VTEP Blog

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. 

Clean Up VY Without Delay

Posted by: Vermont Energy Partnership Staff    Posted date:  September 8, 2017

This morning, the Brattleboro Reformer ran an excellent letter by Peggy Farabaugh of Vernon, citing the many benefits of NorthStar’s plan to decommission Vermont Yankee now, rather than waiting another 60 years. The letter can be read here and below.

Also, please mark your calendars for the Vermont Yankee Nuclear Decommissioning Citizens Advisory Panel meeting on September 28, from 6-9 PM in the Multi-Purpose Room at Brattleboro Middle School, 109 Sunny Acres, Brattleboro. A full agenda can be accessed here.

The latest environmental site assessment at Vermont Yankee (“No new pollution at Vermont Yankee,” Aug. 30) is good news for Windham County. It provides even more documented evidence that the site is ready for decommissioning. This readiness, combined with NorthStar’s proposed purchase of Vermont Yankee, provides an opportunity to help rebuild our community’s economic foundation.

Your headline says it all — No new pollution. Since 2001 there have been three non-radiological environmental site assessments performed at Vermont Yankee. All three have given a green light for operations and/or decommissioning. This industrial site is ready to be decommissioned and restored. While constructive vetting is useful to ensure NorthStar’s ability to complete the job, there’s no legitimate reason to delay the project and the economic benefits our region needs. On the other hand, the 60-year decommissioning plan provides an additional five decades of uncertainty and exposure to environmental risks that are out of our control (such as hurricanes, tornadoes and floods).

If the NorthStar sale is approved, Vermont Yankee can be decommissioned in as little as ten years, opening up the site to new possibilities for jobs and economic stability for Vernon and throughout Vermont. While adhering to its mission of protecting environmental health and safety, the state must consider the potential economic and environmental losses of unduly delaying NorthStar’s CPG.

NDCAP to hear NorthStar CEO at September 28 meeting in Brattleboro

Posted by: Vermont Energy Partnership Staff    Posted date:  September 8, 2017

The Nuclear Decommissioning Citizens Advisory Panel (NDCAP) recently released its agenda for their September 28 meeting. The meeting will be held from 6-9 PM in the Multi-Purpose Room at Brattleboro Area Middle School, 109 Sunny Acres, Brattleboro.

In addition to an update from Vermont Yankee on recent site activity, NorthStar CEO Scott State will be present to deliver a presentation and answer questions. A full agenda for the meeting can be found here.

I look forward to seeing you there as we learn more about NorthStar’s plan to decommission Vermont Yankee.

Governor Scott to be keynote speaker at NE-ISO meeting in Woodstock, September 7

Posted by: Vermont Energy Partnership Staff    Posted date:  August 31, 2017

Learn more about the future of Vermont and New England electricity transmission at the ISO-New England Consumer Liaison Group (CLG) informational session and luncheon on September 7, from 12-3:30 PM at the Woodstock Inn and Resort, on the Green, Woodstock, VT.

The meeting will feature a free lunch, a keynote speech by Governor Phil Scott and will host a panel of regulatory, utility and industry experts to address the controversial FERC Order 1000 to enhance regional transmission of distributed power. A representative from Vermont Electric Company (VELCO), the state’s transmission utility, will also be featured on the panel.

VTEP Communications Director Guy Page, one of Vermont’s two coordinating committee members, will moderate the panel discussion. Meredith Angwin, a longtime nuclear power advocate and author of a recent book on grassroots activism, will also be present as a Vermont representative on the coordinating committee

The ISO-CLG holds quarterly luncheons across New England, in an effort to bring together energy consumers and policy makers in an informal, informational setting. The entire event is free and open to the public, but pre-registration is necessary. For more information, contact Mary Louise Nuara at (413) 540-4481 or mnuara@iso-ne.com.

Vermont Yankee continues to benefit schools, environment, economy through $5.2 million contribution

Posted by: Vermont Energy Partnership Staff    Posted date:  August 24, 2017

For four decades, schools and schoolchildren in Windham County have benefited from having a major electric power producer right in their own backyard at Vermont Yankee. Despite the plant’s closure, it is encouraging to see that, via the Vermont Clean Energy Development Fund (VCEDF), the plant’s owner continues to deliver benefits to the local community (“Vermont Yankee settlement money to be used for wood boiler projects,” 8/21).

Fortunately for local schools and for Vermont’s forestry and renewable power economy, a multi-million dollar commitment by Vermont Yankee to the VCEDF has helped fund the installation of new wood-burning furnaces and infrastructure for three area schools, with five more in the works.

Many Vermonters have been helped by the $5.2 million contribution as part of the 2013 master settlement agreement that paved the way for a smooth decommissioning. They include not only local taxpayers and schoolchildren, but also the not-for-profit organizations planning and facilitating the work, and the contractors turning the wrenches and installing the equipment.

The benefit of building wood-fired heat in public schools extends beyond Windham County to the entire Vermont economy and to our state’s contribution to reducing greenhouse gases. Vermont’s logging industry faces serious problems, including an aging workforce, prohibitive workers’ compensation costs, and dwindling pulpwood demand from our increasingly paperless society. For an industry yearning for hope, the cost-effective transition of public buildings to pellet-stove heat creates a large potential market.

When it was making electricity, Vermont Yankee’s contributions to clean, safe, affordable, reliable energy and a strong statewide economy were immense. It is heartening to read that almost three years after the plant shut down for the final time, Vermont Yankee is still promoting a strong economy and a cleaner environment.

Learn about regional transmission in Woodstock, September 7, 12-3:30 PM

Posted by: Vermont Energy Partnership Staff    Posted date:  August 17, 2017

Learn more about the future of Vermont and New England electricity transmission at the ISO-New England Consumer Liaison Group (CLG) informational session and luncheon on September 7, from 12-3:30 PM at the Woodstock Inn and Resort, on the Green, Woodstock, VT.

The meeting will feature a free lunch, a keynote speech by a Vermont energy leader and will host a panel of regulatory, utility and industry experts to address the controversial FERC Order 1000 to enhance regional transmission of distributed power. A representative from Vermont Electric Company (VELCO), the state’s transmission utility, will also be featured on the panel.

VTEP Communications Director Guy Page, one of Vermont’s two coordinating committee members, will moderate the panel discussion. Meredith Angwin, a longtime nuclear power advocate and author of recent book on grassroots activism, will also be present as a Vermont representative on the coordinating committee

The ISO-CLG holds quarterly luncheons across New England, in an effort to bring together energy consumers and policy makers in an informal, informational setting. The entire event is free and open to the public, but pre-registration is necessary. For more information, contact Mary Louise Nuara of ISO-NE at (413) 540-4481 or mnuara@iso-ne.com.

Recent News Good for NorthStar Plan

Posted by: Vermont Energy Partnership Staff    Posted date:  August 4, 2017

Vermonters wanting a well-vetted, safe, prompt decommissioning of Vermont Yankee by NorthStar have received these three pieces of good news in the last two weeks:

There will be more time for public discussion and comment.

On Monday, July 24, the Vermont Public Utilities Commission (formerly the PSB) rescheduled the next public hearing from September 28 to January 4 and technical hearings from November/December to late January. These extra months allow everyone – from intervenors to the merely interested – more time to express questions, concerns, and positions to the media, government, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and directly to the PUC at ePUC.

“This revised schedule continues to support the timing of the proposed transaction between Entergy Nuclear Vermont Yankee and NorthStar,” said Joe Lynch regarding the postponement.

The financial strength of the NorthStar plan has become even stronger.

On Sunday, July 30, VT Digger reported the announcement of the purchase of NorthStar by J.F. Lehman, a New York equities firm specializing in high-tech and military acquisitions.

The NorthStar plan already had plenty of financial back-up to cover unexpected delays, including bonded subcontractors, a budget $73 million under the current value of the decommissioning trust fund, and a $125 million insurance plan.

NorthStar CEO Scott State made the following statement on the Lehman website:

“JFLCO’s recapitalization of our Company will enable NorthStar to fully pursue business opportunities which the management team has laid the foundation for over the past several years. Northstar will have the resources, capital structure and operational resources to support our long term priorities and growth plans – enabling a superior offering that will be well received by our customers and employees alike.”

Decommissioning work has already begun.

According to a Tuesday, August 2 VT Digger story, NorthStar has already begun performing engineering and design work, which is permissible even without regulatory approval to begin the actual physical work. This decision by NorthStar (and also by subcontractor AREVA) displays a commitment to the plan and faith in its ultimate regulatory approval. It also decreases $12 million from the project’s budget.

Taken together, these recent developments suggest a bright future for a thorough, prompt, cost-effective decommissioning

PUC Changes Public Meeting Date

Posted by: Vermont Energy Partnership Staff    Posted date:  August 3, 2017

The next public meeting hosted by the Vermont Public Utilities Commission (PUC) will be moved from the end of September to January 4, 2018, according to the PUC’s revised schedule.

We will update you as more details, including the meeting location and time, are announced.

Guy Page: NorthStar’s Better Mousetrap

Posted by: Vermont Energy Partnership Staff    Posted date:  July 28, 2017

Despite NorthStar’s expertise and their previously completed projects, some nuclear power antagonists, including the New England Coalition (NEC), remain skeptical about the proposed decommissioning plan.

An op-ed I wrote in response to NEC’s concerns of the sale was published in VT Digger and the Brattleboro Reformer. The full text can be read below.

Guy Page:  NorthStar’s Better Mousetrap
By: Guy Page

After reading the details of Mike Faher’s July 9 story, “Anti-nuclear group doubts clean-up plan,” it is clear the New England Coalition, a long-time antagonist of nuclear power, is skeptical of NorthStar’s ability to decommission Vermont Yankee safely and on budget.

An NEC spokesperson is quoted as decrying NorthStar’s supposedly “untested method of managing decommissioning under new and unanalyzed circumstances.” Yet, there is nothing technologically new or experimental about this plan. The applied science is all established and in regular use, and has been proven both safe and economically successful.

The only novel aspects of the plan — all related to budgeting and organization — are being scrutinized by the Vermont Public Service Board and the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Both review processes are expected to last well into 2018. In addition to protections such as performance bonds, $125 million in insurance, and contingency budgeting, there is a $73 million surplus-over-budget in the decommissioning trust fund.

Much has been made of the fact that NorthStar is hesitant to release documents containing proprietary trade secrets. However, NorthStar has released thousands of pages of detailed financial planning and disclosure — anyone can read them by searching Docket 8880 on ePSB. Even the small number of publicly withheld documents may be reviewed by all official parties in the Vermont PUC docket.

What’s really happening here is that NorthStar has built a better mousetrap. Its plan represents a major improvement of the industry standard for prompt, safe nuclear decommissioning. If the NorthStar plan happens to makes the future of the nuclear power industry more viable, no wonder anti-nuclear groups like NEC are concerned.

The regulatory review process is designed to thoroughly assess financial viability, environmental impact and nuclear safety. Regulators must determine whether NEC’s concerns merit a substantial revision in the NorthStar plan, and where prudent caution ends and unnecessarily harmful delay begins.

Such delay could be harmful to both the environment and the economy. Saying no to NorthStar means lost economic opportunity and delaying decommissioning by more than 50 years. It means that whatever harmful substances (apart from spent fuel in dry cask storage) are there won’t be promptly removed, but will remain onsite for at least a half-century. And it means that Windham County will lose the immediate economic impact of the decommissioning itself, and the likely redevelopment of the well-positioned Vermont Yankee site. In short, no NorthStar means less environmental and economic certainty for Windham County.

NorthStar views this job as a showpiece for future nuclear decommissioning work. They simply have not come to Vermont to fail.

Last month, I attended a press conference in Montpelier at which Governor Phil Scott was asked about the NorthStar plan. The Governor replied, “We need to make sure they have the financial resources, but in the end, if we can make it work, it will be beneficial for all Vermont.”

Indeed. Let’s let this process work.

 
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