State Challenges NRC In Federal Court Over Yankee Decommissioning Funds

Aug 14, 2015

The state of Vermont has gone to court to fight a decision by the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission that could affect the decommissioning of the now-closed Vermont Yankee nuclear plant. 

The NRC ruled recently that Vermont Yankee can dip into its decommissioning fund and use some of the money to handle spent nuclear fuel.

On Thursday, the state challenged the NRC in the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington. Public Service Commissioner Christopher Recchia —whose department represents ratepayers —said that NRC rules are clear that decommissioning funds can only be used for decommissioning.

“It’s got to be used for, I think the NRC terms are, ‘activities that reduce the radiological exposure at the site.’ So yes, decommissioning,” Recchia said.

The NRC in June granted Yankee an exemption and allowed it to spent about $225 million of the roughly $660 million fund for spent nuclear fuel. Recchia is concerned that diverting some of the money from the decommissioning fund could slow the timetable for dismantling the plant.

The state was joined in its legal challenge by two utilities that collected the decommissioning fund from ratepayers. Recchia said Green Mountain Power and the Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Corp. have a clear stake in how the decommissioning money is spent.

“They are the ones that have an interest in this fund. And we obviously want to support the ratepayers but they have a more direct claim to it. So we thought it would be useful, and they agreed, to join the suit,” he said.