Entergy (NYSE:ETR) on Dec. 6 said that the Vermont Public Utility Commission has issued an order approving the proposed sale of Entergy Nuclear Vermont Yankee to subsidiaries of NorthStar Group Services for decommissioning the Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Station site.
The commission also issued an amended certificate of public good authorizing NorthStar to own, possess the licenses for, and decommission Vermont Yankee.
Entergy added that the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission in October approved the transfer of Vermont Yankee’s operating licenses to NorthStar. Entergy noted that it and NorthStar are planning to close the sale transaction in early 2019, subject to satisfaction of all closing conditions.
Vermont Yankee is a single unit boiling water reactor located in Vernon, Vt., that began commercial operation in 1972. Entergy added that it acquired the plant from Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Corporation in 2002, and that the plant permanently ceased operations in December 2014.
As noted in the commission’s Dec. 6 order approving the acquisition, for instance, upon the change in ownership, NorthStar will be responsible for decommissioning the power station, restoring the site, and managing the spent nuclear fuel that is stored there.
The primary benefit of the proposal for Vermont is NorthStar’s commitment to accelerate by more than 30 years the schedule for decommissioning and restoring most of the station site and releasing it for other uses, the commission said. NorthStar will begin those activities by 2021 and plans to complete them by the end of 2030. The commission added that according to NorthStar’s accelerated schedule, by 2030, most above-ground structures will be removed, underground structures will be removed to a depth of at least four feet, and the site will be regraded, as well as seeded. In contrast, the commission said, Entergy had not planned to begin decommissioning before 2053 and, possibly, not until 2068 under its deferred decommissioning or SAFSTOR plan.
Under both proposals, all spent fuel assemblies would remain in dry storage within the Independent Spent Fuel Storage Installation (ISFSI) portion of the station site until the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) removes the spent nuclear fuel.
The commission also said that upon the acquisition by NorthStar of an Entergy subsidiary, NorthStar will own the power station, the spent nuclear fuel stored on the site, the site property, and more than $500m of dedicated trust funds that NorthStar will use for decommissioning and site restoration activities.
NorthStar anticipates that the trust funds and claim recoveries from DOE will be adequate to cover the costs of decommissioning, site restoration, and spent fuel management activities.
Among other things, the commission said: “We conclude that the benefits of the current proposals outweigh the remaining potential risks for the state. We note that the risks associated with delayed decommissioning are likely to be equally or even more substantial and would likely be borne by those who did not benefit from the [power] station’s electrical output. The additional financial assurances and other valuable risk-mitigation measures provided for in the [memorandum of understanding, or] MOU were of critical importance to us in reaching our decision, as was the broad support for the MOU among state agencies, other parties, and the public.”
The commission noted that NorthStar and Entergy in March entered into the MOU with all the active parties to the case, except one entity. The MOU includes commitments by NorthStar and Entergy to provide additional financial assurances to support the completion of the project and describes processes for site characterization work, corrective actions, reporting, and oversight by Vermont state agencies, as well as certain site restoration standards.
The commission said that in addition to other measures that have the potential to mitigate post-closing risks, NorthStar will provide monthly summaries of all expenditures at the site, informative and detailed annual certifications regarding the project’s progress, and prompt notification of material developments affecting NorthStar or the project.
The commission also noted that the state agencies will have significant rights in overseeing the project, including the right to inspect books and records, to access the site, and to object to disbursements from certain sources of funds.