Watchdog groups concerned about Vt. Yankee storage plan - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Watchdog groups concerned about Vt. Yankee storage plan

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Although the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant stopped generating power more than a year ago, there are plenty of loose ends when it comes to the state's oversight of the plant.

The Public Service board kicked off two days of hearings on one of the key questions-- what to do with the nearly 900 radioactive fuel assemblies, or rods, that have accumulated since the plant first powered up in the 1970s.

"We are moving the spent fuel from the spent fuel pool to dry cask storage, and we're doing so within a time frame that I think most Vermonters have expressed support for," said Mike Twomey of Entergy.

Those 58 dry casks will remain on-site indefinitely and Entergy needs a certificate of public good to construct a second storage pad for them. In a site assessment study, Entergy said storing that spent fuel would likely delay and raise the cost of decommissioning. Local officials are concerned.

"In the past when plants have been decommissioned, they've gone with a more rapid decommissioning approach because it costs less," said Chris Campany of the Windham Regional Commission.

Environmental watchdog groups like the New England Coalition are arguing that better alternatives exist, like partially burying the casks or even moving them off-site.

"There really is no better protection-- airplanes, crashes, tornadoes, whatever. Get it in the ground and it's not going to be harmed," said Ray Shadis of the New England Coalition.

Entergy officials say they're making the best of a bad situation. There's still no timeline for a federal nuclear waste repository to be completed out West.

"I can't and Entergy can't solve the problem of a permanent spent fuel storage facility for the country," Twomey said. "But what we can do is enforce our rights under the standard contract, deal in a responsible manner with the spent nuclear fuel that's in the pool-- and we're doing that."

Administration officials say they support Entergy's storage plans, which include completing the transfer of spent fuel to casks in four years. How long it stays there is another question. But it's up to the Public Service Board to decide whether to OK the plan.

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