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Vermont Nuclear Decommissioning Citizens Advisory Panel hears reports on plant deconstruction and waste storage

Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Plant
Courtesy NRC and Entergy Corp.
The Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Plant shut down in 2014 and is being decommissioned

The Vermont Nuclear Decommissioning Citizens Advisory Panel held its first regular meeting of the year this week. The panel heard updates from state agencies and the company decommissioning a former nuclear power plant in the town of Vernon.

NorthStar is dismantling the former Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Plant, which shut down on December 29, 2014. The company was required to submit an annual status report by March 31st and the meeting of the full advisory panel included a review of its decommissioning report.

NorthStar manager Cory Daniels offered a presentation telling members that the company’s priority has been safety.

"Efforts to achieve Target Zero extend into radiological, environmental, industrial nuclear safety,” Daniels said. “This is a macro view of large elements. Nothing has really changed on it at all. Spent fuel management will continue, basically indefinitely until the DOE makes good on its commitment and there's a place to send the spent nuclear fuel. Large component removal for the most part is complete. And all the building and other large system deconstructions activities happen throughout the rest of 23-24 and ‘25."

Daniels reported that there have been no cited violations from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission during the decommissioning work.

“As far as our performance update, we're still greater than 1.4 million person hours worked on site since we took over ownership in early January of 2019 without a single lost time recordable accident occurring to date,” Daniels said. “Couple that with very good regulatory performance, good testament to the prudent and conservative decision making and strong technical conscience maintained by our staff and we stay well on schedule, we expect to be done quite a bit ahead of the 2030 required completion time.”

Daniels provided pictures of equipment being removed from the turbine building, which is nearing demolition.

“Getting away from the turbine building and now into the reactor building, the scale of this room is enormous. It's a large doughnut-shaped containment tank. It will be more than 2.5 million pounds of steel removed out of that very lowest level of the reactor building,” Daniels said. “All of that equipment is coming out in pieces and being taken away and the rooms are all being emptied out. That'll continue on for the next couple of months.”

The Advisory Panel also heard reports from state agencies regarding their oversite of the decommissioning work. They then heard from the panel’s Nuclear Waste Policy Committee which meets quarterly to keep abreast of federal developments on storage of spent nuclear fuel. Chair Lissa Weinmann says the next meeting in June will bring in a variety of experts to discuss the idea of recycling nuclear waste.

“Recycling of nuclear waste is something that's been coming up more and more and we thought it was important as a committee that we get a handle on what exactly we're talking about when we're talking about recycling or closing the nuclear fuel cycle,” Weinman said. “Recycling has been controversial in the past. It has not really been done in the United States for a long time on the level that is now being anticipated. So we're curious as to what the promise and the pitfalls of that might be.”

What to do with nuclear waste has been a controversial subject in New York’s Hudson Valley recently as the Indian Point nuclear power plant is decommissioned.

First-term Vermont Congresswoman Becca Balint has joined the House Spent Fuel Solutions caucus.

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