Vt. Yankee petition to eliminate 10-mile emergency zone moves forward
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is moving ahead with an application by Vermont Yankee nuclear plant’s owners to eliminate the 10-mile emergency planning zone after it ceases operation at the end of the year.
Entergy Nuclear Operations, which filed in April for a license amendment to eliminate the zone subject to permanent shutdown of the Vernon, Vt., reactor and transfer all spent fuel out of the reactor vessel.
The zone includes seven Franklin County towns — Northfield, Bernardston, Gill, Greenfield, Leyden, Colrain and Warwick — along with 11 in southern Vermont and New Hampshire.
Last week, Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s Office of Nuclear Safety and Incident Response Chief Joseph Anderson called on the Federal Emergency Management Agency to review by the end of the month Entergy’s proposed elimination of two emergency response positions that serve as liaisons with state and local officials. Their responsibilities, based on Entergy’s assurances and NRC’s initial review, would be assumed by other staff, and emergency management officials in the three states have indicated would have a minor effect on their plans and procedures.
According to Vermont Yankee spokesman Michael Cohn, there are 26 emergency response positions that are planned for elimination by 2016 as part of an overall elimination of about 600 plant jobs.
“ENO has performed an analysis which shows that, within 15.4 months after shutdown, the spent fuel stored in the spent fuel pool will have decayed to the extent that the requested exemptions may be implemented at VY without any additional compensatory actions,” Entergy Site Vice President Christopher J. Wamser wrote to NRC earlier this year, seeking approval by Dec. 1, 2015.
If the request is approved, the EPZ would be eliminated two years from now, on April 15, 2016.
By then, according to Entergy’s analysis, enough of the spent fuel will have been removed from the spent fuel pool that it will have cooled down to the point that danger of a radioactive release will no longer require an emergency planning zone to be in place, according to NRC Neil Sheehan.
Under Entergy’s proposed license amendment, the company would be allowed to shrink its obligations to within the plant fence line by April 2016, and offsite emergency support would be limited to local police, fire and EMTs, company representatives said at a briefing last month to emergency officials.
The plant’s last day of operations is scheduled for Dec. 29, according to Cohn.
The next emergency drill at the plant exercise involving Massachusetts communities isn’t planned until next May 13, Cohn said.