Much at stake for Yankee
Congratulations to the Vermont Department of Public Service for hiring Dennis Leshinskie, an experienced, nonpolitical nuclear engineer, to lead the state’s role in the decommissioning of Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant. Vermont’s economic and environmental future should benefit from the addition of this trained professional.
The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission has sole authority in matters of nuclear safety. Vermont should play at least an advisory role in the plant’s decommissioning. It’s reassuring to know that the administration has selected one key decision-maker who has experience-based, nonpolarized understanding of the radiological safety issues of spent fuel storage and plant dismantling. Some Vermonters might assume that when Vermont Yankee stops making power this December, the plant will become irrelevant to our future. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Any breakdown in the orderly decommissioning of Vermont Yankee risks a breach in the master settlement agreement of 2013, with serious consequences for Vermont’s environmental and economic future. Vermont Yankee has already paid its first $5 million commitment to the Vermont Clean Energy Development Fund, the state core of clean energy capital. The agreement also commits Vermont Yankee to contribute an additional $10 million for investment in clean energy and Windham County redevelopment.
The state should not put these vital funds at risk. For example, if Vermont Yankee fails to receive a certificate of public good for a second spent fuel storage pad, the settlement agreement could be declared invalid. This could also prompt an acrimonious legal battle and deprive southern Vermont of the economic and environmental benefits provided to it under the agreement. Spent fuel would remain in the fuel pool, which all parties agree is less desirable than dry cask storage. Investor interest in Windham County could be further tainted.
I wish Mr. Leshinskie every success in his role as a skilled, trustworthy observer and mediator of the real technical opportunities and challenges of the decommissioning of Vermont Yankee.
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