Entergy Nuclear announced this morning it has reached a deal to sell the Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Plant in Vernon, which closed in 2014, to a company that specializes in decommissioning industrial and nuclear plants.
Entergy has entered an agreement to sell Vermont Yankee and transfer NRC licenses to NorthStar Group Services and its subsidiaries.
New York-based NorthStar is a dismantling and remediation company specializing in decommissioning contracting. Entergy Vice President of External Affairs Mike Twomey says their specialization is running power plants, not decommissioning. “As we looked at this decommissioning project we wanted to find the most efficient and appropriate way to get this plant decommissioned in a timeframe that was consistent with expectations of people in Vermont, particularly people in Windham County. And as we evaluated all of our options this seemed to be the best solution that is a great outcome for Windham County and Vermont because the site will be decommissioned by 2030. It's a good outcome for Entergy because we'll we turn this project over to somebody who's an expert in decommissioning. And it's a good outcome for NorthStar.”
Meredith Angwin has worked in the power industry and hosts the Yes Vermont Yankee blog. She says Entergy has made a logical move. “Basically Entergy’s in the business of running power plants and really doesn't want to learn the business of decomming power plants. There are already special firms that do that. That's what nuclear plants do when they decom. They get in someone who specializes in decom. For example the Zion power plants in Chicago were transferred to Energy Solutions a company that began decommissioning them. Decommissioning is its own specialty.”
The sale will allow dismantling the plant to begin in 2021 with most site restoration complete by 2030. The original timeline would not have completed the process until 2075.
Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin released a statement noting that his administration has advocated for accelerated decommissioning and this transaction could provide that opportunity. But he cautioned that the state “...needs an open and transparent look at the financial capabilities of the buyer…”
The ownership transfer will go before the Public Service Board. Vermont Department of Public Service Commissioner Chris Recchia: “The main thing I think we need to consider is the financial and technical capability of this company coming in, NorthStar, and making sure that they can actually do the work they commit to doing. So that is probably the key thing. Obviously it's in the public interest if the schedule could be moved up substantially the way we have talked about, ah in the way Entergy has announced it today. So I think that the key thing is to make sure they have the financial and technical capability to do it.”
The New England Coalition has been a frequent intervenor at the Public Service Board during cases involving Vermont Yankee. Technical Advisor Ray Shadis says the group has mixed reaction to Entergy selling the plant to a professional remediation company. “The fact of accelerating the decommissioning is something that New England Coalition has advocated from the get go. It's doable. It’s fiscally responsible. The transfer of title is a way of ducking liability and that sets our antenna to wiggling a little bit because one thing that Entergy agreed to when they purchased the plant is that they would assume all liabilities when it came to decommissioning. So this has elements of cut and run.”
Entergy will file with the Public Service Board by the end of this year. Entergy also plans to accelerate the transfer of all spent nuclear fuel to dry cask storage from 2020 to 2018. It plans to close the deal with NorthStar in late 2018.