Decomm. Panel Notes & Reflections

The second meeting of the Nuclear Decommissioning Community Advisory Panel was held on Thursday, October 30th. The meeting was held at Vernon Elementary School, the reactor’s closest neighbor, and surely its first victim should an accident occur. (This was not mentioned at the meeting. Entergy’s evac zone presentation was simply slides of NRC regulations. Perhaps, given the setting, a dry recitation of regs was the only way to cope.)

What’s the Rush?

Over the course of the evening, it became apparent that Entergy is pushing things along at a rapid clip. Its site assessment was submitted two months ahead of schedule. In 60 days, two years ahead of schedule, they intend to file the PSDAR (Post Shutdown Decommissioning Activities Report).

We have been asking for prompt this and prompt that: we want the dangerous fuel out the pool and the site decontaminated and restored promptly and safely. So why aren’t we happy with the pace now?

60 days gives the NDCAP panelists less than two months to go through the assessment and make comments. Everyone needs time to come up to speed on the technical questions involved. Citizen rep David Deen said quite simply, “Sixty days is not enough time. We are volunteers.” After a day at their jobs, our citizen reps will snuggle up and relax with the chapter on radiological materials, or perhaps subsurface soils.

For all Entergy’s talk about transparency, this rush job makes one think that it is all for show. The negotiations with the state, the panel, the assessment, the PSDAR are all but nice window dressing so the nuclear industry looks like good corporate citizens.

Clay Turnbull of the New England Coalition was blunt, “Who is driving the schedule? Entergy. This Panel should take control of the schedule.”

Spent Fuel

Entergy is looking at taking out a $150 million line of credit to move spent fuel from the reactor to the pool, and from the pool into dry casks. Chris Campney, one of the citizen reps, called the credit line offer “the headline of the night.” This would enable things to move more quickly than Entergy dipping into the Decommissioning Trust Fund and then suing the DOE for breach of contract.

Under questioning by Deb Katz of CAN, an Entergy VP insinuated that it may not be easy for Entergy to get a line of credit. This was ironic. CAN has a lead role in a current investigation at the NRC into whether Entergy’s poor finances are affecting its ability to maintain their Northeast plants safely. He also reminded us that spent fuel management costs incur over decades, not all at once.

Emergency Planning

NRC regulations call for reactors to keep the 10-mile emergency planning zone in place until all the spent fuel is removed from the reactor and the fuel pool. 18 times owners have asked for an exemption to this regulation; 18 times the NRC has given them the thumbs up. Local fire departments and state emergency planners bear the financial and personnel burden to protect their communities.

Entergy says evacuation planning money would have to come out of the decommissioning trust fund, to a tune of $100 million until 2020, when presumably all the spent fuel is “safely” in dry cask storage. I couldn’t figure out how they got to $100 million. Entergy currently pays $4.5 million a year to the three states for the EPZ. There are 6 years between now and 2020. $4.5 million x 6 = $27 million. What’s the other $73 million for? On Sunday, Susan Smallheer asked the same question in her report in the Rutland Herald. Entergy says the $100 million equals the “current 24/7 level of staffing” until all the fuel is out of the fuel pool.

“This is an area of open disagreement” between the state and Entergy, said co-chair Chris Recchia, Commissioner of Public Service, at Thursday’s NDCAP meeting. The state has filed a motion to intervene in Entergy’s request to the NRC asking for exemption for evacuation planning in 2016.

Entergy has 550 staff now, and will lay off all but 316 in early 2015. Citizen rep Derrik Jordan asked about losing institutional memory once so many employees are gone. Entergy said former employees were interviewed for the site assessment.

Drones, Casks & What Ifs

Frances Crowe asked about security from drones. Entergy doesn’t comment on security matters. (The drone question seemed to fly over everyone’s heads. But Frances asked a timely question. It is a mystery as to who is responsible for drones sighted over nukes in France this month; on one day, multiple drones flew off nukes hundreds of miles apart. Greenpeace says it’s not them, and people are worried as no one is taking credit.)

Entergy has not decided on what dry casks it will use. Dry cask vendors made presentations to the Community Advisory Panel at San Onofre, CA. Leslie Sullivan Sachs asked if this Panel will have the same opportunity to hear from vendors. Entergy said no, that is a contractual matter and the Panel is advisory only. Chair Recchia said the State may disagree.

Nancy Braus asked what would happen if Entergy went bankrupt? An Entergy rep said the funds are in a trust and it will grow, but that “I can’t talk on camera” about what could happen financially. The NRC has primary responsibility.

The meeting began and ended with discussion on the Panel’s process and communications. It included sticky wickets familiar to anyone who follows democratic process, such as “if a couple of the panelists get together, must it be declared in advance as a public meeting?” A report on the NDCAP’s activities is due to the Governor and legislative energy committees by January 15.

There was also discussion on how to give the panel, and the public, opportunities to comment on the Assessment plan (and presumably whatever else comes up at the NDCAP meetings). There is currently no ability to make comments on the Dept. of Public Service website or on Entergy’s new website on decommissioning. We will let you know when that changes. Entergy has updated the website to include all Appendices to the Site Assessment Study. Oh, and if you missed their animated decomm video, here it is. Not Saturday morning cartoon laughs, but your kids will understand it.

The next meeting of DCAP is scheduled for Thursday, November 20th.

Leslie Sullivan Sachs, Safe & Green Campaign

Correction: In an earlier version of these notes emailed to our list 11.03.14, your faithful scribe made an error: Derrik Jordan is the citizen rep who asked about jobs. My sincere apologies to Derrik (and Dan DeWalt, who is not a rep and was not in attendance). The notes above are corrected.  

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