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The home for VPR's coverage of health and health industry issues affecting the state of Vermont.

State Will Bill Entergy For The Cost Of Monitoring And Emergency Planning Around Vermont Yankee

The spent nuclear fuel at Vermont Yankee is being stored in dry casks on the property in Vernon.
Courtesy Vermont Yankee
This photo shows the dry cask storage on the Vermont Yankee site where spent fuel will be stored. There is still concern that the rods could contaminate the area, and so monitoring will continue.

Vermont state agencies will be able to bill Entergy Vermont Yankee for charges incurred while monitoring the decommissioning of the shuttered Vernon nuclear power plant.

Public Service Commissioner Chris Recchia says the Legislature passed a bill this year that authorizes the state to seek money from Entergy, even though the Nuclear Regulatory Commission allowed the company to reduce the emergency planning zone around the plant.

"We are going to be actively monitoring and participating in this site during this period," Recchia says. "And we will have emergency planning components associated with this. So the fact that the NRC eliminated the 10-mile EPZ, and Vermont Yankee had petitioned for that, notwithstanding the fact, the state of Vermont has an obligation to you folks, and we intend  to meet it. And we will meet it and we'll be able to bill Entergy back for that."

Recchia talked about the authorization at a meeting in Brattleboro of the Vermont Nuclear Decommissioning Citizens Advisory Panel.

Entergy used to pay the state $2.4 million annually for emergency planning and monitoring.

But with the emergency planning zone now reduced, the company no longer is obligated to make those payments.

Recchia says the Department of Public Service had authority to bill Entergy, and the new legislation clarifies the ability of the Department of Health, the Agency of Natural Resources, Emergency Management, and the Agency of Agriculture to bill back Entergy for steps the state takes to monitor the site.

The state of Vermont has had a number of objections to how Entergy uses its decommissioning trust fund, and Recchia says he will discuss the issue with Entergy officials as the bills are sent in.

Entergy Vermont Yankee spokesman Martin Cohn declined to comment specifically on the new state policy.

Cohn says Entergy has not yet received a bill from the state, and he says the company will evaluate each funding request as it comes in.

"Even though the NRC eliminated the 10-mile EPZ the state of Vermont has an obligation and we intend to meet it. And we will meet it and we'll be able to bill Entergy back for that." — Chris Recchia, Public Service Commissioner

Vermont Yankee's 10-mile Emergency Planning Zone around the plant, which affected towns Vermont, New Hampshire and Massachusetts, expired in April.

The company cut almost 100 employees, with most of the jobs coming from emergency planning and monitoring.

At the meeting, Vermont Radiological Health Chief Bill Irwin said the state will monitor the site as long as spent fuel remains in the spent fuel pools.

"The 10-mile Emergency Planning Zone should remain in place for as long as spent nuclear fuel remains in a spent fuel pool," Irwin says. "Ongoing health and environmental monitoring should continue until the license is terminated."

Entergy will be moving the spent fuel into dry cask storage, which is expected to last until 2020.
Irwin says the fuel can still contaminate food, land and water.

He says it will be up to the state to monitor the site, and that Entergy should pay for the surveillance and possible remediation.

Entergy reached an agreement with New Hampshire to continue providing some emergency planning money, but the company has not been able to reach an agreement with Vermont.

Howard Weiss-Tisman is Vermont Public’s southern Vermont reporter, but sometimes the story takes him to other parts of the state. 
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