Government rejects Vt. request for continued emergency zone around Vermont Yankee

  • The state of Vermont believes that until the spent nuclear fuel, most of which is still in the Vermont Yankee’s spent fuel pool, is moved to the so-called dry cask storage, a significant danger remains. FILE PHOTO

Rutland Herald
Published: 6/28/2016 10:15:38 PM

VERNON, Vt.  — The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has ruled against the Shumlin administration’s attempt to keep emergency planning for the Vermont communities surrounding Vermont Yankee in place for the next four years.

In a decision released last week, the NRC upheld a decision by the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board, which had rejected the state of Vermont’s challenge. Last month, Entergy laid off 96 people, effectively ending the planning for a 10-mile emergency evacuation zone.

Entergy had received permission from the NRC to do so, arguing that the need for emergency planning was significantly reduced since Vermont Yankee shut down in December 2014.

In Massachusetts, where the 10-mile zone including Northfield, Bernardston, Gill, Greenfield, Leyden, Colrain and Warwick was eliminated April 19, there has been no official consideration of extending it.

Despite the NRC decision, Vermont may have the last word. Last month, Christopher Recchia, commissioner of the Department of Public Service, announced that a scaled-back version of emergency planning would remain — and that the state would bill Entergy for its costs.

The state believes that until the spent nuclear fuel, most of which is still in the Vermont Yankee’s spent fuel pool, is moved to the so-called dry cask storage, there is a significant danger. The NRC doesn’t agree.

“The state thinks that is appropriate, at least until the fuel is moved out of the spent fuel pool,” he said.

Recchia said the state wanted to continue some kind of emergency planning for the 10­mile zone surrounding Vermont Yankee until 2020, which is when Entergy estimates the new storage facility is built and the spent fuel is moved out and into the casks.

Entergy received approval last week from the Vermont Public Service Board to build a second pad to hold the large concrete and steel casks, which are expected to hold the highly radioactive fuel for the foreseeable future.

Recchia said Monday that the state recognized the danger of an accident at Vermont Yankee has been reduced significantly since the plant stopped operating, and as a result, emergency planning efforts will be reduced. Exactly how much, Recchia deferred to the state emergency planning officials. He said he didn’t know how big the staff devoted to helping the six Vermont towns surrounding Yankee would be.

New legislation gave the state permission to bill Entergy, and the legislation goes into effect this Friday.

Until last month, Entergy paid for the state’s emergency planning efforts for Vermont Yankee. Martin Cohn, Entergy spokesman, said the company was happy with the NRC decision supporting its decision to eliminate emergency planning beyond the plant’s property.

“We are pleased with the NRC’s decision, which denied the state’s appeals related to Vermont Yankee’s revised emergency plan. Entergy Vermont Yankee remains committed to the safe and efficient decommissioning of Vermont Yankee and adhering to all applicable NRC regulations.”

As for the state’s promise to bill Entergy for what it wants for emergency planning, Cohn said Entergy hadn’t received a bill yet and declined comment.

Recchia said the state had 60 days to decide whether to file an appeal on the decision. 


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