NRC OKs Reduced Emergency Planning Zone For Vermont Yankee

Dec 10, 2015

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is going to let Vermont Yankee shut down the 10-mile emergency planning zone around the shuttered Vernon nuclear reactor.

Entergy VY wants to reduce the emergency zone to the area only within the plant's gates, even though the state opposed the change.

After Entergy shut down Vermont Yankee at the end of 2014, the company said the risk of an offsite radiological release would be greatly reduced once all of the spent fuel was in storage.

Entergy asked the NRC to give the company permission to stop funding the 10-mile emergency planning zone and the NRC on Thursday said it had approved the changes.

“NRC has taken steps that allow us to proceed with implementing our revised emergency plan," says VY spokesman Martin Cohn. "While the emergency plan will be updated to better reflect the plant’s permanent shutdown, we remain committed to protect the health and safety of the public and our employees. Vermont Yankee plans to implement the emergency preparedness plan by the schedule permitted by the NRC.”

NRC spokesman Neil Sheehan says Entergy asked for the change and had to prove that it would be able to contain a radiological release in the spent fuel pool.

"Once the reactor is shut down, you no longer have to worry about the sudden kind of event where there's a rupture of a steam line and there has to be immediate actions taken to protect the public," Sheehan says. "They had to be able to demonstrate to us that they would be able to do whatever is necessary to make sure that that pool maintains its integrity so that that pool is protected."

"Once the reactor is shut down, you no longer have to worry about the sudden kind of event where there's a rupture of a steam line and there has to be immediate actions taken to protect the public." - Neil Sheehan, NRC spokesman

Public Service Commissioner Chris Recchia says the state is still concerned with protecting public safety and the environment.

"I think in general we're going to evaluate our options," says Recchia. "We do think it's important to keep Vermonters comfortable that we are monitoring the plant and any potential off site exposure, and I think that's true through the time the fuel is in the pool."

VY reached an agreement to pay New Hampshire $279,000 over the next four years for emergency planning, but Vermont has not yet been able to come to terms with Entergy on a deal.

"We do think it's important to keep Vermonters comfortable that we are monitoring the plant and any potential off site exposure." - Public Service Commissioner Chris Recchia

Last year VY spent $4.5 million supporting emergency planning in Vermont New Hampshire  and Massachusetts.

Vermont Yankee will reduce its staff from around 300 who work there now to approximately 150 once the emergency planning zone is reduced.