Entergy agrees to fast track decommissioning of Vermont Yankee nuclear unit

Entergy (NYSE:ETR) announced Nov. 8 that it has reached an agreement to accelerate decommissioning and site restoration of the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant by decades.

The corporate parent has agreed to sell Entergy Vermont Yankee and transfer the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) licenses to subsidiaries of New York-based NorthStar Group Services. NorthStar is described as a leading facility and environmental solutions company with expertise in dismantling and remediation.

 In addition, Entergy announced plans to accelerate the transfer of all spent nuclear fuel to dry cask storage at the Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Station, from 2020 to 2018.

Vermont Yankee Nuclear Station, a single unit boiling water reactor (BWR), began commercial operation in 1972. Entergy bought the plant in 2002 from Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Corp. It permanently ceased operations on Dec. 29, 2014. At full power, the 600-MW Vermont Yankee supplied nearly one-third of all electricity consumed in Vermont.

The sale of Entergy Nuclear Vermont Yankee (ENVY) is subject to closing conditions, including approval by NRC and the Vermont Public Service Board. Entergy and NorthStar will ask the Public Service Board to approve proposed site restoration standards that are generally consistent with those of other regional decommissioning projects. The companies anticipate that the transaction will close by the end of 2018.

“By accelerating decommissioning, we are fulfilling a commitment we made in 2013 to decommission Vermont Yankee as soon as reasonably possible,” said Entergy Wholesale Commodities President Bill Mohl. “Decommissioning and site restoration, drawing on NorthStar’s expertise, will provide economic development for the region.”

Move would speed decommissioning work about 50 years

Under Entergy’s original schedule, as outlined in its Post Shutdown Decommissioning Activities Report filed with the NRC, Entergy expected to initiate decontamination and dismantlement in 2068, with projected completion of both decommissioning and site restoration by 2075.

Under the agreement with Entergy, NorthStar has committed to initiate decontamination and dismantlement by 2021 and to complete decommissioning and restoration of the Vermont Yankee site — with the exception of the independent spent fuel storage installation (ISFSI), by 2030.

Thereafter, NorthStar will continue to operate and maintain the ISFSI until the Department of Energy (DOE) fulfills its statutory and contractual obligations to remove all of the spent nuclear fuel from Vermont Yankee. NorthStar will then decommission the ISFSI, terminate the NRC license and complete site restoration.

Holtec International, the manufacturer of the dry storage systems used at Vermont Yankee, submitted license amendment requests to the NRC earlier this year, which if approved, will support complete transfer of all of Vermont Yankee’s spent nuclear fuel to dry storage by the end of 2018.

The NorthStar team for the Vermont Yankee project will include several companies familiar to the nuclear industry – AREVA, Waste Control Specialists (WCS) and Burns & McDonnell.

Financial details of proposed deal outlined

As consideration for its interest in ENVY, Entergy will receive nominal cash consideration and a promissory note payable to Entergy in an amount equal to the amount owed at the time of closing under a credit facility to finance Vermont Yankee’s dry fuel storage costs, which facility will be either assumed or refinanced by an Entergy subsidiary by the closing.

The transfer of ENVY to NorthStar will include the transfer of ENVY’s nuclear decommissioning trust and its obligations for spent fuel management and decommissioning. As a result, the nuclear decommissioning trust and associated asset retirement obligation will be removed from Entergy’s balance sheet at closing. The transaction is expected to result in a loss at closing, the amount of which cannot be determined at this time, Entergy said.

Subject to satisfaction or waiver of the conditions to closing, the transaction is expected to be completed in late 2018. On an ongoing basis, the sale is expected to be mildly accretive to operational results once the transaction is completed, primarily due to the elimination of future decommissioning accretion expenses.

A contractually agreed minimum level of funding at close in Vermont Yankee’s nuclear decommissioning trust (NDT) is a condition to close.  The amount of any contribution to the NDT that may be required to meet the minimum funding level is highly uncertain and will depend on, among other things, the level of future reimbursements from the NDT for work performed prior to closing and the market performance of the investments in the NDT through closing. 

But assuming a Dec. 31, 2018, closing and a level of expenditures from the NDT for work prior to the closing that is consistent with Entergy’s current estimates, Entergy estimates that no contribution would be required to meet this condition if the rate of return on the NDT assets from Sept. 30, 2016, through closing is at least 5.5% per annum and that a contribution of approximately $10m-to-$12m would be required for every 1% by which the rate of return falls below 5.5% over such period.  Entergy is not required to make any contribution to the NDT to cause this condition to be satisfied, but would have the option to do so prior to closing.


About Wayne Barber 4201 Articles
Wayne Barber, Chief Analyst for the GenerationHub, has been covering power generation, energy and natural resources issues at national publications for more than 20 years. Prior to joining PennWell he was editor of Generation Markets Week at SNL Financial for nine years. He has also worked as a business journalist at both McGraw-Hill and Financial Times Energy. Wayne also worked as a newspaper reporter for several years. During his career has visited nuclear reactors and coal mines as well as coal and natural gas power plants. Wayne can be reached at wayneb@pennwell.com.