NRC and state officials facing off over Vermont Yankee decommissioning

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Vermont Yankee Nuclear

During a June 25th meeting of the Nuclear Decommissioning Citizens Advisory Panel, a stream of comments were made by officials from the State of Vermont expressing frustration and impatience with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and its decommissioning process.

Nuclear power plants each establish a decommissioning trust fund which is used to pay for decommissioning work after the plant is closed down.

The decommissioning of the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant is estimated to cost over $1.2 billion in 2014.  In March, Entergy, the company who owns the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant, submitted documentation to the NRC that showed the decommissioning funds in the trust were only $664.56 million.

Entergy has elected to decommission the Vermont Yankee plant through the SAFSTOR process, which allows the utility to wait up to 60 years to complete decommissioning activities.

The NRC recently approved two exemptions from Entergy which allowed the company to use money from the decommissioning trust fund to pay for spent fuel management costs and provide a waiver which did not require them to adhere to the NRC’s 30-day notice requirement for non-decommissioning expenses.

Commissioner of the Department of Public Service Christopher Recchia expressed problems with the NRC itself and its regulations surrounding decommissioning activities and specifically the trust fund expenditures.

Recchia says that the State of Vermont has found “blatant inconsistency” between what federal regulations allow licensees to take out of decommissioning funds and what the NRC is allowing them to take out.

The State of Vermont believes that the current regulations governing decommissioning trust fund do not allow funds to be withdrawn to pay taxes or spent fuel management fees, despite the exemptions granted by the NRC.

Recchia summarized his concerns when he said “I’m becoming less and less patient with the NRC’s approach to these things.”

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