Entergy Vermont Yankee Request From Decommissioning Fund Concerns State Officials

Oct 30, 2015

Entergy Vermont Yankee has notified the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the state of Vermont that it plans to withdraw $6.6 million from the power plant's decommissioning fund. State officials are concerned about how the money will be spent.

Earlier this year Entergy requested that a required 30-day notice for any withdrawals from the Vermont Yankee decommissioning fund be waived.  The state of Vermont objected and also requested that more detail be provided.  Entergy agreed to the more comprehensive notification.

This week Entergy filed a Pre-Notice of Disbursement.  In the letter to the NRC the company states it will withdraw an amount not to exceed $6.6 million.  The funds would be used for “expected site-specific decommissioning costs related to emergency planning contractor costs, insurance and property taxes.”

Entergy/Vermont Yankee spokesman Marty Cohn says their request is consistent with existing NRC regulations and guidance.   “Since February we have put in these 30 day notifications and we have not received any written notices from the NRC to any kind of violations to the regulations or guidance.”

Vermont Department of Public Service Commissioner Christopher Recchia says this is the first time the state is receiving a detailed account of how the money will be used.   “Clearly some of these are not related to decommissioning.”

Recchia is concerned about how Entergy plans to use the money, including payment of a $1.2 million property tax bill.  “We want the decommissioning trust fund to be spent on things that improve the radiological condition of the site and actually advance decommissioning. Property taxes is a really good example of one that does not. The expenditures for emergency planning we don’t believe those are related to decommissioning. The NRC has given them permission to take money for spent fuel management which we don’t agree should come out of the decommissioning trust fund either.”

Entergy’s Marty Cohn counters that in looking at property taxes, it is not only appropriate, but a planned use of the decommissioning funds.   “Property taxes have been included in the decommissioning cost estimate for Vermont Yankee since the early 1990’s.  The rates Vermont utilities charged customers to create the fund were based on the expectation that the fund would be used to pay property taxes incurred by the site during the decommissioning period along with other decommissioning related expenses.”

NRC Spokesman Neil Sheehan says at this point the federal agency has no objections to Entergy’s request, but is reviewing the planned disbursement, including the property tax payment.  Entergy can withdraw funds based on seven acceptable uses.  Sheehan notes that new issues have surfaced as merchant nuclear power plants begin to shut down.   “We’re seeing some issues that did not come up earlier with decommissioned plants primarily because they were in regulated environments.  In other words, they were able to go back to ratepayers if they had to to cover decommissioning costs. In a case like Vermont Yankee that’s considered a merchant plant. The staff is being very careful as it takes a look at the at the guidance to make sure that we reach the right decision.”

Vermont has 30 days to challenge the disbursal request.