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My Turn: NorthStar qualified to shut down Vermont Yankee

  • A view of Vermont Yankee from the Connecticut River. FOR THE RECORDER/PAUL FRANZ



Friday, May 19, 2017

Vermont’s regulatory system works best when it expertly and promptly considers a project’s economic benefits and environmental impacts. I have confidence the Vermont Public Service Board will act in this fine tradition in Docket 8880, NorthStar’s proposed decommissioning of Vermont Yankee.

In this spirit, I am concerned by two significant misunderstandings expressed at public meetings and in the press: that the project is underfunded, and that it has no set completion date. Both positions are incorrect, according to a January 24 report to the Nuclear Decommissioning Citizens Advisory Panel and an April 6 document submitted by NorthStar to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

As of February, 2017, the Vermont Yankee Nuclear Decommissioning Trust was valued at $572,000,000 (according to page 17 in the April 6, 2017, NorthStar Revised Post-Shutdown Decommissioning Activities Report). License termination expenses, carefully separated and budgeted into 900-plus sub-projects, are estimated at $498,450,000 (according to Table 3 in April 6,2017 PSDAR). In addition to this $73 million projected surplus, NorthStar is providing additional cost overrun risk mitigation, including:

Guaranteed fixed payment (via bonding companies)

Team performance bonds (project partner companies also have been bonded)

Team contractual commitments (partners penalized for not completing work on time and on budget)

$125 million support agreement — in essence, an insurance policy.

NorthStar’s completion timeline is explicit and detailed, and is summarized by this statement: “regulatory commitment for Partial Site Release is 12.31.2030.” The term “partial” refers to all work necessary to restore the site EXCEPT for U.S. Department of Energy pickup of the spent fuel stored on the storage pads. This final step may occur before 2030 if a nuclear fuel repository is approved by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

One must also consider NorthStar’s past and future. It has decommissioned thousands of power facilities, and has extensive experience in nuclear decommissioning. A company doesn’t become the world leader in decommissioning by failing to plan for the unforeseen. It hopes to become the national leader in commercial nuclear power plant decommissioning and clearly recognizes that the success of this long-term mission depends on how well it performs at Vermont Yankee.

The Public Service Board can do its job well and in timely fashion. It is my hope that after careful review, the Board will find that early decommissioning of the site is in the public interest and that NorthStar is more than qualified to get the job done. That will allow Windham County to move forward with an economic development project that is vital to its future prosperity and quality of life.

The author is the Communications Director for the Vermont Energy Partnership (www.vtep.org), a Montpelier-based coalition of businesses and business groups, economic development and labor organizations, and individuals committed to policies promoting clean, safe, affordable reliable energy in Vermont. Entergy — Vermont Yankee is a member of VTEP.