Hoping PUC has a grip on reality

If some in agencies of the Scott administration pursue their dream to restore the Vermont Yankee site to “residential standards,” they will be responsible for a deal-killer that makes little sense from the standpoint of past agreements and likely future use.

If NorthStar is required to restore the site and spent-fuel storage facility to a contrary use, the company will drop the plant purchase and decommissioning project. If that happens, current owner Entergy says it must mothball the site for 25 to 50 years.

As planned, NorthStar would return the site to a green field. It would move all contaminated structures and material, as well as all structures to a depth of 4 feet below grade (1 foot deeper than required by regulations and previous agreements). It would replace all removed material with clean fill, then grade and seed the entire property.

The land could be returned to farming, with background radiation levels almost half as much under the federal minimum levels.

But the town of Vernon has bigger plans than farming. A few acres with material 4 feet below grade works just fine for the kind of new high-tech employer the town wants: for example, a data center, large manufacturer, or another power plant. For such a project, any competent site designer can work around a handful of in-ground obstacles.

Housing is a different story. The term “residential standards” presumably means a restored site subdivided into building lots with potential basements and leach fields. For this purpose, 4 feet isn't deep enough.

There's plenty of housing for sale in and around Vernon and plenty of land on which to build new housing, but there is only one uniquely-advantaged industrial development site - Vermont Yankee.

The state has introduced a new requirement that is as unnecessary as it is certain to kill the project. It's not clear why. Perhaps the gambit is to negotiate the best deal for the state by pushing the envelope. That's good for Vermont as long as we don't kill the proverbial golden opportunity that the sale to NorthStar provides - an opportunity to regain some of the jobs and revenue lost when VY closed.

Hopefully, the Public Utilities Commission knows what's real and what's not. For the long-term well-being of Vernon and Windham County, let's hope so.

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