Vermont Yankee Legislation Would Turn Site Into ‘Green Field’

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(Host) Vermont lawmakers are once again trying to force Vermont Yankee to set aside more money to cover the cost of dismantling the plant when it closes.

The new legislation would require plant owners to restore the site to a green field that could be used for another generating plant.

And the legislation also says the plant will close in 2012.

VPR’s John Dillon reports:

(Dillon) Two previous Vermont Yankee decommissioning bills were vetoed by Governor Jim Douglas.

The latest legislation aims to make Entergy, the owners of the nuclear plant, follow through on an agreement it signed when the plant was purchased in 2002.

That memorandum of understanding requires the company to restore the site along the Connecticut River to "green field" status, a higher clean up standard that what is required by the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Tony Klein is an East Montpelier Democrat who chairs the House Natural Resources and Energy Committee.

(Klein) "And what we’re most concerned with is making sure that Entergy lives up to its promise of bringing that site back to a green field condition."

(Dillon) The legislation says the company has to set aside $40 million dollars by next year to cover the cost of site restoration.

Klein says the $40 million dollar figure came from Entergy’s own estimates of the additional cost to restore the site completely so it can be re-used.

(Klein) "It’s not new numbers. It’s their numbers; it’s not onerous; it’s reasonable, it’s rational and that’s the right thing to do."

(Dillon) Entergy Vermont Yankee spokesman Larry Smith said company officials had just received the bill. He said an Entergy executive would testify later this week.

(Smith) "We’re still reviewing the language in that proposed legislation, so don’t have any other comment while we’re reviewing it. But we are willing to have a conversation with the committee concerning it."

(Dillon) James Moore is the energy program director at the Vermont Public Interest Research Group. He says Entergy has not added to its decommissioning fund since it bought the plant.

(Moore) "And we’re talking about hundreds of millions of dollars that Entergy would rather pass on to our kids in the next generation. And this bill ensures that Entergy is going to be responsible for their own mess."

(Dillon) The bill includes extensive legal findings – including a provision that says the plant shall close in March 2012 when its license expires. Entergy wants a 20-year license extension, but the Vermont Senate went on record last month opposing it.

Moore says the House decommissioning bill follows through on the Senate vote.

(Moore) "And the House is taking the next logical step saying, ‘Yes, it’s going to close on schedule and we need to protect Vermonters from Entergy passing the cleanup bill to taxpayers.’"

(Dillon) The bill also requires Entergy to set up a separate fund to pay for the storage of spent radioactive fuel.

For VPR News, I’m John Dillon in Montpelier.

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