Progress in radioactive waste storage negotiations

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(Host) Legislative leaders say they’re making progress in negotiations over Vermont Yankee’s plans to store high level waste near the Vernon reactor. The legislative bargaining is over money, and the environmental conditions the company would have to meet to store its waste.

VPR’s John Dillon reports:

(Dillon) The talks were at an impasse last month because Entergy, the company that owns Yankee refused to pay any fee or tax for storing the highly radioactive waste.

But Robert Dostis, the Waterbury Democrat who chairs the House Natural Resources and Energy Committee, says progress is being made in the negotiations.

(Dostis) “There’s been movement. Entergy has heard our concerns. And they are coming to the table, and I think negotiating in good faith.”

(Dillon) Entergy wants to store its used fuel rods in huge concrete and steel casks near the Vernon reactor. Lawmakers have a say in the decision, because state law requires legislative approval for nuclear waste storage.

Members of the House Natural Resources Committee wanted to impose a fee on the dry casks, and use the money to fund energy conservation or renewable energy projects.
Entergy resisted. The company points out that the state’s ratepayers already get a good deal on the price for Yankee’s power. The company warned that it might shut the plant down if it was forced to pay an unreasonable tax.

But Entergy also wants to boost power output by twenty percent at Vermont Yankee. The negotiations have now centered on whether the company could pay the state some revenue from the additional power sales.

Senate President Pro Tem, Peter Welch, says there’s still work to do in the negotiations.

(Welch) “But the desire definitely is to be successful. We don’t want to have this in a showdown type of mode. I mean we want to do what is fair. It’s a fairness issue, both from the perspective of the people of Vermont and also from the perspective of Entergy as a corporation.”

(Dillon) Entergy officials who were lobbying in the Statehouse didn’t want to comment. Besides money, the talks have also focused on environmental conditions the company would meet to store the waste, such as ongoing radiation monitoring, and placing the dry casks outside the floodplain of the Connecticut River.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m John Dillon in Montpelier.

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