Brief

NRC denies Vermont's petition for oversight of Yankee nuke decommissioning

Dive Brief:

  • The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has denied a request by the state of Vermont to gain oversight into the decommissioning of Entergy’s Vermont Yankee nuclear plant.

  • Vermont argued that Entergy’s use of decommissioning funds for “irradiated fuel management,” earlier granted as an exemption by the NRC, was at risk of prematurely depleting the decommissioning fund. The NRC said the exemption was granted in accordance with its rules and is not subject to review over fears of depleting the funds are misplaced.

  • Vermont also argued that a shortfall in funds would put taxpayers at risk, and the state sought review of all Entergy requests for decommissioning fund withdrawals; the NRC rejected that claim, saying that its ongoing oversight “provides reasonable assurance that sufficient funds will be available to decommission Vermont Yankee in accordance with our regulations.”

Dive Insight:

Entergy decided to close its 604 MW Vermont Yankee nuclear plant in 2013 and began decommissioning work in 2014, but that has not ended the controversies over the plant.

The loss of the plant raised concerns about how the state and the region would replace the lost capacity. Vermont Yankee provided about 4% of New England’s electricity supplies.

Vernon, Vermont Yankee’s hometown, is considering building developing a 600 MW gas-fired plant to replace the retired nuclear plant.

The closure of Vermont Yankee also raised concerns about how the loss of a low emission source of electricity would affect wider emission profiles. After Vermont Yankee closed emissions in New England rose slightly, reversing years of steady declines.

The concerns raised by the closure of Vermont Yankee are likely to grow in the coming years as more nuclear plants face retirement. Analysts say as much as 11% of the United States' nuclear generation fleet is at risk of early retirement.

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Filed Under: Generation Regulation & Policy