DUMMERSTON -- For years, Dummerston Selectboard had trouble approving a plan detailing the town's response in the event of an emergency at the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant.
Even when the Selectboard finally signed off on that plan last year, it was reluctantly and "with reservations" due to concerns about deficiencies in the document.
Now, officials are mulling a different but related problem: What will Dummerston's emergency planning and management look like when Yankee shuts down and the plant's emergency planning zone -- with its associated funding -- is eventually eliminated?
"Right now, most of the time we're putting in is Vermont Yankee-related," said Rick Davis, Dummerston emergency management director.
After the shutdown, "probably 90 percent of the meetings and footwork and paperwork will be gone," Davis said. "Because most of it is Vermont Yankee."
At a recent meeting, Dummerston Selectboard reappointed Davis as director and Larry Lynch as the town's assistant emergency management director.
In doing so, Selectboard members also asked both men whether they would be willing to continue serving the town when Yankee-related funding runs out. Both said they would.
"As long as I'm able, I would continue to serve to the best of my ability," said Lynch, who is 80 and has long been affiliated with emergency response and management in Dummerston.
Such questions are necessary because Vermont Yankee owner Entergy is scheduled to close the Vernon plant at year's end. The company also has filed documents with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission stating that, 16 months after shutdown, Yankee-related emergency management in nearby towns -- which comprise what is known as the emergency planning zone, or EPZ -- no longer will be necessary.
At that point, "no credible accident at VY will result in radiological releases requiring off-site protective actions," Entergy administrators wrote.
Federal regulators are evaluating that stance. But in the meantime, some local emergency planners seem to be operating on the assumption that most Yankee-related work will disappear in the middle of 2016.
"Basically, we have two more years," Davis said. "After that, there's no more (radiological response plan). No more funding. And that will be that."
As a result, Davis told Selectboard members during a meeting at the town office, Dummerston residents should expect changes.
"Once the funding is gone, I'm going to propose that, instead of taking up the whole second floor of the building here, we consolidate the (emergency operations center) with the fire department. That would do away with redundancy," Davis said.
There also are questions about the fate of emergency radios and even the town's two warning sirens.
"If Vermont Yankee is going to basically say, ‘There you go, they're yours to maintain, do whatever you want with them -- are the sirens something that you want to keep or take down? Something to think about," Davis said.
Looking at the bigger picture, both Davis and Lynch said Dummerston still will require an emergency management director and an operations center to deal with natural or man-made disasters.
"Dummerston will need an EMD of some sort. And we need to plan ... for what happens if we have a plane crash, or a train derails," Lynch said. "We'll need something -- even if we get a (town) committee together and sit down and come up with a plan."
For the next few years, Davis plans to continue working on standard Yankee-emergency preparations. That includes a drill scheduled for June 4.
As for what happens in 2016 and beyond, "I don't think anybody knows all the answers yet," he said.
Mike Faher can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 802-254-2311, ext. 275.