VERNON — Concluding the construction of a second nuclear waste storage pad at Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant will have a minimal aesthetic impact, the Vermont Public Service Board gave Entergy the go-ahead to start building.
"We are pleased that the Vermont Public Service Board has approved our petition to construct a second Independent Spent Fuel Storage Installation," said Martin Cohn, senior communications specialist for Entergy, which owns the now shuttered plant. "This decision will allow us to achieve our goal of transferring all the spent nuclear fuel from the spent fuel pool to dry casks by the end of 2020."
In support of its decision, the PSB also noted that Entergy "reasonably examined alternatives" and that the evidence presented at hearings will not delay the decommissioning of the site or increase costs.
The PSB's approval was issued on June 20, almost two years after Entergy applied to build the second pad. Yankee already has an ISFSI onsite, on which are located 13 dry casks loaded with nuclear waste, with room for 23 more. Currently, all of the fuel has been removed from the plant's reactor and what has not already been moved to dry casks is being stored in the spent fuel pool. Storing all the spent fuel produced at Vermont Yankee will require a total of 58 dry casks.
There are 2,996 spent fuel assemblies in the spent fuel pool and 884 spent fuel assemblies loaded in the 13 casks on the ISFSI. The current pad dimension is 76 feet by 132 feet. The second proposed pad dimension is 93 feet by 76 feet. Entergy hopes to complete construction of the second pad in 2017. According to Entergy, it will take six months to a year to prepare the second pad.
The Public Service Board rejected filings from the New England Coalition calling for further studies on underground storage or alternate locations. The board noted that requiring underground storage would increase the cost by $30 million, money that would be better spent on decommissioning the site. And because of groundwater levels at the site, noted the board, the underground casks would still be partially above ground. Other locations on the site were deemed unfeasible by Entergy.
"We understand NEC's desire for a broader assessment of alternatives, but we also recognize that requiring such an assessment is unlikely to produce material benefits," noted the PSB.
Entergy estimates it will cost $368 million to manage the spent fuel, with $143 million of that for the new pad. The construction costs of the new pad will be paid via two loans totaling $145 million. Those loans will be paid off, stated Entergy, when the company is reimbursed by the Department of Energy for its failure to take possession of the nuclear waste.
Entergy also assured the state that it will "use its commercial best efforts to ensure that high-level (spent nuclear fuel) stored at the station is removed from the site in a reasonable manner and as quickly as possible to an interim or permanent location outside of Vermont." However, the Public Service Board acknowledged that there is no realistic timeline for when the Department of Energy will take custody of the fuel because no federal repository has been built.
The new pad will be built where now stands the North Warehouse and a generator, which will both be removed prior to construction.
Bob Audette can be contacted at 802-254-2311, ext. 160.