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No decision from state yet about Vermont Yankee

  • The containment building and the turbine building of the now decommissioned Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Plant in Vernon, Vt. FILE PHOTO



Recorder Staff
Tuesday, October 30, 2018

MONTPELIER, Vt. — The pending sale of the shuttered Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant to NorthStar Decommissioning Holdings is waiting for the other shoe to drop from the state following federal “OK” of its license transfer earlier this month. But Vermont’s Public Utilities Commission says that approval won’t be coming as soon as parties in the transaction want.

The PUC “will seek to issue a decision resolving this case in a timely manner,” it said in a procedural order Friday, “but cannot commit to issue a decision in this matter by Oct. 31.”

Entergy Nuclear, which together with NorthStar had requested expedited approval so it can stay on its schedule to sell the plant by year’s end, was also notified by the PUC that it can’t commit to a ruling within 30 days of notification of the Oct. 12 NRC decision to allow a license transfer.

Sale of the 46-year-old plant, which shut down in December 2014, requires the PUC’s approval of a Certificate of Public Good. NorthStar has said it plans to begin decommissioning the Vernon plant site by 2021, and possibly as early as next year, and have it completed by 2030 — decades ahead of what Entergy had proposed.

 The Conservation Law Foundation filed Monday that it still objects to the sale, despite an agreement last March on provisions signed by the companies and other environmental parties along with state, regional and local officials.

 CLF said in its filing that the NRC decision incorporated “additional financial and structural assurances – including establishment of a $30 million escrow account to cover radiological decommissioning and site restoration.

But while those stipulations addressing “some, but not all, of the shortcomings” it had identified in the sale, CLF attorney Sandra Levine said the proposal still “provides inadequate financial assurances.”  

At the time of the NRC transfer approval, Levine issued a statement cautioning, “ Vermonters are the losers in a recent agreement aimed to sweeten the deal for the sale of the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant,” Levine said. “In a rush to secure a possible – and by no means certain – quick cleanup of the site, the settlement excludes reasonable protection for Vermont communities. The deal Entergy and NorthStar proposed leaves Vermonters vulnerable to picking up the tab if something goes wrong."

Among remaining concerns are releasing Entergy from responsibility after the sale as well as insufficient protection in case of bankruptcy, and failure to provide insurance to cover “unexpected pollution” and failure to demonstrate there is enough money to cover decommissioning and site restoration costs.

Citing these as well as a lack of transparency and oversight, and the lack of enforceability of March multiparty agreement, CLF called on the PUC to either deny the certificate or call for additional financial assurances.

Spokesmen for both Entergy nor NorthStar declined to comment.