NorthStar’s ability to decommission Vt. Yankee questioned

  • The containment building and the turbine building of the now decommissioned Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Plant in Vernon, VT, January 25, 2017. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

Rutland Herald
Thursday, January 11, 2018

BRATTLEBORO, Vt. — Confidential talks are underway between NorthStar Group Services Inc., Entergy Nuclear, the administration of Vermont Gov. Phil Scott and environmental groups over NorthStar’s proposed new financial assurances regarding the proposed purchase of the closed Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant.

The Scott administration has repeatedly raised questions about NorthStar’s financial ability to decommission Vermont Yankee and manage its radioactive spent nuclear fuel, which will be stored at the reactor site in Vernon for the foreseeable future.

Stephanie Hoffman, an attorney with the state Department of Public Service, sent a letter last Friday to the Public Utility Commission, giving notice of the negotiations.

Hoffman, who was in Boston doing legal depositions for the upcoming evidentiary hearings on the proposed sale of Vermont Yankee, couldn’t be reached for comment for this article.

Those evidentiary hearings are scheduled to start Jan. 22 in Montpelier, before the two members of the PUC hearing the case.

The commission is holding a rescheduled public information session and public hearing on the proposed sale Thursday at Brattleboro Union High School.

Both Michael Twomey, an Entergy vice president, and Montpelier lawyer Anthony Iarrapino, a spokesman for NorthStar, declined to comment on the development.

Sandra Levin, senior attorney with the Conservation Law Foundation, also declined to comment on the negotiations.

“Conservation Law Foundation agreed to keep any conversations confidential and I’m respecting that,” Levine said.

Hoffman’s letter said the Department of Public Service, the Agency of Natural Resources and the attorney general’s office were making a formal notification that they would meet with Entergy and NorthStar this week “to review the terms of an amended financial assurance proposal that joint petitioners have developed responding to concerns raised by parties in this docket.”

Various state agencies have repeatedly raised questions about the sale to NorthStar, a New York City industrial demolition company that has never decommissioned a commercial nuclear reactor.

The state has also opposed key components of NorthStar’s proposed plan, including the “rubblization” or demolition of many of the buildings at the Vernon site, and using the concrete debris as fill, rather than shipping the debris away or importing “clean” fill.

The Agency of Natural Resources has been seeking a residential clean-up standard for the Vernon site, while Entergy and NorthStar believe a lower or “industrial” standard is more suitable.

The state and its experts have raised questions about NorthStar’s financial ability to handle the large project, as well as the long-term financial commitment of paying for the storage of the spent fuel.

“The parties are not now in a position to seek action from the commission,” Hoffman, the state’s lead attorney on the sale case, wrote in the letter to the PUC.