Hi 14° | Lo -10°

Planners focus on nuke shutdown

Job losses a key issue

The Vermont Yankee nuclear plant in Vernon, Vt., has officially shut down. Decommissioning and cleanup is expected to take up to 60 years.
Paul Franz/Birds Eye Views photo

The Vermont Yankee nuclear plant in Vernon, Vt., has officially shut down. Decommissioning and cleanup is expected to take up to 60 years. Paul Franz/Birds Eye Views photo

CORRECTION: The wrong estimate for how long a core of about 250 of the nuclear plant’s 650 workers would remain on the job given a scenario of decommissioning in a timely fashion. Plant owner Entergy has estimated that following the two-year period after the planned December 2014 shutdown, those workers would be kept on the payroll for five years.

There were few surprises Thursday as Chris Campany of the Windham Regional Commission told Franklin Regional Planning Board members that the loss of 650 Vermont Yankee jobs “is going to be a hit” for the tri-state region — especially since the average salary for those workers is $100,000.

But 114 of those workers are Franklin County residents who will lose their jobs after the Entergy Corp.’s Vernon, Vt., reactor shuts down at the end of 2014, board members were told at a joint session with the Greater Franklin County Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy Commitee representing a 29-town region.

When those high-paid workers — including 37 in Greenfield and 25 between Northfield and Bernardston — lose their jobs depends on whether the 41-year-old plant’s owner decides to proceed relatively quickly with decommissioning the plant or wait for as long as 60 years under a “SAFSTOR” approach to essentially wait until its current $598 million decommissioning fund grows to the $980 million to $1.06 billion the company estimates it needs to return the 148-acre riverside property to “green field” status.

In any case, company officials, who say they prefer the more long-term SAFSTOR option, have promised there will be little activity at the plant, except for handling spent fuel for six to 10 years after Vermont Yankee shuts down in 2014. Entergy has two years after the 620-megawatt reactor stops generating power to study how much it will actually cost to decommission the plant and to choose its course of action for going about it.

But Campany, whose 27-town Vermont planning commission has been focused primarily on what happens after the reactor shuts down and how there can ultimately be orderly redevelopment of the site, said a SAFSTOR decision means that after a brief period “to button down the plant,” only about 50 people would be left on the worker rolls, and a larger force would only be called back decades down the line when the plant’s owners feel they are prepared to decontaminate the site.

By comparison, the kind of prompt decontamination of the site that took place at the Yankee Atomic site in Rowe nearly two decades ago would keep about 250 workers at the Vermont reactor for a period of nine to 12 months, Campany said. That’s the approach the Windham commission favors, and one that Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin has been trying to negotiate with Entergy officials.

Campny said his commission’s recommendation to the Vermont Public Service Board is that it will incorporate conditions calling for a faster shutdown when that board grants its Certificate of Public Good for the plant to continue operating.

Although the number of Vermont Yankee employees is more than 600, with a payroll of $65.7 million, Campny said, the number of jobs estimated to be lost is closer to 1,000 in the region, including contractors, retailers and other economic spinoffs.

“This is going to be a hit, and of course not just in Vermont,” he said, adding that the effect on local taxes, on charitable giving, and on the ancillary human capital represented by those people and their spouses is hard to measure.

He added, “To some extent, this is the last chapter of Yankee Rowe, because it’s my understanding that a number of employees from Rowe went to work at (Vermont) Yankee.”

Massachusetts Employment Security’s Rapid Response Team has already begun reaching out to their counterparts in Vermont, Michael Truckey of the Greenfield Career Center said after the meeting, and Housing and Economic Development Secretary Gregory Bialecki has scheduled a meeting with Vermont officials.

Also, the Brattleboro Development Credit Corp. released a comprehensive economic development strategy on Thursday, said Campny, so that Franklin and Windham counties, possibly along with Cheshire County in New Hampshire, can apply to the federal Economic Development Administration to help the three-county region deal with the economic blow.

You can reach Richie Davis at: rdavis@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, Ext. 269

There are no comments yet. Be the first!
Post a Comment

You must be registered to comment on stories. Click here to register.