NorthStar to take on Vermont Yankee for decommissioning

09 November 2016

The decommissioning of the shut down Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant will be significantly accelerated through its sale to dismantling and remediation firm NorthStar Group Services, plant owner Entergy announced yesterday.

Vermont Yankee aerial 460 (Entergy)
Vermont Yankee (Image: Entergy)

The company said it had reached an agreement with NorthStar to sell Vermont Yankee and transfer the plant's licences to subsidiaries of NorthStar. The transaction is subject to closing conditions, including from the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and the Vermont Public Service Board. Entergy and NorthStar will also seek approval from the Public Service Board for proposed site restoration standards. They expect the transaction will close by the end of 2018.

The price that NorthStar will pay for the Vermont Yankee plant was not disclosed. However, Entergy said it would "receive nominal cash consideration and a promissory note payable to Entergy in an amount equal to the amount owed at the time of the closing under a credit facility to finance Vermont Yankee's dry fuel storage costs". This credit facility will be either assumed or refinanced by an Entergy subsidiary at or before the closing. The transfer of Vermont Yankee to NorthStar will include the plant's nuclear decommissioning trust and its obligations for used fuel management and decommissioning.

Entergy said the transaction "is expected to result in a loss at closing, the amount of which cannot be determined at this time, based on the difference between Entergy's book basis in Vermont Yankee at the time of closing and the sale price plus any agreed adjustments".

New York-based NorthStar is partnering with Areva, Waste Control Specialists (WCS) and Burns & McDonnell to perform specialized services drawing on each company's core competencies. Areva will be responsible for reactor vessel and internals segmentation and used fuel management support, including waste disposal transportation services. WCS will be responsible for waste management, packaging, transportation and disposal, while Burns & McDonnell will provide engineering and regulatory support.

Vermont Yankee, a single-unit 604 MWe BWR, generated its last power in December 2014. Although safety regulators had granted a licence for the unit to operate until 2032, Entergy decided to close it early for economic reasons.

Under Entergy's original decommissioning schedule for Vermont Yankee, decontamination and dismantling was set to begin in 2068, with decommissioning and site restoration expected to be completed by 2075.

NorthStar, under its agreement with Entergy, has committed to start decontamination and dismantling work at Vermont Yankee by 2021 and to complete decommissioning and site restoration - with the exception of the Independent Spent Fuel Storage Installation (ISFSF) by 2030. NorthStar would then continue operating and maintaining the ISFSF "until the US Department of Energy fulfils its statutory and contractual obligations" to remove all of the used nuclear fuel from Vermont Yankee. The company would then decommission the ISFSF, terminate the NRC licence and complete site restoration.

Entergy has also said it will accelerate the transfer of all used fuel to dry cask storage at Vermont Yankee from 2020 to 2018. Last December, the company announced plans to start transferring used nuclear fuel from the plant from wet to dry storage in 2017, two years earlier than originally planned. According to that timetable, the transfer of all fuel in the plant's used fuel pool to dry cask storage would have been completed by the end of 2020.

Bill Mohl, president of Entergy Wholesale Commodities, said: "By accelerating decommissioning, we are fulfilling a commitment we made in 2013 to decommission Vermont Yankee as soon as reasonably possible. Decommissioning and site restoration, drawing on NorthStar's expertise, will provide economic development for the region." He added, "For Entergy, this transaction enables us to manage financial risk and reduce our company's merchant power footprint."

NorthStar CEO Scott State said, "Our in-house expertise, combined with the proven track record of our partners, provides the complete package of skills needed to ensure the timely, safe, cost-efficient decommissioning and restoration of the Vermont Yankee site. Our primary objective is to complete the decommissioning of the non-Independent Spent Fuel Storage Installation portion of the site decades earlier than originally planned so that the majority of Vermont Yankee can be redeveloped to promote business for the region."

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News