has not sought and will not be seeking NDT reimbursement for costs related to the NorthStar transaction,” Lynch said.

“We have a process we go through to evaluate any legitimate costs,” Lynch said. “Our lawyers and our financial people said this one is not an expense we can take from the trust, and it will be financed in other means.”

Since Vermont Yankee shut down in December 2014, Entergy has drawn $125 million from the decommissioning trust, which is made up of contributions from Vermont Yankee’s original ratepayers.

Entergy, since it purchased the plant in 2002, never contributed to the decommissioning trust fund.

Lynch gave a report to the state decommissioning panel last month that showed, in addition to the expenses, there was $37 million in growth from fund investments.

Lynch said he didn’t know what the costs associated with the sale would be.

“I have no idea,” he said. “We’re right in the middle of the process and there’s not any way to estimate it. We are just starting the CPG process, and we’re beginning the NRC process.”

Entergy hopes to file a joint application with NorthStar with the NRC seeking to transfer the license from Entergy to NorthStar.

“It had to go through a very extensive review process, it’s a joint application,” he said.

As of 5 p.m. Thursday, Lynch said, the license application had not been sent to the NRC.

“I’m sure they’re anticipating it,” he said.

Lynch said that the actual cost of the sale, which will involve both a case before the state Public Service Board and the NRC is not known.

“We aren’t even half-way through the process,” he said.

State Sen. Mark MacDonald, a Senate-appointed member of the Vermont Nuclear Decommissioning Citizens Advisory Panel, raised the issue Thursday and said that Entergy should not be allowed to “raid the fund.”

MacDonald is a longtime critic of the plant.

Kate O’Connor, of Brattleboro, the chairwoman of the Vermont Nuclear Decommissioning Citizens Advisory Panel, said the state and the public deserved to know how the fund was being spent.

“The public would like to know what the trust fund is used for,” she said. “The state of Vermont fought for this last year, but the NRC prevailed, so full disclosure of expenditures is not required. Entergy does have an incentive to spend the money judiciously because of the requirement that there be a certain amount in the fund at closing or the sale to NorthStar won’t happen.”

Lynch said a condition of the proposed sale to NorthStar, which will then undertake the demolition and cleanup of Vermont Yankee in exchange for the decommissioning trust fund, requires Entergy to “top off” the decommissioning trust fund once the sale is approved, if the fund falls below $513.5 million, according to briefing in December by a NorthStar executive.

NorthStar is paying a symbolic $1,000 to Entergy for Vermont Yankee.