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NRC Wants More Financial Details Before Approving Vermont Yankee Sale

The spent nuclear fuel at Vermont Yankee is being moved from the cooling pools, shown in this photo, into dry cask storage.
Toby Talbot
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission says it can't approve the planned Vermont Yankee sale without more information about how the company will pay for decommissioning and management of spent fuel, shown here.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission says the potential buyer of the closed Vermont Yankee nuclear plant has yet to show it will have the money available to clean up the site.

And before it can approve the sale, the NRC staff wants more details about the financial qualifications of the buyer, NorthStar VY.

“We make it clear in this letter that as of now, we're unable to find that the funding mechanisms as proposed are adequate and that there will be sufficient funds available to decommission the facility,” said NRC spokesman Neil Sheehan.

NorthStar wants to buy the plant from the Entergy Corporation, and says it can dismantle and decommission the site faster than the timetable planned by Entergy.

The state Department of Public Service, which represents ratepayers, has reached a settlement with Northstar that satisfies the state's concerns over the company’s finances. The settlement increases the financial assurance package by $250 million. The settlement and the sale still need approved from the state Public Utility Commission.

The New England Coalition, a longtime anti-nuclear group, has agreed to the settlement terms. Another advocacy group, the Conservation Law Foundation, did not sign on to the deal.

The NRC has a separate process underway to review the transfer of the federal license. A letter from the NRC, released Thursday, poses detailed questions the feds want answered before they will approve it.

"Obviously the more detail the companies can provide, the more satisfied we're going to be. But at this point, we've been at this now for quite some time and all of our concerns are not yet resolved." — NRC Spokesman Neil Sheehan

The NRC is aware that the state has reached a deal with Entergy and NorthStar on financial issues but needs to review the details of the settlement, spokesman Sheehan said.

“Obviously the more detail the companies can provide, the more satisfied we’re going to be,” he said. “But at this point, we’ve been at this now for quite some time and all of our concerns are not yet resolved.”

NorthStar officials were not available for an interview. In an emailed statement, CEO and Chief Nuclear Officer Scott State said: “"NorthStar is reviewing the NRC's requests. We look forward to providing the NRC with the additional information it seeks to guide review of our plan to safely and efficiently restore the Vermont Yankee site to conditions suitable for productive economic use decades ahead of schedule."

The state Public Utility Commission is holding its final public hearing on NorthStar’s plans to buy and decommission the plant tonight, April 12, at Brattleboro Union High School.

Entergy says it wants a decision from the PUC by the end of June, in order for the sale to close by the end of 2018.

John worked for VPR in 2001-2021 as reporter and News Director. Previously, John was a staff writer for the Sunday Times Argus and the Sunday Rutland Herald, responsible for breaking stories and in-depth features on local issues. He has also served as Communications Director for the Vermont Health Care Authority and Bureau Chief for UPI in Montpelier.
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