BRATTLEBORO — The final wave of layoffs at the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant by the end of the month will leave about two dozen employees at the shuttered Vernon reactor, now that transfer of the spent nuclear fuel into an interim storage facility has been completed.
Entergy Nuclear officials told members of the Nuclear Decommissioning Citizens Advisory Panel Thursday night the last layoffs would be completed by Oct. 31.
Corey Daniels, director of decommissioning for Entergy Nuclear, said there were currently about 150 people on the Vernon site, but that that number included private contractors, including Yankee's security service, Securitas. He said there were 57 Entergy employees at the Vernon site.
Daniels said in a follow up interview that between 25 to 27 people would remain for the long haul. At its height, Vermont Yankee employed 600 people.
Daniels told the panel the transfer of fuel was completed Aug. 1, and that there were now 58 filled casks being stored. The much smaller protected and secure area went into effect on Aug. 23, he said.
Entergy and NorthStar Holding Co. officials are waiting for a decision from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission on whether its questions about the proposed sale have been answered. If the sale to NorthStar is approved, the New York City-based industrial demolition firm is expected to start the dismantling and cleanup of Vermont Yankee immediately, rather than have the plant stay in cold storage for decades, as originally proposed by Entergy.
Michael Twomey, vice president for Entergy Wholesale Services, who attended the meeting but did not participate, said afterward that NRC officials had said earlier this summer they expected to make a decision on the NorthStar sale "by the end of September."
But Neil Sheehan, a spokesman for the NRC, said Friday morning that the schedule had "slipped" a bit, and that a decision was now expected by mid-October.
The Vermont Public Utility Commission has held off making its own decision on the sale until after the NRC rules on the financial underpinnings of the sale.
The citizens advisory panel met for the first time since June Thursday evening at the Vermont Agricultural Business Education Center, and elected a new chairman to replace Kate O'Connor, who didn't seek reappointment to the panel. Christopher Campany of Newfane, executive director of the Windham Regional Commission, was the unanimous choice of the 15 panel members to lead the group. Campany said he would only accept the position for a year, and stressed that a citizen member of the panel should be the chairman. Lissa Weinmann of Brattleboro was elected vice chairman.
Campany said the panel's work was in a kind of limbo until the two regulatory decisions are made.
"If the transfer to NorthStar is approved and decommissioning and site restoration is to begin, the panel will need to explore what reporting is required per state and federal rules, what the reporting schedule in the (memorandum of understanding) means for the overall sharing of information, what approach NorthStar is going to take to sharing information with the public on its own, and how all of this relates to NDCAP's role in providing public information, education, communication, and community involvement," he said.
The panel is currently low on citizen members after several resignations, and the meeting was primarily concerned with organizational issues rather than news about decommissioning.
In fact, on Friday Gov. Phil Scott's office announced that Bob Leach, a retired Vermont Yankee employee, would replace O'Connor on the panel as one of two governor-appointed positions.
Leach is a retired radiation protection manager and a certified senior reactor operator.
Jason Gibbs, Scott's chief of staff, said the governor was currently interviewing potential people for the second vacant position, which opened up with the resignation of Martin Langeveld of Vernon, who resigned this summer.
Both O'Connor and Langeveld were first appointed by former Gov. Peter Shumlin.
Jim Matteau of Westminster, a citizen appointee of then-Senate pro tempore John Campbell, did not seek a second term, and his position also has to be filled, said Tierney.
The other citizen members are Weinmann, who was appointed by Senate President Pro Tempore Tim Ashe last year, and Derrik Jordan of Putney, who was reappointed to a second term by Speaker of the House Mitzi Johnson.
New members of the panel also include Michael Root of Vernon and Sara Coffey of Guilford, who was appointed by House Speaker Johnson to replace Rep. David Deen, D-Westminster, who is retiring from the Legislature.
Contact Susan Smallheer at firstname.lastname@example.org or 802 254-2311, ext. 154.