HD Fairewinds Presents Vermont Yankee Decommissioning Report to Senate Committee at VT Statehouse
Fairewinds’ report Vermont Yankee’s Decommissioning As An Example of Nationwide Failures of Decommissioning Regulation was presented to the Senate Committee for Natural Resources and Energy Wednesday April 22, 2015. The report evaluating Entergy’s plan to use the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) sanctioned SAFSTOR process to decommission Vermont Yankee was funded by a grant from the Lintilhac Foundation. The report, which was submitted to the NRC March 23rd, takes a comprehensive look at SAFSTOR, an NRC developed subsidy that benefits nuclear power plant owners like Entergy by providing them with a 60-year window to complete decommissioning of nuclear plants. In his testimony to the Senate Committee, Fairewinds’ Chief Engineer Arnie Gundersen emphasized the lack of a basis in physics for the 60-year timeline and the potential dangers and burden to Vermonters should Entergy, a limited liability company (LLC), be allowed to take 60-years to decommission Vermont Yankee. Starting with the financial issues that are present in the SAFSTOR model, Arnie pointed out how Entergy has already been allowed to raid Vermont Yankee’s decommissioning fund before decommissioning even has begun. Entergy has made it clear that it will not begin decommissioning Vermont Yankee until the decommissioning fund has grown enough to fully cover all decommissioning costs plus funding spent fuel storage costs, a growth process extended by Entergy’s premature extraction of funds. Furthermore, Entergy has announced that as a LLC, the federal government may not be able to hold Entergy financially responsible should the decommissioning process take longer than 60-years, leaving the VY carcass and financial burden to Vermonters. Arnie walked the panel through data that shows that the money exists for Entergy to protect workers and to completely clean up its toxic mess by 2032. By allowing nuclear energy corporations to raid nuclear plant decommissioning funds, the NRC is granting an un-reviewed and unregulated subsidy to the nuclear industry Gundersen said. Johnson State College geology professor Dr. Leslie Kanat worked with Fairewinds to create the spreadsheet analysis.Fairewinds analysis also addresses serious safety concerns that Gundersen outlined for the Senate Committee, one of the most pressing being that Entergy wants to take as many short cuts as the NRC will allow including ending the emergency planning process at Vermont Yankee (see report, pg. 29). Entergy has asked for a special exemption simply to avoid spending money on the current evacuation plan even though the equivalent of radiation from 700 atomic bombs sits in the spent fuel pool. The NRC has approved of Entergy’s exemption, which means that when it comes time to remove the highly radioactive spent fuel from the fuel pool into dry cask storage, an Emergency Planning Zone will no longer be in existence. In fact, during the next 8-9 months, Entergy will be allowed to greatly reduce all emergency planning and full removal of the Emergency Planning Zone will take place April 2016. Due to the cost of safety modifications as well as deteriorating equipment conditions that negatively impact safe plant operation, between 8 and 10 additional nuclear plants are also under consideration for decommissioning, making nuclear power decommissioning one of the most serious issues facing all areas of the country. In his presentation to the Vermont Senate Committee for Natural Resources and Energy, Gundersen noted that the NRC is more likely to listen if states facing pull out by LLCs ban together in order to change nuclear law. The state of Vermont has the opportunity to press the NRC to be accountable for the safety of the people, not the protection of industry profits.