Good news for Vernon and Vermont: Public Utilities Commission approves sale of Vermont Yankee

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

In response to the Vermont Public Utilities Commission (PUC) approval of the sale of Vermont Yankee to NorthStar, Guy Page, Communications Director for the Vermont Energy Partnership, said:

“Today’s decision is a tremendous opportunity for the Town of Vernon and for Vermont. After two years of regulatory negotiations, Vermont Yankee will be transferred to NorthStar for decommissioning, and Windham County can enjoy the benefits of a restored site decades ahead of the original timeline.

“This agreement was endorsed by many local and state government and non-governmental partners that recognized the benefits of an accelerated decommissioning, and we’re pleased that the PUC approves of this contract. We look forward to Vernon’s future as it transitions from the host town of Vermont Yankee to the next stage of its energy legacy.”

Vermont Energy Partnership statement on U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission approval of Vermont Yankee license transfer

Posted by: Vermont Energy Partnership Staff    Posted date:  October 12, 2018

Montpelier, VT/October 12, 2018 – In response to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) approval of the Vermont Yankee license transfer from Entergy to NorthStar Group Services, Guy Page, Communications Director for the Vermont Energy Partnership, said:

“Today’s announcement is a watershed moment for Vermont Yankee, Vernon, and Windham County. The NRC’s decision, coming after almost two years of independent regulatory review, demonstrates that NorthStar’s plan to decommission Vermont Yankee in 8 to 10 years has met all of the appropriate financial, environmental, and safety standards set by the NRC. The NRC today also further strengthened the NorthStar plan by allowing the new licensee to access up to $20 million of the Decommissioning Trust Fund to manage spent fuel now safely stored in dry casks onsite.

“NorthStar and its partners are now poised, pending the Vermont Public Utilities Commission approval, to convert the Vermont Yankee site into a productive asset to the community once again.

“The NRC decision is especially good news for the people of Vernon and Windham County, who will benefit from the intensive economic activity of decommissioning and the likely redevelopment of this valuable location in the future.”

The Vermont Energy Partnership (www.vtep.org) is a diverse group of business, labor, and community leaders committed to finding clean, affordable and reliable electricity solutions.  Its mission is to educate policy makers, the media, businesses, and the general public about why electricity is imperative for prosperity, and about the optimal solutions to preserve and expand our electricity network.  Entergy, owner of Vermont Yankee, is a member of the Vermont Energy Partnership.

Richard January on Vermont Yankee Spent Fuel Transfer

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

The following Letter to the Editor by former Vermont Yankee engineer Richard January appeared Friday, August 10 in the Caledonian Record, a daily newspaper published in St. Johnsbury:

Richard January on Vermont Yankee Spent Fuel Transfer

As a former employee at Vermont Yankee, I take great interest in hearing the updates on the decommissioning status of the facility. Last week’s news announcement that Vermont Yankee’s spent fuel has been completely transferred from the spent fuel pool into dry cask storage is excellent news for the plant community and Vermont Yankee’s future (Vermont Yankee’s $143 million fuel move finished).

Vermont Yankee has completed another key milestone towards decommissioning, and has done so within budget and well ahead of schedule. I’m hopeful that the sale is approved and that Vernon can benefit from a restored site and new economic opportunities within the near future.

Richard G. January

Gilbert, Arizona

Completion of Vermont Yankee spent fuel transfer marks significant milestone

Posted by: Vermont Energy Partnership Staff    Posted date:  August 2, 2018

Today Vermont Yankee completed the transfer of all nuclear spent fuel into dry cask storage within budget and ahead of schedule by two years. This marks a significant milestone for Vermont Yankee and establishes a strong foundation for NorthStar’s proposed decommissioning plan, which is currently pending approval from the Vermont Public Utility Commission and U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

All spent fuel elements from Vermont Yankee’s 42 years of operation are stored within 58 dry casks on an Independent Spent Fuel Storage Installation pad, where it will remain until the federal government moves the casks to an interim or permanent nuclear spent fuel repository.

“Today’s announcement marks a great milestone for Vermont Yankee,” Guy Page, Communications Director of the Vermont Energy Partnership in a press statement. “By completing the job within budget and ahead of schedule by two years, Entergy continues to demonstrate its commitment to going above and beyond for the local Vernon community. This merits congratulations for all involved. We look forward to the final approval of the sale of Vermont Yankee to NorthStar.”

Click here to read Entergy’s press release marking this historic milestone.

Look ahead to NorthStar for Vernon Funding

Posted by: Vermont Energy Partnership Staff    Posted date:  July 5, 2018

The following post is written by Vernon resident Peggy Farabaugh.

How lucky are we? Vermont Yankee support for our community is the gift that keeps on giving. Windham County is still benefiting long after VY shut down (BDCC gets $150,000 grant for high school Pathways Project, June 28).

But sadly this flow of money from Vermont Yankee to the community will eventually come to an end. The Vernon local government has known this for years and I thank them for enthusiastically backing NorthStar’s decommissioning as the best way to transition our town to a prosperous future.

As a Vernon resident and businessperson, I am grateful for every dollar Vermont Yankee continues to put back into the community and am looking forward to Vernon’s economic future. Our Select Board, Planning Commission & other civic-minded volunteers deserve a hand for all they’ve done to make this possible.

Article of Interest: Towns see gold in storing nuclear waste

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

WASHINGTON EXAMINER: Towns see gold in storing nuclear waste
by Josh Siegel  | May 22, 2018 12:01

If there ever was a place meant to store the nation’s commercial nuclear waste, at least temporarily, it’s southeastern New Mexico, some local residents say.

John Heaton, a 78-year-old retiree from Carlsbad, belongs to the Eddy-Lea Energy Alliance, a coalition of volunteers that owns land in Lea County it intends to sell to a company proposing to build an underground storage site to temporarily house waste from the nation’s 99 nuclear reactors.

The alliance includes representatives from Eddy and Lea counties, and the cities of Carlsbad and Hobbs, which together sit in the heart of the Permian Basin natural gas fracking boom. The commissions of both counties, and councils of each city, have passed resolutions that support hosting nuclear waste storage.

“The tragedy of it all is when somebody mentions nuclear or plutonium, people have this image in their mind, especially older people who went through Hiroshima,” Heaton told the Washington Examiner. “There are groups of people who continue to promote non-factual information that just creates hysteria and all these ideas. We have been fortunate to become educated about it, which is why you see this kind of acceptance here.”

The alliance’s embrace of the concept is a stark contrast to sentiment in Nevada, where opposition to being a “dumping ground” for the nation’s commercial nuclear waste has stalled a 30-year effort to develop Yucca Mountain, 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas, as the nation’s permanent repository for nuclear waste.

Interim storage is not authorized under federal law. But a bill passed by a wide bipartisan margin in the House this month would direct the Energy Department to create a temporary storage program until Yucca Mountain is approved by regulators and funded by Congress, if it ever is.

Finding communities willing to take the radioactive waste has always been a difficult task for the U.S. government, and only two sites have been proposed for interim storage.

Holtec International, a New Jersey-based equipment supplier, is seeking a 40-year license for a storage site in Lea County, with a plan to house 120,000 tons of nuclear waste.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is reviewing the proposal and vetting it for safety, security, and environmental concerns. It also has begun holding public hearings.

Waste Control Specialists, meanwhile, wants to build a temporary nuclear storage site in Andrews County in West Texas, a project that also enjoys support from local and state officials, including Republican Rep. Mike Conaway, whose district houses the proposed location.

Supporters of the proposed projects say their experience with nuclear power, coupled with the job opportunities provided by hosting a site, outweigh their concerns of potential risks.

New Mexico, especially the part of the state Heaton comes from, knows nukes.

In 1945, the first atomic bomb was successfully tested in Alamogordo. Los Alamos weapons laboratory, where America’s first nuclear weapons were built, is also in the state.

And in southeast New Mexico, the Energy Department runs the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, which residents know by heart as its acronym, WIPP, the nation’s only underground repository for waste from America’s nuclear defense program.

“There is certainly a political will for this to happen, understanding our experience,” Sam Cobb, the 66-year-old mayor of Hobbs, told the Washington Examiner. “This is an opportunity for us to get a steady stream of revenue from what I believe is a safe process to secure spent fuel.”

New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez, a Republican, has expressed support for the plan, as has Rep. Steve Pearce, also a Republican, while Democratic politicians such as Sen. Tom Udall oppose it.

“This project, with community support, would continue to cement New Mexico as a national leader in nuclear energy production, development, and disposal,” Pearce said after the House passed the bill authorizing temporary storage.

Heaton and Cobb are self-declared conservative Democrats who support “baseload” energy sources such as coal and nuclear power and welcome President Trump’s “energy dominance” agenda that seeks to exploit America’s status as the dominant world producer of natural gas.

“If you want to see a boom city, you should come to Carlsbad, N.M.,” said Heaton, who served in the state legislature for 14 years and worked on energy-related issues. “You can’t even get to town because of oil and gas right now. So with nuclear waste, we recognize the opportunity from an economic perspective, and we also recognize it is desperately needed in the country.”

Heaton projects the storage facility will create about 100 temporary construction jobs and 100 more jobs while the site is operating.

Andrews County, the Texas region primed for a waste storage site, also has experience with nuclear.

Waste Control Specialists already stores low-level radioactive waste in the county.

The company suspended its application to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for building a new storage facility about a year ago, as the company sorted through ownership and financial issues. But Waste Control Specialists announced this year that it is partnering on the project with French energy giant Orano, which manages and stores nuclear waste at sites in France.

The joint venture, known as Interim Storage Partners, intends to resubmit its application to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission by the end of June.

“We have a proven and robust technology to safely store the fuel,” Jeff Isakson, president of Interim Storage Partners, told the Washington Examiner. “Our proposal represents good progress to a solution for used fuel in the U.S, with a long-term repository being the ultimate destination. In the meantime, we are confident we can keep the fuel safe for a very long time.”

Isakson said he expects the facility to create 30 to 40 jobs while it operates.

But critics of interim storage worry the targeted final destination, Yucca Mountain, will never open. If that were to happen, the temporary facilities could become de facto permanent storage facilities, a task they would not be set up to do.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York and other Democrats have already declared the House-passed bill “dead on arrival.”

“I don’t support an interim disposal site without a plan for permanent disposal, because that nuclear waste could be orphaned there indefinitely,” Udall told the Washington Examiner. “Any future nuclear waste mission in New Mexico would need broad support throughout the state as well as an independent scientific analysis ensuring its safety before I would consider supporting it.”

Udall also noted the spotty safety record of WIPP, New Mexico’s nuclear weapons waste storage plant.

In 2014, a drum containing radioactive waste blew up there, an explosion that ranked among the costliest nuclear accidents in U.S. history.

Others worry about the potential cost of interim storage, considering the resources already invested in Yucca Mountain. Spent nuclear fuel sits idle in 121 communities across 39 states, and if that waste were to be transported to temporary sites, it would have to be delivered again, likely by rail, to Yucca Mountain.

“My initial concern is that any designation of interim storage would only delay a permanent repository and it wouldn’t be significantly safer or more cost effective,” Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., told the Washington Examiner.

Rep. John Shimkus, R-Ill, the author of the House-passed bill, argues interim storage is better than the current reality.

“The issue with nuclear waste is for most people it’s out of sight out of mind,” Shimkus told the Washington Examiner. “But when you have spent fuel in 121 locations in 39 states, every elected official needs to be accountable for addressing a national problem with a national solution, and doing nothing is not the right course of action.”

The Nuclear Waste Policy Act, passed by Congress in 1982 and amended five years later, directs the Energy Department to take possession of the nation’s spent nuclear fuel and dispose of it in a deep geological repository at Yucca Mountain.

The law created a Nuclear Waste Fund to pay for the federal repository by charging nuclear reactor operators a fee on the waste they produced.

Since the Obama administration blocked Yucca Mountain from opening, the federal government paid hundreds of millions of dollars in damages to utilities that own nuclear reactors and that sued for costs associated with storing waste at their sites.

Shimkus said it’s time for Congress to wrest back control.

“The interim proposal allows us to more rapidly reclaim the spent fuel and thus relieving the burden on communities by locating the fuel in places that want to perform that job,” Shimkus said.

As Vermont’s “renewable power revolution” relies on fossil fuels, so does New York’s

Posted by: Vermont Energy Partnership Staff    Posted date:  May 29, 2018

Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York has been fighting for years to shut down nuclear power plants in New York, while playing up the value of wind turbines. As the Wall Street Journal reported May 19, the Empire State’s plentiful, affordable carbon-free nuclear power will indeed be replaced by turbines — not wind, but the natural gas-powered variety. Hello, bigger carbon footprint! Exactly the same thing has already happened in Vermont.

Six years after the Vermont Yankee contract expired in 2012, the solar power industry is bemoaning the state’s failure to reach its renewable energy goals. According to a flyer inserted in legislators’ mailboxes May 21, solar power produces just five percent of Vermont’s total load. Also, construction of new wind power turbines is anathema to local and state regulators.  The supply vacuum has been filled by southern New England plants burning natural gas — not exactly the “clean renewable future” promised by the Legislature’s pro-renewable energy leaders in their “shut down Vermont Yankee” days.

Meanwhile, decisions by both state and federal regulators on the proposed sale of Vermont Yankee to NorthStar are expected by summer’s end. If regulators approve, the sale is likely to be finalized before the end of the year, at which point NorthStar can begin to implement its plan to fully restore the site by 2026. For more details on supporters and opponents to the plan to revitalize southeastern Vermont through Vermont Yankee site restoration, see my op-ed in the May 23 Greenfield Recorder.

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)

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