MONTPELIER — The Department of Public Service sees no need for additional evidence about Vermont Yankee’s pending shutdown in the unresolved relicensing case, and wants the Public Service Board to make a decision on the existing evidence.
The department, which acts as the public advocate before the quasi-judicial PSB, had the support of all the parties in the ongoing case, with the exception of the New England Coalition, said Geoffrey Commons, director of public advocacy for the state.
A status conference on the Vermont Yankee case was held Tuesday in Montpelier, the first conference since Entergy Corp. announced in late August it would close Yankee by the fourth quarter of 2014, citing low energy prices and increasing maintenance costs.
The board gave parties until Oct. 8 to submit arguments in favor of more evidence, and set Oct. 25 for final briefs in the case.
Raymond Shadis, senior technical adviser for the New England Coalition, said he felt the PSB needed to take testimony on Entergy’s plans to delay decommissioning for upwards of 60 years, a process called “Safstor” by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which has already approved such a plan for Vermont Yankee.
Shadis said it was “pretty clear” that the Department of Public Service was already in negotiations with Entergy over the important details remaining on Yankee’s last year of operation and was pushing for a quick solution to the docket.
“They want to go straight to reply briefs and a decision,” said Shadis.
He said he wants the timing and the quality of the decommissioning of Vermont Yankee included in the state’s certificate of public good.
Sandy Levine from the Conservation Law Foundation said she viewed the board’s timetable as “a good outcome.”
“The board has more than enough evidence to make a decision,” she said. “Vermont Yankee is now operating beyond the term of its current state approval. The PSB should provide VT Yankee and the people of Vermont a determination regarding the extended operation.”
Commons said the state had to tread a fine line on the issue of radiological decommissioning, a process that is largely controlled by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
“We’re in the thicket of pre-emptions,” said Commons. “Timing is a big issue.”
Entergy wants to wait for about 60 years before fully dismantling and cleaning up the reactor and its spent fuel.
Asked for the state’s position on the timing, Commons said he couldn’t give “a really solid answer” at this time.
But he said Gov. Peter Shumlin had gone on record wanting Yankee to be cleaned up and dismantled sooner rather than later.
Shadis said while the NRC controls the radiological cleanup at Yankee, the state has a long-standing agreement with Vermont Yankee to return the Vernon site to a “green field,” and ready to be used for another project.
While there is $571 million in Vermont Yankee’s radiological decommissioning trust fund, there is no similar trust fund for the “green field” project, Shadis said. He noted the NRC had said there was adequate money in the trust fund to do radiological decommissioning.
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