Entergy Vermont Yankee submits $1.24 billion decommissioning SAFSTOR plan

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Entergy Vermont Yankee submits $1.24 billion decommissioning SAFSTOR plan

Fri, 10/17/2014 - 3:33pm -- tim

Vermont Business Magazine The cost of decommissioning the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant in Vernon is estimated to be $1.24 billion, the onsite storage of the spent nuclear fuel should be completed by 2020 and the plant will be put into SAFSTOR for an undisclosed period of time before the site is returned to a "green field" status, according to the plant's owner. Entergy Nuclear Vermont Yankee has submitted its site assessment study for the decommissioning of the nuclear facility to the State of Vermont’s Public Service Department, Agency of Natural Resources, Department of Health, and Public Service Board. The study includes a description of existing radiological and non-radiological conditions at the site, a description of the decommissioning process, a description of steps required to move spent nuclear fuel to dry storage and to close the spent fuel pool, information on the likely cost and schedule of decommissioning and drafts of the post-shutdown decommissioning activities report and site-specific decommissioning cost estimate that ENVY expects to submit to the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission in December 2014.

In August 2013, Entergy Corporation announced that the 605 megawatt Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Station would not be refueled and would cease operations at the end of its current operating cycle in late 2014. In December 2013, several Vermont state agencies and VY owner ENVY negotiated a settlement agreement that, among other things, included commitments by ENVY that VY would cease operation by the end of 2014 and that ENVY would prepare a site assessment study.

The site assessment study is intended to provide a basis for discussion about what will become of the VY plant and site after cessation of operations. The report consolidates into one source a summary of the historical environmental and radiological condition of the site, to explain what activities ENVY currently expects to occur as VY transitions from an operating to decommissioning site and to outline updated cost estimates for decommissioning the site. The report’s summary of historical environmental and radiological information includes information about events that were reported to state or federal regulatory authorities. Where required, these events were reported at that time to appropriate regulatory agencies.

The most significant piece of new information presented in the site assessment study is the updated cost estimate to decommission VY, which is higher than previous cost estimates.

Entergy has previously suggested the SAFSTOR method, which Governor Shumlin has long opposed. Under SAFSTOR, the spent fuel would be removed, stored onsite (in this in dry cement and steel casks), systems would be disconnected and drained, and the plant would then be monitored as the radioactivity of the plant decays. The governor opposes SAFSTOR for Vermont Yankee. He wants Entergy to decommission the plant as soon as possible after it is closed instead of mothballing it for what could be several decades. Shumlin wants the plant dismantled and the non-fuel structures shipped to a landfill prepared to handle radioactive waste (this would be separate from a federal spent-fuel repository, where the highly radioactive material could be removed and reprocessed for re-use).

The NRC has ruled that radioactive nuclear waste could be stored for 60 years on nuclear power plant sites.

Christopher Recchia, Commissioner of the Vermont Public Service Department, issued the following statement in response to Entergy’s release of their site assessment report for the Vermont Yankee nuclear power station. It suggests the decommissioning could start as early as the 2020s.

“We appreciate the detail provided and commitment of Entergy in making this report available," Recchia said in a statement. "The site assessment has been sent to the full Nuclear Decommissioning Citizens Advisory Panel (NDCAP), and will be on the agenda for discussion at the October 30th NDCAP meeting. In general, the information provided is in line with what we expected, estimating total costs to be about $1.2 billion to complete the restoration of the site. It includes cost for spent fuel management, as well as site restoration.

"It is important to note," Recchia said, "that site restoration is not included by the NRC in considerations as to whether work can begin on decommissioning. In line with the NRC's requirements, the estimates also assume only a 2% fund rate of return and no reimbursement from the Department of Energy for spent fuel management. Assuming Entergy can accomplish spent fuel management from the pool into dry cask on the 2019-2020 schedule Entergy has suggested, and get reimbursement from the US Department of Energy in a timely manner, we expect that these cost estimates will enable us to move forward with full decommissioning in the 2030s or perhaps late 2020s timeframe, depending on growth in the Decommissioning Trust Fund. We look forward to discussing these issues with the Nuclear Decommissioning Citizens Advisory Panel, and continuing to work with Entergy to get this work accomplished expediently and safely, and to restore the site to productive use as soon as possible.”

Entergy Vermont Yankee expects to shut down VY by the end of 2014 and immediately begin transitioning the plant from operations to dormancy. This transition period is expected to last until approximately 2020, at which time all spent nuclear fuel is expected to be transferred from the spent fuel pool to dry cask storage on the VY independent spent fuel storage installation. The plant began operating in 1972. VY has operated more than 550 days as a base-load electricity generating plant during its final operating cycle.

Study highlights

·         ENVY has selected the SAFSTOR decommissioning option – one of three options approved by the NRC, and one chosen by several other retired US nuclear plants. Under this option, the plant will remain in a safe condition until decommissioning work is completed.

·         The estimated decommissioning cost is $1.24 billion in 2014 dollars. The total decommissioning cost estimate includes costs associated with terminating the NRC operating license ($817 million), spent fuel management ($368 million) and site restoration ($57 million).

·         The nuclear decommissioning trust continues to exceed NRC financial assurance requirements in the SAFSTOR scenario for license termination activities such as preparation for dormancy and decontamination and dismantlement.

·         With NRC approval, excess funds in the trust may be used for spent fuel management activities. ENVY plans to seek NRC approval to use a combination of the nuclear decommissioning trust funds and financing to fund spent fuel management to fulfill NRC financial assurance requirements for spent nuclear fuel, with financing being repaid from litigation recoveries of costs from the federal government. The need for a spent fuel management plan is largely driven by the U.S. Department of Energy’s failure to remove and dispose spent nuclear fuel, for which ENVY and prior owners of VY have already paid the DOE more than $119 million. ENVY has prevailed in past litigation for recovery of the large majority of its claimed spent fuel storage costs.

·         ENVY is committed to seek NRC approval to commence major decommissioning activities within 120 days after it has made a reasonable determination that the funds in the nuclear decommissioning trust are adequate to complete decommissioning and remaining spent nuclear fuel management activities.

·         Safe operations will continue to be the top VY priority for the remainder of 2014, and decommissioning of the facility will be done in a safe and environmentally responsible manner. Radiological and environmental monitoring will continue during the entire decommissioning process to ensure safety and environmental protection.

·         The plant’s spent nuclear fuel will remain in the existing on-site fuel pool until a second independent spent fuel storage installation pad is built onsite. Most U.S. nuclear plants store spent fuel onsite – either in fuel pools or dry storage casks – because the United States does not yet have a permanent federal repository for used nuclear fuel.

·         Consistent with a Vermont state requirement, ENVY has applied for a certificate of public good to construct the second independent spent fuel storage pad, which is required to complete moving all the spent nuclear fuel currently stored in the spent fuel pool to dry cask storage. ENVY’s ability to transfer all spent fuel to dry storage by 2020 (as currently anticipated) is dependent on obtaining the certificate of public good in a timely manner.

·         After all of the VY spent fuel is moved to dry storage, the fuel will remain on the spent fuel storage pad until DOE removes it from the site. At that point, VY will be similarly situated to the other three decommissioned Yankee plants (Yankee Rowe in Rowe, Mass.; Maine Yankee in Wiscasset, Maine; and Connecticut Yankee in Haddam Neck, Conn.), which continue to store their spent fuel on their spent fuel storage pads as they await progress at the federal level to remove the fuel from their sites.

“Decommissioning Vermont Yankee will be a well-defined process, with significant NRC oversight,” said Bill Mohl, president, Entergy Wholesale Commodities. “Nuclear safety will remain our top priority. The plant will remain in a safe condition. Our comprehensive emergency plan will continue to meet all applicable NRC requirements, and we will continue to maintain a 24/7 security force throughout the decommissioning process.”

ENVY has launched a web site that contains the site assessment study and additional information about the nuclear plant’s decommissioning plan, vydecommissioning.com.

Entergy Corporation is an integrated energy company engaged primarily in electric power production and retail distribution operations. Entergy owns and operates power plants with approximately 30,000 megawatts of electric generating capacity, including more than 10,000 megawatts of nuclear power, making it one of the nation’s leading nuclear generators. Entergy delivers electricity to 2.8 million utility customers in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas. Entergy has annual revenues of more than $11 billion and approximately 14,000 employees.

Source: Entergy 10.17.2014