BRATTLEBORO — The Vermont Nuclear Decommissioning Citizens Advisory Panel voted to send a letter to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission asking that it hold a public meeting in Vermont on the proposed sale of the Vermont Yankee plant to Northstar Group Services.
The vote came after the new commissioner of the Department of Public Service tried to extract a promise from Entergy Nuclear that it would support holding a public meeting in Vermont before federal regulators about the pending sale of the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant.
June Tierney, who was appointed three weeks ago by Gov. Phil Scott to head the state utility regulatory agency, pressed Joe Lynch, Entergy’s head of regulatory affairs, for Entergy to support the state’s push to have the Nuclear Regulatory Commission come to Vermont.
Later, the panel voted to write a letter to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, asking for a public meeting in Vermont. The two Entergy Nuclear panel members abstained from the vote.
NorthStar Group Services Inc. of New York City is proposing to buy Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant from Entergy Nuclear for $1,000, plus the plant’s $550 million decommissioning trust fund. NorthStar, which is one of the country’s top industrial demolition companies, has said it could demolish and clean up Vermont Yankee 37 years earlier than Entergy had originally proposed. North- Star has never taken apart a commercial nuclear power plant before, although its partners have been involved in several U.S. decommissioning projects.
Tierney, who was staff attorney with the Public Service Board and the Department of Public Service, carefully prodded Lynch to support the state’s request, which is pending before the NRC.
Lynch said “it is important to have a public meeting,” and he said the two Entergy Nuclear representatives on the Vermont Nuclear Decommissioning Citizens Advisory Panel were free to vote in favor of a proposed resolution.
“Is the company inclined to join” the state? Tierney asked. Lynch finally said while he didn’t have the “wholesale authority” to speak for Entergy, but he supported a public meeting.
Earlier in the evening, Bill Irwin, the radiological health chief for the Vermont Department of Health, said he would propose a resolution for the entire panel, and send it to the NRC, as well as the state’s three-member congressional delegation in favor of a federal meeting.
The group debated whether to send a letter to the NRC, officially requesting a Vermont public meeting, to address the changes proposed by NorthStar.
Kate O’Connor, chairwoman of the decommissioning panel, had earlier in the week requested that NRC hold a public meeting, open to public comment, in Vermont about the NorthStar plan. So far, NRC has been noncommittal about whether such a meeting would be held.
“I feel very strongly that the public needs to be listened to,” O’Connor said.
Tierney agreed. “This is an opportunity for the public to express what they think and feel about this proposal,” she said, prior to the panel’s vote.
“Vermont has done great things relative to the public’s good, nationwide,” Irwin said.
Tierney noted that it wasn’t a formal public hearing, where sworn testimony is taken, that the state was requesting, but a forum for the public to let their concerns be known. Tierney replaced the former commissioner, Christopher Recchia, who held the position for four years during the Shumlin administration.
Geof Commons, the director of public advocacy of the Department of Public Service, said the department would be requesting a public meeting during the Vermont regulatory review of the NorthStar purchase.