In the latest example of a national trend, next Monday — after years of contentious debate, protests and criticism — the Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Plant will permanently shut down, marking a new era for Vernon, Vermont.
It was not legislative nor advocates’ efforts that led to Entergy shutting down Vermont Yankee. Eighteen months ago, the Louisiana based utility announced it would close the plant at the end of 2014 because it was not fiscally viable. The plant will close Monday according to Entergy Vermont Yankee spokesman Marty Cohn. “We’re going to be powering down. The difference this time is that we will not be powering back up.”
Cohn explains that shortly thereafter, the fuel rods will be removed from the reactor and placed in the spent fuel pool. “That’s going to occur probably about mid-January. So January 19th will be the beginning of SAFSTOR. The SAFSTOR is a part of decommissioning but the actual decommissioning occurs many years from now. So what’s going to happen if the plan goes as we’ve suggested by 2020 all of the spent fuel will be in the dry casks, but they’ll be still on our property. We’re going to have to wait until 2052 before the Department of Energy removes the spent fuel from Vernon, Vermont.”
Ethan Allen Institute Energy Education Project Director Meredith Angwin has supported continued operation of the plant. “The plant is in beautiful shape. It has high ratings from the NRC. It has great labor relations. It is a really wonderful plant with a lot of wonderful people, many of whom are being hurt one way or another.”
Vermont Yankee Decommissioning Alliance member Debra Stoleroff offers a very different perspective; she’s happy to see the plant shutting down. “Who knows how much longer Vermont Yankee would’ve gone on without any sort of accident. It’s an old, worn out, expensive form of energy for us in Vermont.”
Angwin says the nuclear plant closure will negatively affect the economy throughout the region. “There are not jobs that provide that kind of paychecks. The paychecks are like 40-percent above the paychecks in the surrounding region. If you do a multiplier effect it’s like a hundred million dollars a year in that area. It’s gonna be really bad.”
Entergy’s Cohn reports that there is currently $665 million in the decommissioning trust fund, while the cost of decommissioning is $1.2 billion.
Citizens Awareness Network Vermont Organizer Chris Williams is concerned not only about the spent fuel rods, but the stability of Entergy’s decommissioning fund. “What they have counted on is for financial market forces to have the fund grow. And that’s been sorely lacking in achieving what’s necessary to decommission the plant. The company is saying we’re going to have to sit and wait for the fund to accrue via market investments.”
There are currently 550 employees at Vermont Yankee. 316 will remain at the plant during SAFSTOR, which begins January 19th.
Forty workers have retired, 80 will move to other Entergy facilities and 27 will become unemployed.
Vermont Yankee will begin the shutdown process at 8 a.m. Monday. Full decommissioning of the facility could take up to 60 years.