Public Service Board denies reopening in Vermont Yankee fuel storage hearings

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BRATTLEBORO — Despite a plea from the New England Coalition to re-open its evidentiary hearings, the Public Service Board ruled it was "unpersuaded" by the arguments presented to it in early March.

NEC had asked the board to reopen its hearings to admit new evidence related to the storage of spent fuel at Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant in Vernon. NEC also contended that information given to the board by experts for Entergy, which operated the plant until its closure in 2014, was misleading and inaccurate. NEC asked the board to consider underground storage of the nuclear waste as well as additional information on how the above-ground casks would affect the nearby view.

Entergy has applied to the Public Service Board for a certificate of public good to allow it to construct a new storage pad to place dry casks, in which nuclear waste will be stored for the foreseeable future.

Yankee already has what the Nuclear Regulatory Commission calls an Independent Spent Fuel Storage Installation, on which are located 13 dry casks loaded with nuclear waste. Currently, all of the fuel has been removed from the plant's reactor and what has not already been moved to dry casks is being stored in the spent fuel pool. Storing all the spent fuel produced at Vermont Yankee will require 45 more dry casks.

There are 2,996 spent fuel assemblies in the spent fuel pool and 884 spent fuel assemblies loaded in the 13 casks on the ISFSI. The current pad dimension is 76 feet by 132 feet. The second proposed pad dimension is 93 feet by 76 feet. If the certificate is issued, Entergy hopes to complete construction of the second pad in 2017. According to Entergy, it will take six months to a year to prepare the second pad.

Entergy urged the board to reject NEC's motion to reopen the hearings, as did the Vermont Department of Public Service.

"Entergy VY argues that the issues NEC seeks to add testimony on were fully discussed in Entergy VY's prefiled testimony and that NEC had ample time to develop evidence on them prior to the hearings," noted the board. "Entergy VY also asserts that NEC has shown no indication of fraudulent testimony or misrepresentations."

The Department of Public Service noted that "... any unavailability of evidence during the hearings stems more from NEC's trial preparation choices than from actual surprise."

The board agreed with Entergy and the DPS. "As to the substance of NEC's arguments, we are unpersuaded. ... (W)e do not find any basis for reopening. All of the evidence that NEC now seeks to present was available to it prior to hearings.:

The board faulted NEC for its cross-examination process and for failing to seek a continuance to allow it to respond to comments made by Entergy witnesses. "NEC elected not to pursue any of these avenues and has not shown any good cause for the Board to now allow it to change its tactical decisions. Moreover, admitting the evidence now would place other parties at a disadvantage because they would not be able to offer further rebuttal or explanation of the material."

The board also noted that NEC had not proven that testimony given by witnesses was inaccurate or misleading. "NEC's various filings amply demonstrate that NEC disagrees with the conclusions that the witnesses reached. NEC has also pointed to several statements that could be open for interpretation. However, the motion falls short of showing material statements that are false, misleading, or inaccurate."

Bob Audette can be contacted at 802-254-2311, ext. 160.


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