VTEP Blog

NorthStar budget is sound

Posted by: Vermont Energy Partnership Staff    Posted date:  May 7, 2018

As Guy Page points out in his recent op-ed (Guy Page: While most see opportunity, CLF sees only problems with VY sale, May 2), Conservation Law Foundation’s opposition to NorthStar’s proposed purchase of Vermont Yankee may claim to be based on fiscal caution, but a look at the numbers should leave very little concern for the plan’s reliability.

The Vermont Yankee Trust Fund for site decommissioning of the site is valued at $571 million now and continues to grow. NorthStar’s highly detailed budget, which is broken down into 900 individual sub-projects, is $498 million. Hundreds of millions of dollars of added financing and insurance are further protection against any cost overruns.

Yes, decommissioning is expensive with some element of uncertainty, but we should consider the long-term benefits as well. An accelerated decommissioning means Vernon will have access to a restored greenfield site in as soon as 10 years, with the potential to redevelop as another industry center. A large-scale employer, good jobs and high tax revenue are likely to follow.

If visionary projects were decided by unsubstantiated fear, many of the United States’ greatest accomplishments would never have been completed. Let’s not, in the false guise of fiscal prudence, force Vernon to remain the host-town to a defunct nuclear plant and miss a promising future.

Representative Michael Hebert

Windham 1 Guilford/Vernon

Governor Scott issues statement of support for Vermont Yankee sale

Posted by: Vermont Energy Partnership Staff    Posted date:  April 19, 2018

Prior to the Vermont Public Utility Commission (PUC) final meeting on Thursday, April 18, Governor Phil Scott released the following statement in support of the sale of Vermont Yankee to NorthStar:

In early March, my Administration signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) supporting the sale of the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant facility in Vernon from Entergy to NorthStar. If this MOU is approved by the Public Utility Commission, NorthStar will take over Entergy’s obligation to decommission and restore the Vermont Yankee site.

“I commend the parties in the case who worked to find common ground on how to move forward sooner than expected with cleaning up and restoring the site by 2030, if not earlier. With a financial assurance package worth more than $250 million, the MOU reduces project risks and protects against cost overruns while ensuring that NorthStar has sufficient funds to complete the job.

“Further, the new financial assurances that NorthStar and Entergy have agreed to in the MOU will supplement the nuclear decommissioning trust fund that Vermont ratepayers have paid into over many years. This means there will be more financial resources to complete the cleanup and decommissioning work than previously expected.

“The MOU also ensures the Town of Vernon will be included in the process of establishing site restoration standards. This MOU is a win for the people of Vermont, and especially for the citizens of Vernon.”

Legislator optimistic about possible NorthStar agreement

Posted by: Vermont Energy Partnership Staff    Posted date:  February 14, 2018

I’m very optimistic that the “significant progress” made in the NorthStar/Vermont Yankee decommissioning negotiations will result in a positive decision within a short period of time (State reports more progress in Yankee talks, Feb. 2).

As a legislator and school board member, I have a deep sense of duty to support economic growth for my community. Vernon expected the Vermont Yankee site to remain in SAFSTOR for 50 or 60 years until NorthStar came along to complete the job in a fraction of the time.

When the deal was first announced in November, 2016, it gave our community a sense of hope that the town’s most valuable job-creating, revenue-producing industrial property could begin to prosper in as soon as 10 years.

As we studied the plan and talked with NorthStar and Entergy leaders, I, along with Vernon’s town leaders, became confident that this deal was the answer to our vision for a safe, prosperous future for Vernon. Since Vernon’s approval of the NorthStar project, the Brattleboro Development Credit Corporation also announced its support for the plan.

I am hopeful that the major negotiating parties will reach an agreement soon and pave the way to a successful ending of this era of community and county transition.

Rep. Mike Hebert

(Vernon, Guilford)

Mark your calendar for the next PUC Public Meeting – January 4, 2017

Posted by: Vermont Energy Partnership Staff    Posted date:  December 21, 2017

On January 4, 2018, the Public Utilities Commission will hold its final public hearing to discuss the sale of Vermont Yankee to NorthStar, docket 8880. This hearing is very important to the outcome of the sale and the many benefits it holds. Please mark your calendars and plan on attending this hearing to express your support for NorthStar and the economic and environmental benefits of its plan to promptly and safely decommission Vermont Yankee.

The PUC Meeting will be held at Brattleboro Union Memorial High School at 7 PM. An informational briefing will be held at 6 PM.

Safeguarding Our Future: Patty O’Donnell and Josh Unruh

Posted by: Vermont Energy Partnership Staff    Posted date:  December 21, 2017

Vernon is approaching the three-year anniversary of Vermont Yankee’s shutdown. The loss of this major energy generator and job provider has left an economic void in Vernon and the surrounding region.

However, a successful transaction with NorthStar could bring economic prosperity to the town as soon as 2030. Patty O’Donnell and Josh Unruh of the Vernon Planning and Economic Development Commission voice their support of the sale in the advertisement below.

Please also mark your calendar for a pre-meeting dinner at the Governor Hunt House on January 4, 2018, prior to the final Public Utilities Commission public hearing.

Nuclear Decommissioning Citizens Advisory Panel to meet November 16 in Brattleboro

Posted by: Vermont Energy Partnership Staff    Posted date:  November 29, 2017

On Thursday, November 16, the Nuclear Decommissioning Citizens Advisory Panel will hold their next meeting at the Brattleboro Area Middle School, 109 Sunny Acres, Brattleboro, from 6-9 PM. A full agenda can be accessed here. I will attend the meeting and look forward to seeing many of you there.

The NorthStar plan is receiving lots of letters of support through the Brattleboro-area papers. Most recently, Patty O’Donnell, a member of the Vernon Planning and Economic Development Commission, was published in The Keene Sentinel, Brattleboro Reformer and The Commons with an excellent letter citing the economic potential of the sale. Her letter can be read below.

Why wait 60 years for economic benefits?

Those of us who live in Vernon have experienced the effects of Vermont Yankee’s closure firsthand. Thanks to NorthStar’s proposed purchase of Vermont Yankee, Vernon has a chance to rebuild Windham County’s economic foundation sooner.

However, the state’s latest demands to require NorthStar to adhere to “residential standards” when decommissioning the site may force additional, pointless delays on the deal.

While constructive vetting is useful to ensure NorthStar’s ability to complete the job, endless roadblocks such as this will only delay the economic benefits that our region needs. Even worse, these objections could lead NorthStar to throw up its hands and quit, leaving us with a 60-year delay to receive the economic benefits Windham County needs.

If the NorthStar deal is successful, Vermont Yankee can be decommissioned in as soon as 10 years, opening up the site to a new employer who will bring jobs and economic stability to the community. The state should consider the alternative — decades of waiting for the decommissioning of Vermont Yankee per the original plan — before delaying NorthStar’s CPG process even further.

Sincerely,

Patty O’Donnell

Yes Vermont Yankee – Rubble at Vermont Yankee

Posted by: Vermont Energy Partnership Staff    Posted date:  November 9, 2017

Meredith Angwin, a well-known advocate for nuclear energy and publisher of Yes Vermont Yankee blog, has recently been featured in an excellent letter about the importance of rubblization in NorthStar’s decommissioning plan.

This week, she shared her letter, as well as many other letters in support of the rubblization plan, on Yes Vermont Yankee. I encourage you to check out the whole blog here and read Meredith’s letter, below.

Framing the Discussion

I am well-known as an advocate for nuclear energy. I lost most of my interest in the Vermont Yankee plant after it closed down, and I devoted myself to writing a book about pro-nuclear advocacy. However, in the past six months, I began looking at the issues surrounding the proposed sale of Vermont Yankee to NorthStar.

Since NorthStar’s announcement about the proposal to purchase Vermont Yankee, I have attended several public meetings and community briefings, and heard NorthStar CEO Scott State speak. In these meetings, Mr. State has answered the hard questions about about NorthStar’s plan to decommission Vermont Yankee in a safe, well managed process over relatively short time frame. State has responded to questions with candor and transparency. For example, I hadn’t really understood that the nuclear opponent slogan of “no rubblization” would lead to huge amounts of truck traffic taking rubble away from the site. (Yes, I should have realized this myself.) Mr. State noted that, without rubblization, heavily-loaded construction trucks would constantly pass the elementary school. This would be a safety hazard for parents and children.

Nuclear opponents have effectively framed the discussion to their own personal definitions of safety: their definitions ignore traffic safety and children’s safety. Similarly, nuclear opponents are now speaking of letting the site “heal.” In other words, they want to remove the Vermont Yankee site from possible use as a commercial site (with jobs) until such time as it meets their non-measurable criteria for “healing.”

I’m hopeful the Public Utilities Commission recognizes the tangible safety, economic and environmental benefits of NorthStar’s proposal.

Residential standards for nuclear plant site make little sense

Posted by: Vermont Energy Partnership Staff    Posted date:  October 25, 2017

By Guy Page

If some in agencies of the Scott Administration pursue their  dream to restore the Vermont Yankee site to “residential standards” (Oct. 18, “Changes could endanger Vermont Yankee sale”), they will be responsible for a deal-killer that makes little sense from the standpoint of past agreements and likely future use.

If required to restore the Vermont Yankee site and spent fuel storage facility to a contrary use, NorthStar CEO Scott State confirmed that the company will drop the plant purchase and decommissioning project. If that happens, current owner Entergy says it must mothball the site in SAFSTOR for 25-50 years.  SAFSTOR is an acronym used by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission to describe the longterm shutdown of a closed nuclear plant site, deferring decommissioning and site restoration until many, many years down the road.

As planned, NorthStar would return the site to a green field. It would move all contaminated structures and material, as well as all structures to a depth of four feet below grade (one foot deeper than required by regulations and previous agreements). It would replace all removed material with clean fill, then grade and seed the entire property. The land could be returned to farming, with background radiation levels almost half as much under the federal minimum levels.

But the Town of Vernon has bigger plans than farming. A few acres with material four feet below grade works just fine for the kind of new high-tech employer the town wants: for example, a data center, large manufacturer, or another power plant. (The power plant concept has particular appeal for many town residents who are proud of their community’s century-long legacy of hosting cutting-edge power generating facilities like the Vernon Dam and Vermont Yankee.) For such a project, any competent site designer can work around a handful of in-ground obstacles.

Housing is a different story. The term “residential standards” presumably means what it sounds like: a restored site sub-divided into building lots with potential basements and leach fields.  For this purpose, four feet isn’t deep enough.

And who would build housing on the Vermont Yankee site, anyway? The Town of Vernon envisions a new tax-paying, job-creating clean industry on the Vermont Yankee site. There’s plenty of housing for sale in and around Vernon, and plenty of land on which to build new housing, but there is only one uniquely-advantaged industrial development site – Vermont Yankee. No one is even considering the site for housing. From out of the proverbial left field, the State has introduced a new requirement that is as unnecessary as it is certain to kill the project.

It’s not clear why the State of Vermont would pursue standards not needed for industrial development. Perhaps the gambit is to negotiate the best deal for Vermont by pushing the envelope. That’s good for Vermont as long as we don’t kill the proverbial golden opportunity that the sale to NorthStar provides – an opportunity to regain some of the jobs and revenue lost when Vermont Yankee closed. According to an October 23 article in E&E News, Vermont Yankee’s total annual payroll when operational was $66 million, with a regional economic impact of almost $500 million.

Hopefully, the Public Utilities Commission knows what’s real and what’s not; for example, a housing development on the VY site. For the long-term wellbeing of Vernon and Windham County, let’s hope so.

(The author is a Berlin, Vermont resident and the communications director for the Vermont Energy Partnership, a coalition of more than 90 members in support of policies for clean, safe, affordable, and reliable power. Vermont Yankee is a VTEP member.)

Community Briefing brings Brattleboro, Vernon residents together to hear NorthStar CEO

Posted by: Vermont Energy Partnership Staff    Posted date:  October 12, 2017

On September 28, about 30 Brattleboro and Vernon business leaders came together for a Community Briefing & Luncheon, featuring NorthStar CEO Scott State who touched on key issues of NorthStar’s proposed decommissioning plan, including rubblization, spent fuel and the project timeline.


Brattleboro and Vernon business leaders listen to NorthStar CEO Scott State

Following a brief introduction by Vermont Yankee site manager Joe Lynch, Mr. State answered several questions from the audience. The main focus of NorthStar’s decommissioning plan is safety, he said, and that extends to all aspects of the plan. Safety is also the main reason for promoting rubblization, the recycling of clean concrete onsite rather removing all rubble, contaminated and clean. All-rubble removal would increase truck traffic by 3,000 to 5,000 a year, which would put Vernon schoolchildren and local drivers at risk.

All audience members, both pro-NorthStar and long-time Vermont Yankee opponents seemed pleased with Mr. State’s remarks. The Partnership looks forward to hosting more Q&A events with Mr. State in the future.

NorthStar Process: Due diligence with a hopeful outcome

Posted by: Vermont Energy Partnership Staff    Posted date:  September 19, 2017

By: Brad Ferland, President, Vermont Energy Partnership

Vermont has an excellent opportunity for new economic development, thanks to NorthStar’s plan to decommission Vermont Yankee. Historically, Vermonters have worked hard to preserve our natural resources, and the cost of doing business here is reflected in those values. To succeed in a global economy, it is also imperative that our process for business development is fair, reasonable and timely. 

 

Over the past several months, the Nuclear Decommissioning Citizens Advisory Panel has provided an excellent forum for community leaders and citizens to voice concerns about the NorthStar process. However, in all the meetings dedicated to the topic, there hasn’t been one voice opposed to an accelerated decommissioning.


Even prior to the plant’s shutdown in 2014, a small, vocal group of anti-nuclear opponents called for a quick decommissioning to return the site to green field conditions within a shorter timeframe. This is exactly what NorthStar proposes: begin decommissioning once the NRC and PUC grant approval, with a completion date as soon as 2030. The alternative is keeping the site in SAFSTOR for another 60 years, which would lead to economic and environmental stagnation. 

 

NorthStar’s plan gives Vernon the opportunity to turn a “minus” – a dormant nuclear power plant – into an exciting plus. In the early 20thcentury, a forward-thinking Brattleboro business community employed cutting-edge hydro-electric turbine technology to build the Vernon Dam, which provided electricity for many decades and is still licensed today. In the 1960’s, Vernon and Windham County stepped up again to host Vermont Yankee, a generator of low-cost, emissions-free electricity that at one point contributed a third of Vermont’s power with plenty left over for the rest of New England. Vermont’s future-minded acceptance of Vermont Yankee provided cleaner air in the smoggy 1970’s, and carbon-free power in the era of climate change. 

 

To continue its historic legacy as a regional power-producer, the Town of Vernon has already announced its intention to utilize the site for another cutting-edge industry, such as a micro-grid or solar facility, should the plan be approved. If we have the chance now to replace and rebuild industry here in Windham County, why slam the door on NorthStar and wait another 60 years?

 

NorthStar’s credentials proves that they are more than prepared to take on Vermont Yankee. The company has successfully completed thousands of projects across the country – many of them more complicated than Vermont Yankee. I am confident that the PUC and NRC’s review of the company will result in a well-deserved Certificate of Public Good.


Unfortunately, our state has a well-earned reputation for being unfriendly to business, and if the review process is too long and costly, we could ultimately see NorthStar withdraw its bid for this project. While the review process is necessary and good for Vermont, it’s important that it’s not drawn out by unnecessary roadblocks, lest Vernon lose out on a brighter economic and environmental future.


Early decommissioning offers many benefits to Windham County, both immediate and down the road. Our local stores, hotels and restaurants can expect a business boom from hundreds of NorthStar workers as onsite demolition begins. Also, under the proposed plan, a new employer could be established on the Vermont Yankee site within the next ten years, bringing jobs, tax dollars and charitable giving to the region. That’s an example of the kind of economic development that Vermont needs.

 

NorthStar’s purchase of Vermont Yankee is just one economic development project in Vermont, but it’s a significant one. Vermonters throughout the state will be watching to see how this process plays out. We should all works towards making it an opportunity and not a regret. 

 
  Vermont Energy Partnership © 2016