A look at the progress on decommissioning Vermont Yankee

Published: Oct. 10, 2023 at 5:24 PM EDT
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VERNON, Vt. (WCAX) - Progress is being made on the decommissioning of the former Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Plant in Vernon. And the company dismantling the plant is also helping to look for a future use for the property.

The old reactor building is one of the last visible reminders of Vermont Yankee.

For the past four years, Northstar has been taking apart Vermont Yankee piece by piece. The nuclear plant went offline in 2014 after decades of producing power.

Northstar began demolition in 2019. So far, it has taken more than 1.5 million hours of work with zero regulatory violations.

“As far as decommissionings go in the history of decommissionings in the country for nuclear facilities, this is probably one of the best,” said Dan Toegel, the site manager for Northstar.

A $600 million decommissioning fund set aside by Vermont Yankee’s previous owner, Entergy, is paying for the current work. Along with the site restoration, Northstar is also exploring new opportunities for the land.

“Be it to re-power it with renewables, or data center, or battery storages, there are a lot of different uses the site could potentially have, and we are committed to the local community to find the best and most valuable use,” said Scott State, the CEO of Northstar.

“At issue is what is the tax base going to be whenever Northstar is completed with its work. And if they can help bring in somebody that can add to the tax base, so much the better,” Vernon Town Clerk Tim Arsenault said.

But any use down the road will have to take into account the 58 spent fuel casks that will remain on site indefinitely until the U.S. government comes up with an alternative storage plan.

“The one thing remains, will the spent fuel remain on site? I think that is the $9 million elephant in the room,” Arsenault said.

The reactor will be the last structure to be torn down and taken away. Four to five trainloads of waste leave the area every week.

“We will go through a regulatory process then when we survey the site, sample the site,” State explained.

Ultimately, it will be up to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to release the site for unrestricted use. The current target date for that is 2026, still four years ahead of schedule.

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