One of two Vermont Yankee cooling towers down

  • The removal of the east cooling tower was ahead of what NorthStar Nuclear Decommissioning Co. LLC, the new owner of Vermont Yankee, had originally planned. STAFF FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 7/17/2019 9:55:15 PM

VERNON, Vt. — One of Vermont Yankee’s cooling towers has been demolished, bringing the nuclear power plant one step closer to being decommissioned.

The removal of the east cooling tower was ahead of what NorthStar Nuclear Decommissioning Co. LLC, which owns the property, had originally planned. The company had said it would begin demolition in early 2020.

NorthStar’s CEO Scott State, who is also the chief nuclear officer on the Vermont Yankee decommissioning project, said the removal of the first tower was safe and successful.

“Our crews are hard at work clearing debris from the demolition and preparing it for shipment to an appropriate waste disposal site in Ohio,” State said. “The team is also preparing to repeat the demolition process on the second cooling tower in the next couple weeks, putting this project task ahead of schedule.”

State said based on how work is going so far, the company is confident it will complete decommissioning work before the target date of 2030.

Neil Sheehan, spokesman for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), which is overseeing the project, said the cooling towers at Vermont Yankee are not the kind typically associated with nuclear power plants — very tall, parabolic-shaped towers. Instead, he said, they are mechanical draft towers.

“They were only used when the temperature levels in the Connecticut River reached a specific warming point,” Sheehan said.

Sheehan said one of NRC’s inspectors was at the plant in mid-May and again in mid-June. He said the inspector is scheduled to return at the end of this month.

“Any observations or findings would be documented in our next inspection report,” he said.

Meanwhile, NorthStar is making steady progress on the segmentation of the reactor vessel housed in the reactor building, State said.

“This task is a major next step down our critical path over the coming 18 months,” he said.

NorthStar has hired Orano, a French company, to cut up the reactor’s internals, and that should take about 18 months, the company estimates.

Sheehan said since NorthStar took over, it has been doing things safely and in accordance with NRC regulations.

The NorthStar decommissioning team includes: Orano; Waste Control Specialists for waste management, packaging, transport and disposal; and Burns & McDonnell for engineering and regulatory support.

Vermont Yankee shut down at the end of 2014, and the NRC has overseen the shutdown and decommissioning. Sheehan said a half-billion dollar trust fund, which NRC also oversees, will be used for all of the work that needs to be done.

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