• Vt. official to address NRC
    By
     | July 15,2014
     
    Staff FILE Photo

    Christopher Recchia, commissioner of the Public Service Department, shown here in Montpelier, will speak today at a national hearing on decommissioning nuclear power plants.

    MONTPELIER — The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has invited a top Shumlin administration official to a national hearing today on decommissioning nuclear power plants.

    But the commission probably won’t like what Christopher Recchia, commissioner of the Public Service Department, will say.

    “They need to let us be more actively involved in the decommissioning process,’’ Recchia said. He said he plans on talking about the state’s new citizens decommissioning panel, which will replace the Vermont State Nuclear Advisory Panel, which expired July 1.

    Recchia said Monday he is going to renew the state’s concern about leaving spent fuel in Vermont Yankee’s spent fuel pool, rather than transferring it to an expanded passive, air-cooled system, called dry cask storage.

    And, he said, Entergy officials should not be allowed to reduce its emergency planning efforts as long as the spent fuel is still in the spent fuel pool, rather than the air-cooled system.

    Entergy Corp. announced last August it would be shutting down the Vernon reactor at the end of the current fuel cycle, which translates into sometime in December 2014. The move, which was long sought by the Shumlin administration, was made because the reactor was losing money. The move will put about two-thirds of Entergy’s employees out of work in December.

    Recchia said he also plans on asking the NRC to formally review Yankee’s post-shutdown decommissioning activity report, which it currently does not.

    Under current regulation, once Entergy submits the plan — normally expected within two years of shutdown but in Yankee’s case expected at the end of 2014 — it is automatically adopted if there is no comment within 90 days. “That doesn’t feel right to me,” he said.

    Late last month, Entergy filed preliminary plans with the Public Service Board asking for permission to expand its existing air-cooled, concrete cask system in order to handle the thousands of spent fuel rods that have been irradiated during Yankee’s 42 years of operation. The company said it hopes to have the facility built by 2017, and transfer all the fuel out of the spent fuel pool by 2021.

    Recchia said the company has said it would have two “campaigns” of moving the fuel to the giant concrete and steel canisters, in 2019 and again in 2020.

    While Entergy has said it will transfer the fuel — a move applauded by both anti-nuclear activists and the Shumlin administration — there is no requirement that it do so. In fact, the NRC this summer ruled that spent fuel pools were just as safe as the passive, air-cooled system.

    susan.smallheer

    @rutlandherald.com

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