MONTPELIER — The two sides in the confidential talks between the Shumlin administration and Entergy Corp. over issues involved in closing the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant reported progress after meeting behind closed doors for eight hours Monday.
“It was constructive and productive,” said Christopher Recchia, commissioner of the Department of Public Service. Recchia said the two sides had a lot of issues to cover, and he said progress had been made, although he declined to be specific.
Recchia and other Shumlin administration officials, along with Attorney General William Sorrell, are meeting with Entergy officials about the major issues involved in the late 2014 shutdown of Yankee, focusing on the timetable for decommissioning, the handling of the highly radioactive spent nuclear fuel, and the eventual reuse of the Vernon site.
“We were pretty much all day,” said Recchia, who said the talks started at 9 a.m. and ended around 5 p.m.
Entergy has clearance from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to use its Safstor method, which would essentially mothball Vermont Yankee for up to 50 years, allowing another 10 years for the eventual demolition and cleanup of the site.
How the spent nuclear fuel would be handled is not spelled out.It could all be transferred out of the spent fuel pool into concrete and steel casks, or it could remain in the spent fuel pool. Money for the transfer is expected to be an issue, since Entergy would have to front the money for the expensive transfer and later recoup its costs from the NRC-controlled decommissioning trust fund.
With a new multimillion-dollar VELCO switchyard recently completed just north of Yankee, the Shumlin administration is trying to assure future reuse of the Vermont Yankee site a lot sooner than 60 years.
Entergy has until 2016 to submit its decommissioning plans; that is two years after the plant eventually shuts down.
Entergy Nuclear spokesman Robert Williams issued a statement on behalf of the president of Entergy Wholesale Commodities, William Mohl, who has met privately with Gov. Peter Shumlin since Entergy announced three months ago it was closing Vermont Yankee:
“We remain focused on having constructive discussions with the governor and the state of Vermont as it relates to the shutdown and decommissioning of the Vermont Yankee facility. Many of the issues we are discussing will require give and take by both parties. We remain optimistic that we can reach an agreement that is acceptable to the state and to Entergy Vermont Yankee.”
Believed to be part of the discussion is the $5.4 million legal bill that Entergy is trying to collect from the state over the federal lawsuit Entergy filed against the state over two laws. Entergy won a decision in U.S. District Court in Brattleboro and in the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals in New York City, but the appeals court struck down the portion of the earlier ruling that allowed Entergy to recoup its legal costs.
Recchia said both sides agreed to continue talks.
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