Vt. Yankee completes radioactive fuel removal

  • Moving the final fuel assemblies at the Vermont Yankee site. contributed photo

Staff Writer
Published: 8/2/2018 10:36:41 PM

VERNON, Vt. — Vermont Yankee completed moving its highly radioactive fuel from the spent fuel pool in the reactor building of the shuttered plant, its owner, Entergy Corp., announced Thursday.

The milestone toward eventual decommissioning of the plant — and toward a planned sale to Northstar Services Group — was completed ahead of its year’s-end schedule and on budget, the company said.

The plant site’s spent fuel storage facility uses 58 dry storage casks to store all the spent nuclear fuel used during Vermont Yankee’s 42 years of operation. Now that all fuel has been transferred to dry storage within the Independent Spent Fuel Storage Installation (ISFSI), Entergy will be implementing other planned changes that will result in savings on security, personnel, and maintenance that would have been funded from Vermont Yankee’s nuclear decommissioning trust fund.

Holtec International performed the project including manufacturing the cask system, constructing the storage facility and transfer of spent fuel assemblies into dry casks.

The transfer supports the proposed sale of Entergy Nuclear Vermont Yankee to subsidiaries of NorthStar Group Services Inc. for decommissioning and site restoration. The sale is planned for completion by the end of this year, pending approval by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the Vermont Public Utility Commission.

Without the sale, the secured waste could remain idle for 60 years under the NRC’s “SAFSTOR” designation, while NorthStar has said it plans to have the plant demolished, with cleanup completed by 2026.

The Decommissioning Citizens Advisory Panel heard in June from a U.S. Department of Energy official and aides to Vermont’s congressional delegation about federal efforts to re-examine an interim storage facility as well as a permanent repository — both of which would take years to develop, even if they are approved by Congress.

Entergy this week announced its subsidiaries, the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station in Plymouth, as well as Palisades Power Plant in Michigan, after their shutdowns and reactor defuelings, will go to a Holtec International subsidiary for accelerated decommissioning.

The sales include the transfer of the licenses, spent fuel, and Nuclear Decommissioning Trusts (NDTs), as well as the site of the decommissioned Big Rock Point Nuclear Power Plant near Charlevoix, Mich., where only the ISFSI remains. The transactions are subject to conditions to closing, including NRC approvals of license transfers. Assuming timely approvals, Holtec expects to initiate prompt decommissioning of Pilgrim in 2020, with the expectation that all major decommissioning work will be completed in approximately eight years.

The 620-megawatt boiling water reactor, which began commercial operation in 1972 as a 540-megawatt plant, was purchased by Entergy in 2002 and permanently shut down at the end of 2014.

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