PSB Sale Hearing Recap

Press coverage of the April 6 Public Service Board public hearing at Vernon Elementary School on the sale of Vermont Yankee (Docket #8880):

Process for sale of VT Yankee said to be first arrangement of its kind (Greenfield Recorder 04.06.17)

VY decommissioning sale praised (Rutland Herald, 04.08.17)

Questions dominate VT Yankee sale discussion (VtDigger.org, 04.09.17)

Brattleboro Community Access TV: BCTV recording of the hearing

Notes by Leslie Sullivan Sachs:

PSB Public Hearing on Docket #8880 sale of VT Yankee to NorthStar, April 6 2017, Vernon Elementary

At least 125 present, including a good number of citizens and also a hefty number of lawyers, and staff of intervenors (parties to the docket) such as Conservation Law Foundation, Assoc. Industries of VT.

The presentation at 6:00pm opened with Geoff Commons, Dept. of Public Service, saying the department has not taken a position yet. He then introduced Scott State, CEO of NorthStar and Mike Twomey, an Entergy VP. They spoke briefly then took questions from the audience for 40 minutes.

Dan Burns of Waste Control Specialists and two staff from Areava France attended but did not speak. A number of people commenting questioned Areva’s poor track record in France and financial stability.

Scott State said he thinks of Yankee as a “radiologically contaminated site,” not a nuclear reactor site. 95% of the radiation is from the spent fuel, which will be in dry cask storage. 99% of the radiation will be gone when they remove the internal torus from the reactor. PSDAR submitted to NRC today.

Questions from the public:

  • Inexperience with a reactor this size? NorthStar has done thousands of large decommissioning projects. “NorthStar and Areva” have decomm large nukes in the United Kingdom. [Fact: NorthStar has done 4 university lab reactor decomms, Areva has the experience.)
  • Chris Williams: safety of elementary school? NorthStar will set up containment while removing radiated pieces and parts.
  • NorthStar broke down decommissioning into 920 discrete tasks, each one assigned a cost. NorthStar will use precisely the amount budgeted – perhaps less, but “we cannot take more than is assigned that cost.” There is a 10% contingency on everything.
  • Why is NorthStar’s budget ($811 million) less than Entergy’s estimate of $1.2 billion? (1) Entergy is moving spent fuel into dry casks before the sale, so that cost is no longer in the budget; (2) the new financial model, “guaranteed fixed payment system;” (3) NorthStar will perform decomm & site restoration at same time.
  • Mark McDonald pressed NorthStar on the question: if decommissioning fund is gone, who will pay? State of NorthStar answered, “the owner.” Who’s the owner in this layers of LLCs? ENVY. NorthStar: the PSB and NRC will evaluate financial assurance issues. McDonald: but the NRC just changes the rules to fit the issue.

Margaret Cheney and Sarah Hoffman were the Public Service Board hearing officers present. No time limits were set for public. BCTV filmed the hearing.

A few themes: “it’s almost too good to be true” by both skeptics and supporters of the sale; will Vermont be protected financially if things don’t go according to plan?; concern about financial stability of Areva; how clean is clean.

Here’s who testified, to the best of our knowledge:

  • Brad Ferland, President of VT Energy Partnership (approve & move forward)
  • Deb Katz, CAN (Rowe & CT Yankee – double expense over what was budgeted due to what they didn’t know was in the ground; we could end up with a brownfield site)
  • Asher Crispe, a “technology futurist” (don’t worry, technology is moving fast, solutions ahead!)
  • Michael Granger, asked about performance bonds
  • Ben Kingsley, Prosperity for Vermont (approve)
  • Chris Williams, VCAN, NIRS (concerned about cost over runs)
  • Tim Smith, Franklin County MA Industrial Development Corp. (support, move forward)
  • Leslie Sullivan Sachs, Safe & Green Campaign (skeptical, goal should be greenest possible plan)
  • Vernon Planning Commission (excited about future use of site for new energy)
  • Zack, VT Law School student & Tunbridge farmer (due diligence and research)
  • John Field, Putney citizen (concerned about the companies — Areva bailout in France, Waste Control Specialists)
  • Betsy Williams, Safe & Green Campaign (no trust; bottom line: no cost to Vermont taxpayers)
  • Peter VanderDoes, New England Coalition (concerned about the companies — Areva bailout in France, Waste Control Specialists)
  • Lissa Weinmann, Brattleboro (leave nuclear waste on site until permanent solution)
  • Gary Sachs, Brattleboro (no rubblization: dilution is not solution to pollution)
  • Leo Schiff, Safe and Green Campaign (concerns about nuclear waste)
  • Lorie Cartwright, Brattleboro (skeptical, due diligence needed)
  • Ned Childs, New England Coalition
  • Clay Turnbull, New England Coalition

A second PSB public hearing will be held in September, after evidence is submitted by Entergy, NorthStar and the 8 intervenors to the sale docket.

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