« Nov. 25th Forum on the Decommissioning of Vermont Yankee in Montpelier | Main | San Onofre decommissioning fund $300 million short -- utility seeks to further gouge ratepayers over shortfall »

Will the Vermont Yankee decommissioning cost $1.2 billion and take 60 years?!

The tritium leak at Vermont Yankee -- first admitted in 2010, and containing other radioactive poisons as well -- will undoubtedly add significantly to the decommissioning costs for radiological de-contaminationAs reported by the Rutland Herald, Entergy Nuclear and the State of Vermont are already butting heads over the timetable and thoroughness of the decommissioning -- dismantlement and clean-up -- of the Vermont Yankee atomic reactor when it permanently shuts down in October, 2014.

As the article reports:

"The announcement that Entergy would be closing the plant has spawned a whole new set of questions for lawmakers, including when Vermont Yankee will be decommissioned, whether Entergy has sufficient money to pay for the process, and the degree to which the site will be restored to its pre-plant condition.

Comments out of both camps Tuesday suggest that Entergy and Vermont politicians may already be on a collision course when it comes to those issues."

Vermont political leaders, from the Governor to the Speaker of the State House, as well as the state's united U.S. congressional delegation, have called for the site to be restored to "greenfield" status as soon as possible. In that regard, they are echoing calls made for many years by grassroots environmental groups like Vermont Yankee Decommissioning Alliance (VYDA).

However, Entergy is indicating its preference is to mothball the plant for as long as 60 years, under a U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) approved method dubbed "Safstore."

Less than half of the estimated $1.2 billion decommissioning price tag is currently present in the reactor's decommissioning fund, however.

As reported by the Bennington Banner:

'...In 2011 Senators Patrick Leahy and Bernie Sanders [as well as] Rep. Peter Welch wrote to the NRC expressing their concerns about the SAFSTOR approach as it might be applied to Vermont Yankee.

Their letter said, in part:

"SAFSTOR would let Entergy off the hook for clean-up, waste disposal, and remediation of the plant site in Vernon for years, or even decades."

On Tuesday, Leahy noted that moving quickly to full decommissioning and cleanup would have the added advantage of using the plant’s current highly skilled and experienced workforce, rather than trying to train a new generation of workers with the plant and its older technology decades from now.

Sanders agreed with Leahy.

"Entergy must go through a decommissioning process as soon as possible, a process which will require many workers," he said.

"Clearly there are no people who know the Vermont Yankee plant better than those who are currently employed and they should be given top priority for those new jobs."

Leahy is also concerned about who will eventually foot the bill.

"The full cost of this decommissioning needs to be paid by the plant owner and must not become a burden for Vermont or for the federal government."...'

In other words, those Vermont Yankee workers who have made, on average, $90,000-$100,000 annual salaries, as well as who have made the radiological mess at the Vermont Yankee site, should be the ones responsible for cleaning it up, as well!

As Beyond Nuclear's Kevin Kamps said in a Common Dreams interview:

"It is going to be necessary to have accountability going forward," Kevin Kamps of Beyond Nuclear told Common Dreams. "The regulations surrounding decommissioning in this country are woefully inadequate, and we are facing leaks of radioactive poisons into groundwater systems. Entergy has not put a single penny into [the Vermont Yankee decommissioning fund]. The fight is on to make sure the cleanup is comprehensive."