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Vermont nuclear decommissioning committee drafting advisory opinion on nuclear waste policy

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NRC/Entergy Nuclear
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Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Plant before decommissioning

The Department of Energy is taking suggestions on how to “site Federal facilities for the temporary, consolidated storage of spent nuclear fuel using a consent-based approach.” A committee of the Vermont Nuclear Decommissioning Citizens Advisory Panel is drafting an advisory opinion for the full panel to submit to the DOE.

At its latest meeting, Vermont Nuclear Waste Policy Committee Vice Chair Lissa Weinmann reviewed the status of the draft resolution that will be forwarded to the state’s full Nuclear Decommissioning Citizens Advisory Panel.

“The primary matter right now from what I can see with this language is that there’s a lot of concern that the Nuclear Waste Policy Act very explicitly outlines the requirement that a permanent repository be licensed before a consolidated interim storage facility be named or started," Weinmann said. "So that is a point here. The DOE has asked for information regarding consent based siting for a consolidated interim storage facility.”

The Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Plant, which began operating in 1972, shut down on December 29, 2014. According to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission all of the spent nuclear fuel was placed into dry cask storage. Decommissioning of the plant is expected to be completed by 2030.

Some committee members wondered if the national nuclear waste fund should be addressed in the state’s resolution. Citizens Awareness Network Vermont organizer Chris Williams raised concerns about references in the document to financing a waste repository.

“The nuclear waste fund was collected from ratepayers of record for the express purpose of building a repository," Williams said. "To be without that money or operate without that cash in these times when we’re looking to build a repository would be very problematic. The language just doesn’t work for me.”

Adam Levin retired after working in the nuclear industry for nearly 37 years.

“The way the nuclear waste fund was set up it was not set up for mandatory spending, only mandatory receipt," Levin said. "So the money comes in as required, mandatory, but the money goes out as discretionary funding which means it basically gets put into general revenue.”

New England Coalition President Schuyler Gould said it’s appropriate for the committee and panel as a whole to comment to the DOE on the economic interests of Vermont citizens and ratepayers.

“Saving money is not the only point," Gould said. "And it’s not just consent based. It’s environmental justice and it’s also safety. I think it behooves the committee and the panel to ask for a truly comprehensive comparative cost analysis of the various factors and the various options that are on the table regarding federal nuclear waste.”

Advisory opinions on consent based siting must be submitted electronically to the Department of Energy by March 4, 2022.

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