There will be a scaled-back 10-mile emergency planning zone for the communities surrounding the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant after all.
And, thanks to an 11th-hour provision in the 2016-17 Vermont state budget bill, the state of Vermont now has the power to bill Entergy Nuclear for those costs.
Chris Recchia, commissioner of the Department of Public Service, made the announcement Thursday night at a meeting of the Vermont Nuclear Decommissioning Citizens Advisory Panel, saying that the Vermont Department of Emergency Planning and Homeland Security would now be able to bill back its costs to Entergy.
Recchia acknowledged in an interview during a break in the meeting that the little-known provision was added at the last minute during budget talks but came after similar direct talks with Entergy failed.
Recchia noted that his department, as well as the Department of Health and the Agency of Natural Resources, currently all have bill-back power.
Recchia said his department and the state had billed Entergy for millions of dollars over the past several years.
Recchia said that while Entergy paid for $4.5 million a year toward Vermont emergency planning efforts in the past, he estimated the states efforts would be reduced to about $900,000 a year.
The state will continue to monitor the plant, and he said the Agency of Agriculture was also added to the list of state agencies allowed to recover its costs.
The Shumlin administration has been fighting to maintain some level of emergency planning surrounding Vermont Yankee for more than a year, saying that until the thousands of tons of spent nuclear fuel is transferred from wet to dry, air-cooled storage monitoring, emergency plans should be in place.
Entergy Nuclear spokesman Martin Cohn said after the NDCAP meeting that Entergy hadnt been billed for anything yet concerning emergency planning and he declined comment until the company does receive a bill.
Until this April, when the nuclear fuel had cooled to a certain level, Entergy maintained the 10-mile emergency planning zone around the plant. But in early May, it laid off about 100 workers, whose jobs were closely tied to emergency planning.
The state had fought that decision before the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and that issue is still pending, according to Tony Leshinskie, the states nuclear engineer.
Recchia said the state would likely fight any attempt by Entergy to try to recoup the emergency planning money from Yankees decommissioning trust fund. The state and Entergy have locked horns over several withdrawals from the $598 million fund.
The state is also taking another tack in its effort to get the decommissioning of Vermont Yankee speeded up, rather than waiting the 60 years Entergy now has to dismantle the closed nuclear power plant.
The Shumlin administration has been pushing to get the plant dismantled and cleaned up faster, and in formal comments to the NRC, Vermont, along with other New England states, has asked the NRC to adopt rules that would require any nuclear plant to be cleaned up within 10 years of shutdown.
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