Vermont Yankee decommissioning settlement

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

The owner of the closed Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Station and the company proposing to buy and decommission the plant have announced a settlement with the state of Vermont and other interested parties. Under the settlement agreement and a related memorandum of understanding, proposed buyer NorthStar Group Services Inc. would provide increased financial assurances and a "comprehensive reporting protocol" and agreed to detailed standards for restoring the project site in the town of Vernon. If approved by regulators, the deal could also lead to the Vermont Yankee plant's decontamination and dismantlement about 45 years sooner than current owner and licensee Entergy Corp. originally proposed.

The Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Station began commercial operation in 1972. Entergy bought the plant from the Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Corp. in 2002, and shut it down permanently on December 29, 2014. In a Post Shutdown Decommissioning Activities Report contemporaneously filed with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Entergy said it expected to initiate decontamination and dismantlement of the Vermont Yankee site in 2068, with projected completion of both decommissioning and site restoration by 2075. In November 2016, Entergy proposed selling the site to NorthStar for decommissioning.

On March 7, 2018, Entergy and NorthStar announced what they called "significant milestones in the approval of the proposed transaction": signing a settlement agreement and memorandum of understanding with Vermont state agencies and other interested parties. Agencies signing the agreement, in whole or in part, included the Vermont Department of Public Service, Agency of Natural Resources, Department of Health, and Attorney General's Office.  Other signatories to the settlement include the Town of Vernon Planning and Economic Development Commission, the Windham Regional Commission, the Abenaki Nation of Missisquoi and the Elnu Abenaki Tribe, and the New England Coalition on Nuclear Pollution (NEC).

Under the settlement's revised vision of the proposed transaction, NorthStar has committed to initiate decontamination and dismantlement by 2021 (and potentially as early as 2019) and to complete decommissioning and restoration of most of the Vermont Yankee site by 2030 (and potentially as early as 2026). The Independent Spent Fuel Storage Installation or ISFSI would remain on-site.

The settlement also calls for NorthStar to provide additional financial assurance beyond that originally proposed. Enhanced financial assurance provisions include an increase in the amount of NorthStar's corporate support agreement from $125 million to $140 million; establishment of an escrow account, subcontractor guaranty, and pollution insurance requirements; and a comprehensive reporting protocol. Entergy also committed to contribute to the Site Restoration Trust, and to possibly use future proceeds from litigation against the U.S. Department of Energy over spent fuel storage costs as additional financial assurance.

The settlement remains subject to approval by the Vermont Public Utility Commission. The transaction would also require approval by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

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