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Welch wants more public input on VY decommissioning

VERNON—U.S. Rep. Peter Welch is again demanding that Vermont residents and officials have more of a say in the decommissioning of Vermont Yankee.

In a letter sent Oct. 14 to the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the state’s Democratic congressman complained that “the lack of meaningful stakeholder participation in decisions related to Vermont Yankee’s decommissioning is unacceptable.”

“It is essential that Vermonters have a seat at the table throughout this process,” Welch wrote. “The NRC has failed to substantively engage state and local officials and appears to be increasingly relying on the perspective of the nuclear energy industry.”

The letter is a follow-up to Welch’s questioning of NRC commissioners during a September hearing in Washington.

In the wake of the Vernon nuclear plant’s shutdown Dec. 29, and as plant owner Entergy begins a decades-long decommissioning process, some say not enough attention has been paid to state and local concerns about the timing and method of the planned Yankee cleanup.

NRC commissioners say they consider Entergy’s method of decommissioning, known as SAFSTOR, to be legitimate and safe. They also note existing opportunities for public comment, though a commissioner in September said the NRC is drafting new decommissioning rules and examining the roles of state and local governments and the public in the process.

Nonetheless, Welch’s Oct. 14 letter renews his objections on several fronts.

Along with arguing for expanded public participation, he reiterated his concerns over Entergy’s proposed uses of the plant’s decommissioning trust fund as well as the company’s decision to enter the lengthy SAFSTOR process.

The congressman also lent his voice to those protesting Entergy’s proposed downsizing of emergency operations, planning, and funding. Those changes, which have been challenged by state officials, are awaiting final NRC approval.

“I strongly urge the commission to not prematurely reduce the size of the Emergency Planning Zone,” Welch wrote. “I would also urge the commission to bring Entergy to the table to negotiate in good faith with the state of Vermont on a reasonable level of financial support for emergency preparedness activities going forward.”

“As you know, Vermont Yankee is the first merchant nuclear power plant in the country to be decommissioned,” Welch concluded his letter.

“It is critical, therefore, that the NRC work closely with Vermont’s stakeholders to get it right by developing a model for the decommissioning of other merchant plants that respects and resolves the concerns of state and local stakeholders.”

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Originally published in The Commons issue #328 (Wednesday, October 21, 2015). This story appeared on page B6.

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