NRC makes trust fund finding

Dry cask storage units of nuclear fuel are shown through the fence at the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant in Vernon in 2009. AP FILE PHOTO / TOBY TALBOT

MONTPELIER — There would be no significant environmental impact stemming from Entergy Nuclear using the Vermont Yankee decommissioning trust fund to help pay for the handling and storage of high-level radioactive waste, according to a notice published Wednesday by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in the Federal Register.

Entergy in 2015— shortly after Vermont Yankee shut down its Vernon nuclear reactor — had asked for an exemption that would allow it to tap the plant’s decommissioning trust fund to pay for future radioactive fuel costs.

At the same time, the company said it had taken out a line of credit — worth $145 million — to pay for building the expansion of the storage facility designed to accommodate the spent nuclear fuel and the costs of transferring thousands of fuel rods from Yankee’s spent fuel pool into a new storage facility made up of giant concrete-and-steel aircooled canisters.

The Federal Register notice gave parties — including the state of Vermont — until April 7 to comment on the NRC staff finding.

The state, under the Shumlin administration, fought Entergy’s request to use the trust fund for those fuel storage costs, but had been repeatedly shot down by federal regulators.

“ We agreed with the NRC staff’s assessment,” said T. Michael Twomey, vice president of external affairs for Entergy Wholesale Commodities, the arm of Entergy Nuclear that owns Vermont Yankee.

Geoff Commons, director of advocacy for the Vermont Department of Public Service, said the state was reviewing the decision and would reserve comment.

Last year the NRC denied the Shumlin administration’s request for a hearing on Entergy’s move to use the trust fund. But at the same time, it ordered NRC staff members to perform an environmental review of the Entergy request.

“The NRC staff has now performed that environmental review,” said NRC spokesman Neil Sheehan. “The NRC concludes that the exemptions did not, and will not, have significant effects on the quality of the human environment. Accordingly, the NRC has decided not to prepare an environmental impact statement for the action,” he added in an email.

“Keep in mind, the spent fuel could remain on-site for many decades to come,” he added.


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