VPIRG Opposes Permit Extension for Vermont Yankee: Calls for increased state role in decommissioning process

In a brief filed with the Public Service Board, VPIRG called on the Board to grant the people of Vermont – through their Governor or Department of Public Service – a voice in the process of decommissioning the plant.

Entergy has made clear that it intends to close Vermont Yankee by the end of 2014. The company has said that there is currently a shortfall of roughly $275 million in the Decommissioning Trust Fund. Current regulations allow Entergy to delay decommissioning so that it would not be complete for 60 years. In the meantime, the Trust Fund will likely grow, and Entergy has a right to keep any surplus in the Fund (other than the funds contributed by Vermont ratepayers) once decommissioning is complete.

This creates a situation where Entergy arguably has a financial interest in waiting a very long time to begin appropriate decommissioning of the plant. According to VPIRG’s brief:

“Entergy has a financial incentive to delay commencement of decommissioning while the fund grows. So long as the fund grows at a faster rate than the cost of decommissioning, Entergy will profit from the delay.”

Unlike Entergy, VPIRG argues that the people of Vermont have a compelling interest in seeing the decommissioning process begin as promptly as possible, as long as the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission determines that the decommissioning plan is appropriate and the funding is sufficient.

“There’s no question that the NRC has exclusive authority over radiological decommissioning,” said VPIRG’s Executive Director, Paul Burns. “But through this process we can still protect the State of Vermont’s compelling interest in ensuring that the NRC is given a prompt opportunity to exercise its authority.”

In other words, Entergy should provide the State with detailed information on a regular basis about the money in the Fund and its plans for decommissioning. And once the Fund has adequate dollars in it, the State should be empowered to request that the NRC approve the prompt decommissioning of the plant.

“We cannot leave the timeline for cleaning up this site to Entergy alone. We’ve seen what happens when the company had a financial incentive to cut corners in the operation of the plant. Now that they may have a profit motive to delay decommissioning, it’s critical that the people of Vermont have a voice in this process as well,” Burns added.

Given Entergy’s extraordinary track record of untrustworthiness, VPIRG also continues to oppose its request for a Certificate of Public Good to operate the plant, even for another 14 months.

You can read the full text of VPIRG’s brief here.