Shumlin Ties Yankee Permit To Cleanup
Vt. Seeks $60M From Entergy For Restoration Work at Site
Montpelier — The Shumlin administration has recommended that a quasi-judicial board grant Entergy a license to continue operating Vermont Yankee through the end of 2014, as long as the company meets three conditions.
Among the conditions proposed by the Vermont Department of Public Service is the creation a new fund to pay for site restoration.
Chris Recchia, commissioner of the department, said restoration of the Vermont Yankee site would cost $120 million. “We are recommending that a condition be established to require a separate trust fund for site restoration with an initial deposit of $60 million,” Recchia said in an interview.
Under the proposal, Entergy, the owner of the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant, would deposit $60 million into the fund within 21 days of receiving an operating license, or certificate of public good from the state.
The creation of the fund is one of three requirements the department has asked the Vermont Public Service Board to impose on Entergy should it grant a license to the company.
The Louisiana-based company originally sought a 20-year license extension from the Vermont for the aging nuclear facility. On Aug. 27, just 11 days after Entergy argued before the board that it needed two decades to operate the plant and generate sufficient monies for the decommissioning fund, the company announced it would shut down the plant next year because it is no longer financially viable.
In light of the imminent shutdown, the Shumlin administration has proposed a 14-month license extension with conditions.
The Vermont Department of Public Service said Entergy must create a separate fund for site restoration because the company does not have any money earmarked for the restoration in its decommissioning fund.
In addition, the department wants Entergy to halt hot water discharges into the Connecticut River and agree to pay an-as-yet-undetermined amount of money for the economic impact of the plant shutdown on Windham County.
The state wants Entergy to use the cooling towers at the plant to maintain temperatures in the reactor instead of discharging hot water into the Connecticut River. For years, scientists and advocates have said the discharges have elevated the temperature of the river and harmed the ecosystem.
Recchia, the commissioner of the Department of Public Service, said “We believe Entergy failed to demonstrate throughout the proceeding that there is no adverse affect on the environment.”
Recchia said his department is also concerned about the economic impact of the shutdown on the state. Entergy generates $18 million to $20 million in financial benefits for the local economy. He wants the board to require that the state and Entergy create a mechanism for “economic transition support” six months after the license is granted.
Entergy is currently required to pay a generating tax on the amount of electricity it produces from Vermont Yankee. Once the plant closes, that source of state revenue will disappear. Recchia said Entergy should be required to continue to make some kind of payment to the state to make up for the economic impact of the sudden, unplanned shutdown.
About half of the department’s submission to the board focuses on Entergy’s misstatements before the board about the plant’s underground piping system. Less than a year after Entergy officials swore under oath in 2009 that no such pipes existed, there was a leak of radioactive water from pipes located under the facility.
The department is seeking to build a case that Entergy has not been a “fair partner.” In the brief, state officials say the “evidence shows that Entergy misled the Board,” and they urge the board to consider Entergy’s misstatements in the proceeding.
The crux of the department’s arguments, however, is the idea that Entergy can’t be counted on to make good on its promise to decommission the plant once the nuclear facility is offline. In previous arguments, the company has said it must run the plant for 20 years in order to grow the decommissioning fund sufficiently.
The decommissioning fund is worth about $580 million. In 2012, Entergy completed a decommissioning cost analysis for Vermont Yankee that projects SAFSTOR could cost more than $1 billion.
The 46-page sudmission alleges that Entergy’s estimates for the growth of its decommissioning fund for Vermont Yankee are not based on “real-world conditions” and Entergy has “underestimated the future minimum amount needed for the decommissioning fund.” Entergy’s projections assume that it will recover all spent fuel costs from the Department of Energy; courts have denied millions of dollars in recovery costs, according to the submission.
The state also alleges that Entergy is using artificially low cost estimates for disposal of low-level radioactive waste from the plant.
, apparently ignoring the fact that Vermont must send the waste to a designated facility as part of a compact with Texas.
The state has no authority to impose conditions for the decommissioning process. Entergy must submit a plan for decommissioning to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the federal agency that oversees decommissioning, within two years of the plant shutdown.
Entergy’s numbers show that there will be 3,879 spent fuel assemblies on site when Vermont Yankee closes. There are 2,627 assemblies in the spent fuel pool now, 884 in dry casks and 368 in the reactor, according to Entergy numbers.