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.
Entergy expects to shut down Vermont Yankee 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 reliably operated more than 550 days as a base-load electricity generating plant during its final operating cycle.
ENVY has selected the SAFSTOR decommissioning option - one of three options approved by the NRC, and one chosen by several other retired U.S. nuclear plants. Under this option, the plant will remain in a safe condition until decommissioning work is completed, estimated to be in 2060.
In August 2013, Entergy Corporation announced that the 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, $1.24 billion in 2014 dollars, which is higher than previous cost estimates, Entergy said. 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).
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.
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.