Despite concerns raised by the state of Vermont, federal regulators have allowed the owners of the Vermont Yankee nuclear power station to use money set aside for decommissioning the plant to also manage spent radioactive fuel at the site.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission says the decommissioning fund maintained by the Entergy Corporation has enough money to pay for dismantling the plant in 60 years – and to manage the nuclear fuel. NRC spokesman Neil Sheehan says Entergy still believes it can do the decommissioning in a shorter time frame.
"We're looking at it in terms of that (60 year) longer period, but even with that, Entergy is saying with this expected growth that they think that they'll be able to accomplish both: use money for spent fuel management and start on the decommissioning work much sooner than the 60 year horizon,” he says.
Sheehan says Entergy wants to use about $225 million out of the approximately $660 million decommissioning fund to handle the spent fuel.
The state of Vermont has questioned the company's plans.
Chris Recchia, commissioner of the Department of Public Service, says electricity customers helped pay for the decommissioning fund
“And (they) and have an interest in that fund at the end of the day,” he says. “So if there's money left over it's supposed to be split between Entergy and the ratepayers and we want to make sure the expenditures are related to radiological decommissioning, first and foremost."
Recchia says it's possible that using the money for spent fuel storage will delay the decommissioning timetable.
"Potentially,” he says. “But it's not clear. It's not clear at this time.”
The state wants Entergy to dismantle the plant within a 30 to 40 year timeframe. Entergy, like other nuclear plant operators, has sued the Department of Energy to recover the money it's spending to store spent nuclear fuel. The companies argue that the federal government has failed to deliver on its promise to build a long term repository for nuclear waste.