Nuclear Energy Vermont Yankee nuclear plant (

Published on April 2nd, 2014 | by Sandy Dechert


Vermont Nuclear Plant Seeks Decommission But Lacks Funds

April 2nd, 2014 by  

Vermont Yankee nuclear plant (

On Friday, the Vermont Public Service Board voted to authorize Entergy Nuclear Operations, Inc., the operators of the Vermont Yankee electricity generating station at 546 Governor Hunt Rd. in Vernon, to close down their nuclear power plant by the end of this year. Because Entergy planned to shut the Vermont nuclear plant down prior to its licensed end-term, the board was required to approve the shutdown.

Vermont Yankee was built at Vernon (5 miles south of Brattleboro) by Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Corporation. It was first licensed on March 21, 1972, and officially opened on February 28, 1973. Entergy bought the plant in 2002.

Boiling Water ReactorThe Vermont nuclear plant is similar to those at TEPCO’s ruined Fukushima Daiichi site. It has a power capacity of 1,912 MW and has a General Electric Type 4 commercial boiling water reactor with a Mark I wet containment. Boiling-water reactors contain between 370-800 fuel assemblies.

Vermont Yankee has had detractors for almost all of its 42-year history. Anti-nuclear protests clouded the plant in its first decades of operation. A cooling tower cell collapsed there in 2007, and tritium leaks as high as 2.5 million picocuries (125 times the EPA drinking-water standard) also occurred. Nonetheless, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission renewed the license for the Vermont nuclear plant on March 21 three years ago for operation at 1,912 MWe until 2032.

Nuclear energy flow (
Entergy announced last August that it intended to shut down the reactor late this year for economic reasons. As has happened elsewhere, declining natural gas prices and low wind power prices are making nuclear-generated power too expensive. Coal-fired plants in the region are also at risk of closure.

The state and the company have adopted a memo of understanding that requires Entergy to provide $10 million for economic development in Windham County, which will lose more than 600 jobs at shutdown.

Another remaining issue is a 12-year-old National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit that has been under review by the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources for the past eight years. Continued discharges of warm water into the Connecticut River appear to have adversely affected water quality downstream and altered ecological systems in the watershed.

Entergy has reserved just over $600 million to date for decommissioning the Vermont nuclear plant, according to the Department of Public Service. This amount will not be adequate to meet the costs of full deconstruction, estimated at more than $1 billion according to the company’s 2012 Decommissioning Cost Analysis report.

The company has pledged to put $25 million toward site restoration after decommissioning the plant. However, presumably, the pledge would be moot if Entergy cannot totally decommission the plant.

“That $400 million gap raises issues about where the money will come from to dismantle the plant safely,” MassLive editorializes.

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About the Author

covers environmental, health, renewable and conventional energy, and climate change news. She's currently on the climate beat for Important Media, having attended last year's COP20 in Lima Peru. Sandy has also worked for groundbreaking environmental consultants and a Fortune 100 health care firm. She writes for several weblogs and attributes her modest success to an "indelible habit of poking around to satisfy my own curiosity."

  • Doug

    It’s really horrible that an owner of any industrial building does not adequately provision for decommissioning. Rape, pillage, scar the land and move on to the next.

  • JamesWimberley

    Limited liability gives the utility the whip hand. Bankruptcy means never having to say you’re sorry. The taxpayer will end up paying.

  • gfv

    This article is not correct in many ways. As part of the sale agreement before the state regulatory board, Entergy was mandated to get a certificate of public good from the state public service board prior to operating after march 21, 2012. What was agreed to by the PSB was the memorandum of understanding reached between Entergy and the state back room deal two days before xmas after 3 months of negotiations. Entergy’s decommissioning trust fund was originally .05 per cent of all ratepayer electric bills between 1982 and 2002 when Entergy bought the reactor. Entergy has not contributed any money to the decommissioning trust fund. Entergy has been a miserable manager/owner of the reactor. They have not told the truth, they have not honored agreements, they have violated conditions etc. Entergy executives spoke mis truths to the public, public oversight panel, the department of public Service, and the PSB. Who has an idea how much or how thoroughly this merchant generator will spend to clean up this reactor site correctly. The money to clean it up should come from Entergy as they bought the responsibilities to clean it up when they bought the reactor

  • Ahmeta

    Nuclear energy is too much dangerous and costly.

    • Baz

      Yes, if you’re a reactionary hippie who knows nothing of the science and technology.

      • Bob_Wallace

        Spoken like someone with poor financial skills and his head in the sand.

      • jeffhre

        Can we stick to facts and leave the name calling out of it?

  • kraigrichard

    I vote CEO’s and board members of Entergy house these cask of waste behind their mansions, and be forced to plant trees to screen it from public view. Major stockholder’s homes would be next in line if there isn’t enough room at Leo Denaults house.

  • wattleberry

    If this isn’t enough to dissuade the authorities from nuclear I don’t know what is. What has to be done to safely dismantle these monsters?

  • Will E

    Its not the risk of shutting down coal plants.
    It is news to celebrate.
    I am curious what the real cost of decommission of the nuclear plant will be.
    the decommission of nuclear plant Sellafield in UK did already cost
    70 billion Euro, is almost a 100 billion USD.
    And they did not finish the job yet and the state must take over.
    google Sellafield for more info.

    • Kyle Field

      The actual cost to shutdown Sellafield is crazy!! I wonder if that full amount…or a reasonable accurate thereof is included in the initial Total cost of Ownership estimates? Can’t imagine how that’s economical…

      • Nathanael

        Well, Sellafield is like Hanford — back in the 1940s and 1950s the nuclear promoters were not merely irresponsible, they were EXTREMELY irresponsible. Sellafield and Hanford are like Chernobyl and Fukushima — they can’t really be cleaned up. Nobody really knows how much they’re going to cost in the end.

        It is at least possible to shut down the ticking time bomb in Vermont before it blows up or leaks (leaks something worse than tritium). It’ll probably be less than 10 billion dollars (still large enough that there’s no way anyone should ever build a nuclear plant, but nothing like Sellafield).

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