Why would any company want to buy (or sell) a permanently closed nuclear power plant such as Vermont Yankee?
Why sell: Why wouldn’t Entergy just subcontract the decommissioning of Vermont Yankee to a company more experienced in that work, as has been done by other nuclear plant owners? A sale of VY to NorthStar would absolve Entergy of its liability for the plant and any contamination at the site for the price of $1,000.
Why buy: NorthStar may or may not make money from the Decommissioning Trust Fund, but may see it as establishing a track record for future nuclear plant decommissioning. If the high-level waste is transported out of state, that would absolve plant owners of responsibility for it, and would free up $31 billion of Nuclear Waste Fund money.
Who is NorthStar?: NorthStar is a consortium of corporations and, as such, could be a moving target for oversight in protecting the public. One of those NorthStar affiliates is Waste Control Specialists, which owns a low-level nuclear waste site on the Texas/New Mexico border and has applied for a permit to take high-level nuclear waste at that site.
Public safety: The sale of VY could set a precedent for other permanently closed nuclear plants over the next several decades. If bill H.R.3053 passes the Senate, that could result in an estimated 10,000 routine shipments of highly radioactive waste, putting at risk the health of millions of people living in cities and towns en route to purportedly temporary consolidated waste sites across the country. Setting such a precedent is one reason that the Vermont Public Utility Commission should deny permission for Entergy to sell Vermont Yankee.
What could enable such a dangerous transport plan? A bill now in the U.S. Senate, (already passed by the House) H.R.3053, the Nuclear Waste Policy Amendment Act of 2018, would, among other things, authorize transportation of this extremely dangerous nuclear waste to consolidated temporary (“interim”) nuclear waste sites, such as Waste Control Specialists’ site in the Southwest. Storage at such waste sites could also result in additional future transport. The bill also promotes restarting Yucca Mountain, which was found unsuitable as a permanent storage site several years ago.
What is the safer course of action at this point? Environmental groups and many others feel that rather than transporting high-level nuclear waste, the responsible course is to keep that waste where it was produced, or nearby in hardened stainless steel and concrete dry casks protected by earthen berms while a safe, scientifically-sound federal waste site is developed.
What can the public do? We can contact our senators urging them to vote “no” on H.R.3053 while the search continues for a safe, scientifically-sound permanent repository.
Nancy Rice lives in Randolph Center.