An Entergy Corp. official said Wednesday the company is offering no guarantees it will pay to decommission its retired Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant if the job's still not done by the end of a 60-year period.
Entergy Vice President Michael Twomey told members of two Vermont legislative committees that if decommissioning isn't done by the end of the period, known in the nuclear industry as "SAFSTOR," he expects there would be litigation, with the state and Entergy taking different positions.
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"There would probably be quite a bit of litigation about that," Twomey told a joint hearing of the House and Senate Natural Resources committees. "We'd all have different points of view."
Twomey said in an interview following the hearing that he believes it is highly likely that a decommissioning fund that currently contains more than $600 million will grow enough to cover the costs of dismantling the Vernon reactor and pay at least part of the costs of managing the plant's highly radioactive spent fuel well before the 2070s, when the 60-year waiting period allowed under federal law expires.
And Christopher Recchia, commissioner of the state Public Service Department, told the committees he believes decommissioning could begin within the next 15 years if Entergy adopts an aggressive schedule.
Vermont Yankee shut down permanently in December, with Entergy officials saying it no longer was economical to operate.
Entergy has been pushing to drop its support for emergency planning in towns within a 10-mile radius of the plant in 2016; Recchia told the committee the state is contesting that before the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
Twomey told the committees Vermont Yankee is expected to complete a key task by 2020: moving highly radioactive spent fuel out of its spent fuel pool and into concrete and steel casks on the plant's property.
Recchia said the state wants Entergy to maintain its support for emergency planning at least until the spent fuel transfer is complete. Many nuclear experts maintain the fuel is safer in the dry casks than in the pool, where an accident could lead to a catastrophic fire and the release of radiation.
New Orleans-based Entergy is one of several nuclear plant operators suing the federal Department of Energy for failing to fulfill a decades-old promise to take possession of spent fuel from reactors around the country.
The result for Vermont Yankee is that all the spent fuel generated since the plant began operations in 1972 remains on the plant site in Vernon. Twomey said Entergy plans to use two lines of credit to pay for transferring the fuel from the pool into the dry casks, and expects to recoup much of the cost from the Department of Energy.