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Public Service Board again nixes arguments of New England Coalition

Board rejects anti-nuclear group’s request on plan for new spent-fuel pad at VY

VERNON—State regulators say they won’t reconsider their dismissal of an anti-nuclear group’s objections to Vermont Yankee’s fuel storage plans.

The state Public Service Board last month approved construction of a new concrete pad for storage of the shutdown plant’s spent nuclear fuel. Prior to that, however, Brattleboro-based New England Coalition had asked for reconsideration of its questions about the storage facility’s safety and visibility.

The Public Service Board already had dismissed New England Coalition’s arguments in a June 1 order. Now, in an order dated July 13, the board is reaffirming that decision.

“While we acknowledge NEC’s disagreement with the conclusions of that [June 1] order, NEC has not presented a clear argument that the board erred in its judgement,” Public Service Board members wrote.

Vermont Yankee stopped producing power in December 2014, but most of the Vernon plant’s radioactive spent fuel remains in a cooling pool in the reactor building. Plant owner Entergy has pledged to move all of that fuel into sealed casks by the end of 2020.

The company needed state approval to build a second concrete pad to hold those casks. After much debate about Entergy’s plans, the Public Service Board on June 17 granted a certificate of public good for the project.

Entergy has said it will begin moving Yankee’s spent fuel into dry casks next year.

New England Coalition has raised concerns about the project, including the question of whether the spent fuel might be better stored underground. The coalition also disputed the truthfulness of Entergy’s testimony about the fuel-storage facility’s visibility.

But the Public Service Board, which held a technical hearing on the project in February, ruled on June 1 that the coalition’s arguments came too late and did not show “good cause” for reopening the record in the case.

The coalition subsequently appealed for reconsideration. The Public Service Board’s new order denies that motion, and it also responds to the coalition’s complaint that board members had used “accusatory and disparaging language” in the June order.

That language “was not intended to impugn NEC’s conduct as an intervenor in this proceeding, but rather to articulate the reasons for which the board concluded that it would be inappropriate to admit the evidence that NEC sought to introduce in light of its prejudicial impact on other parties,” the order says.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #366 (Wednesday, July 20, 2016). This story appeared on page A3.

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