Vermont’s newly formed Nuclear Decommissioning Citizens Advisory Panel held its second meeting last month at the Vernon Elementary School.
The panel was created to encourage communication between Entergy Vermont Yankee, the state, and communities around the plant. The reactor is closing in December. It’s expected to take decades to dismantle.
Chris Recchia, the commissioner of the Public Service department, is the panel’s acting chairman. He says communication with Entergy has improved, but areas of disagreement remain.
“There are some rough spots but we’re working through them,” Recchia says. “So I think we’re doing okay.”
One area of disagreement is the need for emergency response planning. Entergy has petitioned the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for permission to significantly reduce emergency planning, internally and in towns near the plant. The NRC says the risk of serious accidents is minimal once the plant stops operating and fuel is removed from the reactor core.
Recchia says emergency planning should continue until the fuel is moved from the plant’s spent fuel pool into long-term dry cask storage. Entergy says that should happen by 2020.
“The state of Vermont has requested intervention from the NRC so that we can actively participate in that, because we don’t believe that spent fuel in the pool is as safe as the dry cask passive system," Recchia says. "And we feel like the state of Vermont needs a voice in those proceedings.”
Vermont has also joined New York State in challenging a recent NRC ruling that fuel can be safely stored indefinitely in spent fuel pools.
In a recently-released study requested by the state, Entergy estimated that decommissioning will cost $1.24 billion. The company has $640 million in its decommissioning trust fund now. Entergy has promised the state it will begin the final cleanup when the fund has grown enough through investments to cover the full cost.
The company says that could happen in the 2030’s. But T. Michael Twomey, an Entergy vice president who’s on the advisory panel, says it could take longer, depending on how fast the trust fund grows.
"If we were not allowed to change the emergency planning and we had to incur higher costs because of that, that would come out of the decommissioning trust fund," Twomey said.
Meanwhile, Vermont Yankee will be placed in secure storage or SAFSTOR. The NRC allows plants up to 60 years to complete the decommissioning process.