The Vermont State Nuclear Advisory Panel met in Brattleboro Wednesday to discuss how Vermont Yankee is likely to be dismantled. The plant’s owner, Entergy, plans to shut the nuclear reactor down in December 2014.
The panel, known as VSNAP, advises the governor and state agencies on nuclear power issues. But the details of Entergy’s decommissioning plans are not yet known.
William Irwin, the state’s radiological health chief, described the decommissioning process outlined in Nuclear Regulatory Commission documents. He also referred to the experiences of other decommissioned plants. But Irwin said the Vernon plant is different from those examples.
“So that’s why I say we are to some degree in a new era,” Irwin said. “It’s why the agencies of the state are trying to work together to understand all of these issues and to remain ahead of them.”
Irwin says the Nuclear Regulatory Commission gives plant operators a choice. With a process called decontamination a site can be cleaned up in a decade.
The method known as SAFSTOR can take much longer, while a plant waits for its decommissioning fund to increase in value.
During that time radioactive fuel can be stored in approved casks, or it could be kept in the plant’s spent fuel pool for up to fifty years.
Entergy plans to pursue SAFSTOR, but hasn’t said how long it plans to leave the plant in storage.
VSNAP’s chairman is Chris Recchia, the Commissioner of the Vermont Department of Public Service.
“In general,” Recchia says, “We’re on record as saying we think the plant should be decommissioned and restored to a useful site as early as -- as safely but as early as possible. “
VSNAP members are working on advice for state regulators on the issue.