NRC says Vt. Yankee investing properly in decommissioning fund

Rutland Herald
Last modified: 2/8/2016 3:41:49 PM
VERNON, Vt. — The Nuclear Regulatory Commission said last week that Entergy Nuclear is following all NRC requirements for the investment of the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant’s decommissioning trust fund.

NRC spokesman Neil Sheehan said the Vermont Yankee fund, currently around $600 million, is producing a 2 percent rate of return, the minimum required by the NRC.

“They are in compliance with the formula,” he said Thursday.

The trust fund is invested in the Mellon Bank, said Entergy Nuclear spokesman Martin Cohn. He said the recent average rate of return on the trust fund has been 6.5 percent. Cohn said Thursday that Entergy would be releasing a report next week that sums up the status of the trust fund after 2015, and he said information about the 2015 rate of return would be released at that point.

“I’m not saying 2015 will be 6.5 percent,” Cohn said. He added that the trust fund is being held in a blind trust by Mellon Bank, and Entergy has no control or input on how the fund is invested.

Sheehan said NRC requires that nuclear power plants, which all have decommissioning trust funds, have a “real rate” of 2 percent growth.

“They have to show they are in compliance with the formula,” he said.

Sheehan said that nationally, investment returns and account contributions grew by approximately 15 percent from the end of 2012 to the end of 2014. He said that decommissioning trust fund balances grew by approximately 7.2 percent each year.

Vermont Yankee’s trust fund had been reduced by about $85 million in 2015, largely because of withdrawals from the fund because of the start of decommissioning.

Entergy estimated in November 2014 that it would cost $1.2 billion to tear down and clean up the contamination at the Vernon plant site, and it plans to put the plant into cold storage until the trust fund reaches that number. Current estimates say decommissioning could take as long as 50 years, with another 10 years for the actual cleanup.

The Shumlin administration has been locking horns with Entergy over withdrawals from the decommissioning trust fund, and is contesting Entergy’s use of the fund to cover some expenses, such as property taxes and legal bills. The more money that is taken out of the fund, the state argues, the longer it will take to decommission.

Sheehan said Entergy and other nuclear power plants that are in decommissioning must file annual reports on the status of their funds. That
annual deadline is at the end of March.


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