Monday, February 27, 2017

Sooner Rather Than Later, the NorthStar Decomm Plans: Guy Page Guest Post

NorthStar Decomm of Triga Reactor, Omaha
The advantage to Vermonters of the sale of Vermont Yankee to NorthStar can be summed up this way: sooner rather than later.

As early as 2021, NorthStar, would begin a decade’s worth of decommissioning. By comparison, the original decommissioning plan as prescribed by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission would begin no sooner than about 20 years from now, and more likely around 2072.

Economic Impact

This advanced schedule means that sooner rather than later, NorthStar’s plan can stimulate broad-based employment and prosperity for retail, food and lodging, housing, and healthcare sectors, as well as government spending on schools, roads, public safety and other vital services in Windham County and throughout the state. Total estimated economic impact: $781 million [Brattle Group study, 12/15/2016].

During regular operations, Vermont Yankee employed over 600 professionals in good-paying jobs. For a five-year period, NorthStar decommissioning will add approximately 1,000 jobs (onsite jobs and secondary spending combined) per year to the local and state economies.

Notably, the funding for decommissioning won’t come from local or state taxpayers, but from the Vermont Yankee Decommissioning Trust Fund, with more than $550 million in asset value. Properly managed with the oversight of the NRC as it has been to date, it will fund the entire decommissioning project, and the funds will begin to be unlocked much sooner with NorthStar.

Northstar Competency

Decommissioning is NorthStar’s core competency as an ongoing business. It has helped decommission more than 300 related projects, including four nuclear power plants in New England. NorthStar has also conducted NRC-approved decommissionings from start to finish for several nuclear reactors at universities and other institutions.

Before it can begin the work, NorthStar must pass the scrutiny of both the Vermont Public Service Board and the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The PSB has already opened a docket on the case, and has invited public input through the submission of comments online or through public testimony at two anticipated public meetings this year.

The NorthStar sale also would mean that sooner rather than later, low-level radioactive waste will be safely shipped out-of-state. NorthStar‘s plan to move this material out of state pre-processing – known in the industry as “rip and ship” – will get low-level waste out of Vermont promptly. This removal by no later than 2030 compared to up to 60 years is most welcome. Also, NorthStar proposes to build an eight MW solar farm onsite as soon as 2026, according to the Brattle Group study.

Using the Site Again

The NorthStar sale would also mean that Vernon, the rest of Windham County, and the State of Vermont can benefit from the presence of a new employer on the Vermont Yankee site. This employer – possibly an energy producer or computer data center,  for example– will mean, high-quality employment, with the resulting private and public sector economic benefits.

Perhaps even more important for Windham County and Vermont, a strong, good-paying employer can help create an attractive atmosphere to attract more jobs. Economic development experts say the big problem with Vermont is that not enough high-demand managers, engineers, and IT professionals want to live here - at least, not outside of Chittenden County.

Our cultural, educational, medical and other “quality of life” resources pale in comparison to many other states. This reality may hurt our Green Mountain pride, but many people prefer the lifestyle in places such as Chapel Hill or Austin.

A large, blue-chip employer is a quality-of-life cornucopia: from it will come better schools, more arts, and more attractive neighborhoods. If we want Windham County and Vermont to draw highly-skilled young Vermonters or transplants, we must cultivate employers who will provide economic opportunity for us, our children, and our grandchildren.

Speedy Decomm is a Win for Vermont

Here is a winning scenario for Vermont—the sale of VY to Northstar and a speedy transition to start decommissioning the site.   Let’s embrace the opportunity to advance the timeline for the plant’s decommissioning. It will provide much greater benefits much sooner, and that’s a good thing for Vermont.

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Guy Page is the Communications Director of the Vermont Energy Partnership, a coalition of businesses, trade and industry groups, not-for-profit organizations, labor unions and individuals committed to clean, safe, affordable and reliable power policy in Vermont. Entergy-Vermont Yankee is a VTEP member.  He has frequent guest posts at this blog: his latest post was Wind Power in Vermont, After the Election.

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Some notes by Meredith Angwin

I was reluctant to publish much about the decomm  sale on this website because of my concerns with the current workers at VY.  My concern was that their employer would be gone with the sale, and their pension benefits might well be affected.  Happily,  IBEW local 300 has filed to be an intervenor in the Public Service Board case about the sale to Northstar, so my concerns are at least partially alleviated.

I have always thought that a specialized company should do the decomm, as I noted in my blog post Facts and Opinion on Entergy Sale of Vermont Yankee.

To write your own comment to the PSB about the sale, use this link: http://epsb.vermont.gov/?q=node/32

2 comments:

Howard Shaffer said...

Great Post.

Jamie Irwin said...

So, they are going to demolish a 620 MW nameplate capacity plant and put in an eight megawatt solar plant? Gollygeewillickers. They are throwing away a generator that has 77.5 times more capacity than the one they are putting in. Sounds like a winner, sure is going to crank out the power, no?

VY generated about 4,700 GWh of energy annually. An eight MW solar plant with a 25% capacity factor (about right for Vermont) will produce about 17.5 GWhr. So by my ciphering, VY produced about 270 more energy than the proposed "solar farm" will produce. And this is progress?