December 27, 2013

Vermont Yankee could serve as model for decommissioning

Experts say the nuclear plant could help lead the way to a more transparent and inclusive process.

The Associated Press

VERNON, Vt. — The recent deal to end litigation and provide a path to decommissioning the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant could also provide a roadmap for other states.

The state of Vermont and Entergy have been at odds for years about the continued operation of the plant, with the state wanting it closed and the plant’s owner, Entergy Nuclear, asserting its right to decide the plant’s future. But Entergy decided in August that continued operation of the 41-year-old nuclear plant wasn’t economically viable and it decided to close the plant at the end of 2014.

That led to a new series of conflicts, but an agreement reached earlier this month ended all federal litigation between the state and Entergy. Under the deal, Entergy will determine within a year the process that will be needed and the estimated cost of dismantling the plant, which will begin 120 days after officials determine there is enough money in its decommissioning fund to pay for it.

The Vernon reactor is one of five nuclear power plants that recently announced plans to close before their federal licenses expire, and some experts told Vermont Public Radio that what happens with Vermont Yankee could affect other plants around the country.

Christopher Recchia is the commissioner of the Department of Public Service, which represents ratepayers in utility proceedings. He said Vermont could help lead the way to a more transparent and inclusive decommissioning process. The deal with Entergy already broke new ground by giving the state a role in areas where it may not have legal authority, such as handling spent fuel, he said.

“And hopefully it does serve as an example for other states if they have to go through this,” Recchia said. “But we have a long way to go. This is just on paper. Now we have to actually implement the spirit and the words that are there.”

At a recent forum in Brattleboro, University of Massachusetts economist John Mullin called for a national discussion on decommissioning policy. He said Vermont could be a leader in that discussion.

“I would call a national conference in Brattleboro and invite every nuke in the country to define the best practices,” he said. “And the goal of it would be to get this on the national agenda very quickly. It’s time that we get a new playbook here.”

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