The state opposes a request by the operators of the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant to discontinue off-site emergency planning after the facility shuts down, a state official said Wednesday.
Testifying at a U.S. Senate committee hearing on nuclear plant decommissioning in Washington, D.C., Chris Recchia, commissioner of the state Department of Public Service, said the emergency planning efforts should continue until all of the plant's spent fuel rods are removed from pools and placed in dry cask storage.
Entergy, the plant's Louisiana-based owner, asked the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission last month to allow it to halt emergency planning 16 months after the plant closes in December. The state reached an agreement with Entergy to close Vermont Yankee at the end of this year.
"Within 15.4 months after shutdown, no credible accident at VY will result in radiological releases requiring offsite protective actions," Entergy states in its request to the Nuclear Energy Commission for an exemption from federal regulations related to the emergency planning zone around nuclear power plants, the Brattleboro Reformer reported in April.
Speaking at a hearing before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on Wednesday, Recchia said Entergy should continue emergency protection requirements until no fuel is left in the cooling pools.
"We have 3,800 fuels rods in a pool designed for 350. We don't think that it's safe to eliminate the emergency protection zones until the fuel is, at the minimum, in dry cask," Recchia told the committee, which includes Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.
Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., chair of the committee, said the NRC has never denied a request for such an exemption to the emergency plan.
The hearing brought together witnesses from state and municipal government, the NRC, the nuclear power industry and the Natural Resources Defense Council.