Entergy Vermont Yankee has reached an agreement with the state of New Hampshire over the company's request to reduce the emergency planning zone, or EPZ, around the closed nuclear power plant in Vernon.
Entergy says the 10-mile EPZ should be eliminated after April 2016 as the plant undergoes decommissioning and the risk of a nuclear emergency is reduced.
The state of Vermont is fighting Entergy's request
Under terms of the deal, New Hampshire will receive annual payments between July 2016 and June 2020, while agreeing to support VY's request to reduce emergency planning after April 2016.
Entergy is waiting for a decision from the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board which would allow it to reduce the EPZ to the plant property.
At stake are millions of dollars in training and safety support VY has given towns in Vermont, New Hampshire and Massachusetts.
Entergy Vermont Yankee Government Affairs Manager Joseph Lynch announced the deal with New Hampshire at a meeting of the Vermont Nuclear Decommissioning Citizen Advisory Panel meeting in Brattleboro Thursday.
"Recently we worked collaboratively with the state of New Hampshire and we worked out an agreement," Lynch said. "And this covers both the emergency planning and the Department of Health costs for the state of New Hampshire. The total cost over the four years on a declining scale is $279,000."
During the four year agreement the New Hampshire towns of Winchester, Hinsdale, Chesterfield, Richmond, Swanzey and Keene will receive support for offsite emergency planning.
In a letter written to Vermont Yankee Site Vice President Christopher Wamser, New Hampshire Homeland Security Director Perry Plummer said the state was satisfied with VY's contention that the EPZ should be reduced.
"After careful review, (New Hampshire Department of Safety, Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management) feels the 'Permanently Defueled Emergency Plans,' and revised emergency action levels are appropriate for the substantially reduced radiological risk and consequences of any potential emergencies in (Vermont Yankee nuclear power station's) permanently shut down and defueled condition," Plummer wrote.
Lynch said Entergy VY was also negotiating a deal with the state of Massachusetts.
At the meeting Thursday Public Service Commissioner Chris Recchia said Vermont has been holding private talks with Entergy over possible payments the state would receive if the EPZ is shrunk.
But Recchia said the company has reduced its offer each time the Nuclear Regulatory Commission ruled in the company's favor.
According to Recchia, both New Hampshire and Massachusetts receive EPZ support for other nuclear power plants the two states have: Seabrook in New Hampshire and Pilgrim in Massachusetts.
The pending deal between Vermont and Entergy is much more important to the state of Vermont, Recchia said.
"New Hampshire has Seabrook. They don't need anything from Entergy in order to maintain their emergency management. Massachusetts the same, they have ongoing emergency management capabilities and they don't need a substantial contribution from Entergy," Recchia said. "This is our only nuclear power plant. And so we do need something meaningful and substantial."
While Recchia said the negotiations with Entergy were being held behind closed doors he did reveal some details.
Entergy has given the state about $4.5 million over the past few years for emergency planning, he said, and Vermont is now asking for less than $1 million to maintain health and safety planning while the spent fuel is in the spent fuel pool.
And he said the deal with New Hampshire should not influence Vermont's negotiations.
"The New Hamsphire settlement was a way of trying to put a stick in our eye in Vermont," Recchia said. "We did not get where we needed to be and we were not asking for a lot."
Recchia said the state might have to come up with its own money to support adequate emergency planning if a deal can't be reached with Entergy.