MANCHESTER — Vermont and Texas officials were told Thursday that Entergy Nuclear expects to have its plans in place later this year for shipping low-level radioactive waste from Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant to a Texas facility.
At its annual Vermont meeting, the Texas-Vermont Low-Level Radioactive Waste Disposal Compact Commission heard Entergy’s update and signed off on several agreements to take waste from several other nuclear waste generators that are not part of the two-state compact.
Entergy has already shipped about 30 loads of low-level radioactive waste since 2012, said David Tkatch, radiation protection manager at Vermont Yankee.
And while low-level shipments will actually decline for a while after Yankee shuts down later this year, the bulk of the nuclear plant as it stands in Vernon could end up in the Texas facility.
Texas has taken the lead in the bi-state organization, which was formed more than 20 years ago. The waste facility owned by Waste Control Specialists in western Texas was built as part of the bi-state compact’s mission.
Robert Wilson, chairman of the panel, said he was preparing for the upcoming Texas legislative session, which determines the funding of the commission. The funding is based on the revenue generated at the WCS facility.
“I never know what to expect from our legislative session,” he said.
The Andrews County facility has proved to be so popular and in such high demand that WCS has an application pending before Texas environmental regulators to triple the size of the waste facility. Company president Rodney Baltzer told the gathering Thursday that his firm is interested in hosting a potential high-level radioactive waste facility.
The New York Times last week reported that a lightly inhabited west Texas county on the Mexican border is interested in hosting a high-level waste facility, as long as Texas and the local community support it.
Baltzer said the WCS facility accepts modular steel and concrete canisters for disposal, which the company can “stack up like Legos.”
David Tkatch, radiation protection manager at Vermont Yankee, told the gathering at the Equinox Hotel that Entergy was working to finalize its plans and timetable for shipping low-level waste to the Andrews County site owned by Waste Control Specialists.
Tkatch said Entergy has already made 25 to 30 deliveries to the west Texas site. Tkatch said Entergy has a favorable six-year contract with WCS because Vermont is part of the compact, which originally included Maine.
But Tkatch said after the meeting that Entergy remains confident there will be adequate capacity at the Texas site for the Vermont Yankee demolition and decommissioning debris, even if the demolition and cleanup of Yankee doesn’t occur for another 60 years, as currently outlined.
“Our volumes are guaranteed,” said Tkatch, who added that medical radioactive waste from Fletcher Allen Health Care was the very first shipment to the WCS facility.
Vermont’s members on the Texas commission, Peter Bradford of Peru and Richard Saudek of Montpelier, as well as alternate Jane O’Meara Sanders, questioned Tkatch on Entergy’s plans for decommissioning.
Tkatch said once the plant shuts down at the end of this year, there initially will be less waste, and then for a long time there would be a hiatus of shipments.
He said Entergy would have a “clean-out” of items that he called “irradiated hardware” stored in the spent-fuel pool, in addition to Yankee’s spent fuel rods, and ship that to Texas sometime in 2018, in anticipation of moving all the fuel out of the pool and into the passive, air-cooled concrete and steel casks.
Saudek asked Baltzer about the timetable for a high-level waste facility in Texas, but he said because the WCS facility is already established, it might take as little as five years to open such a storage site.
“It could be adapted if the community wanted it,” Baltzer said.
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