Vt., Entergy make plan to decommission
Process to begin in ‘2020 period’
MONTPELIER, Vt. — Vermont and representatives of the state’s closing nuclear plant said Monday they had reached a deal that will provide a path to decommissioning and resolve pending federal lawsuits over the operation of the Vernon facility.
In exchange, the state of Vermont will support efforts by plant owner Entergy Nuclear to get the required state permit to operate the 600 megawatt reactor through the end of 2014.
Under the agreement between the state and Entergy Nuclear, the owner of the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant, Entergy will determine within a year the process that will be needed and the estimated cost of dismantling the plant, which will begin 120 days after officials determine there is enough money in its decommissioning fund to pay for it.
“We can’t look into a crystal ball; anything can change, but if you take the assumptions that we all know it should allow us to decommission the plant in the 2020 period, much shorter than the 60 years that SAFSTOR suggests,” Shumlin said referring to a program that allows nuclear plants to wait as long 60 years before they are dismantled.
The agreement also ends all federal litigation between the state and Entergy, including cases that many felt could have ended up in the U.S. Supreme Court, and requires Entergy to pay an additional $25 million to help restore the plant site to a “greenfield” once it has been completely dismantled. Entergy will pay $10 million for economic development in Windham County to help counteract the loss of some of the 620 jobs at the plant and $5.2 million to support clean energy projects in the county and elsewhere.
Citizens Awareness Network Executive Director Deb Katz said in a written statement, “We appreciate the commitments negotiated by the state of Vermont for Vermonters and the tri-state community. CAN’s primary concern has been the removal of the spent fuel from the fuel pool to dry cask storage in a timely manner. The agreement on the development of a plan to accomplish this is critical. The retention of the state’s oversight authority is important as well.”
Katz said the organization also appreciates having the plant’s workforce employed in site surveying when the plant shuts down a year from now.
“We are hopeful that this agreement can set the stage for thorough and responsible decommissioning of the Vermont Yankee plant,” she said.
The state of Vermont and Entergy have been at odds for years about the continued operation of the plant, with the state wanting it closed and Entergy asserting its right to decide the plant’s future. But Entergy decided in August that continued operation of the 41-year-old nuclear plant wasn’t economically viable and they decided to close the plant at the end of 2014.
But that led to its own set of conflicts between Entergy and the state, such as how quickly Entergy would begin the decommissioning process, an issue resolved on Monday after months of negotiations.
“There are still a number of challenges ahead of us and issues that we need to resolve going forward, but the team took the approach that just because we couldn’t agree on everything, didn’t mean we shouldn’t try to agree on those things where we could find common ground,” said Mike Twomey, the vice president for external affairs for Entergy Wholesale Commodities, which operated Vermont Yankee. “It’s our hope that we can move forward with a more constructive relationship with the state of Vermont on the important issues that lie ahead.”
As part of the agreement, Entergy promised to begin a study as soon as the plant shuts down to determine by the end of 2014 what it will cost to dismantle the plant, two years sooner than required by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Once that figure is known, Entergy agreed to begin the decommissioning process 120 days after the shutdown fund, which currently contains about $600 million, is determined to have grown enough to pay for the process.
The plant must cool for several years after it is shut down before the dismantling process can begin, which will give more time for the fund to grow, Shumlin said, although there is no guarantee.
“It would lead you to believe, you certainly don’t have to wait 60 years and it’s quite possible it will be decommissioned in the 2020 time period, I don’t know if that’s 2022 or 2026, but I think those are reasonable assumptions,” Shumlin said.