Will pressure on NorthStar result in substitution of the original 60-year plan?

BRATTLEBORO — I attended the April 6 Vermont Public Service Board hearing on the sale of Vermont Yankee to NorthStar. Everyone agreed on the desire to clean up and decommission the site of Vermont Yankee as quickly as possible.

Although the NorthStar plan was addressed in detail by CEO Scott State, some attendees did not accept the explanations about how the work will be done, how clean it must be, who pays, and - especially - whether the decommissioning trust fund will be adequate.

Some of the attendees' proposed cleanup specifications are extreme and not justified. The NRC is the existing source for reasonable limits considering safety and costs. Vermont and our neighbors do not have to reinvent the wheel or add to these requirements. Seemingly tiny additional requirements can add exponentially to the costs with little or no benefit.

But, most important, consider the law of substitution. Every private investment or contract can, and usually will, be shelved and replaced by another plan if add-ons make a project unattractive to either party. In this case, the “alternative” is 60 years of inactivity.

The NorthStar contract is an accelerated, fixed-price contract to decommission the plant and return the site to an acceptable, useable state. It is under NRC supervision and uses established technology and procedures.

The fixed-price contract is new to decommissioning, but the PERT (program evaluation and review technique) review used to establish it has been used for many years on many large engineering projects.

The other new wrinkle is the ownership of the site by the demolition contractor. This organization's structuring has nothing to do with science and everything to do with cost control.

Windham County and Vermont can benefit from this arrangement, which seems satisfactory to both Entergy and NorthStar. The alternative, per the law of substitution, is the 60-year horizon of SAFSTOR.

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