MONTPELIER, Vt. — Vermont officials have told the Nuclear Regulatory Commission that the state had a legal right to a public hearing on the proposed sale of the shuttered Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant to a New York demolition company.
NRC officials would not commit to holding a public hearing in Vermont, however, saying the issue of a second decommissioning hearing was under review by the NRC’s general counsel.
NorthStar Group Services told NRC officials it hoped to dismantle and clean up the Vernon reactor 37 years earlier than Entergy Nuclear had planned, and for hundreds of millions of dollars cheaper. NorthStar has never decommissioned a nuclear facility as large as Vermont Yankee, although its partners have.
Scott Slate, NorthStar’s chief executive, said most of its decommissioning experience was with fossil fuel plants.
The proposed sale to NorthStar needs federal and state approvals, and NorthStar officials said they hoped to have the go-ahead from the NRC by the end of this year, and from Vermont in the first quarter of 2018.
The issue of a public hearing in Vermont was a sensitive one, as Vermont officials pushed back against the NRC’s lack of commitment. The proposed sale to NorthStar has already triggered a new post-shutdown study, which in turn requires a local NRC hearing, said Kate O’Connor, chairwoman of the Vermont Nuclear Decommissioning Citizens Advisory Panel.
O’Connor, who is also vice chairwoman of the Brattleboro Selectboard, was joined by Christopher Campany, executive director of the Windham Regional Commission in requesting the federal hearing, which would give local and state officials a voice in the proposed sale.
O’Connor said the new updated post-shutdown report included a requirement of another hearing.
The first hour of the hearing, held Tuesday morning at NRC headquarters in Bethesda, Md., was devoted to a preliminary exchange of information between Entergy, NorthStar and NRC staff members. This past October, NorthStar announced the sale and new timetable for dismantling and cleaning up Vermont Yankee.
Entergy and NorthStar have not filed a formal request to transfer Vermont Yankee’s license with the NRC. It filed a formal request for Vermont state approval last month.
Tim Judson, executive director of Nuclear Information and Resource Service, an anti-nuclear group in Washington, peppered NRC officials with a long list of questions that NRC and NorthStar acknowledged were “good.”
Judson asked about timing of the spent nuclear fuel transfer, since NorthStar wants to do it two years faster than Entergy said it could do it.
He asked about the “financial top-off” that Entergy Nuclear is going to make to the decommissioning trust fund.
Judson said that sale of Vermont Yankee to North Star was “fundamentally different” from any other proposal that had ever come before the NRC. He said while the Zion nuclear plant in Illinois had been sold to a decommissioning firm during its demolition and cleanup, the ownership would be returned to its original owner.
NorthStar does not have the financial resources that Entergy has, Judson said.
“Thanks for the detailed questions,” one NRC official told Judson.
“That’s a lot of good questions,” said Slate, the NorthStar executive, who maintained that many of the issues had been addressed earlier in the day.
The Vermont Nuclear Decommissioning Citizens Advisory Panel will meet tonight beginning at 6 p.m. in Brattleboro Middle School, and NRC officials will give an update on the proposed sale.