Nuclear Decommissioning panel to NorthStar: Start paying

Scott State, chief executive officer of NorthStar, talks about the decommissioning process of Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Plant in Vernon.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.  

VERNON — The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has approved what it calls an indirect license transfer of the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant site to a corporate partner of NorthStar Nuclear Decommissioning Co. LLC.

NorthStar and its parent company, John F. Lehman GP Investors, are going through a corporate reorganization, which will put the owner of the West Texas nuclear waste disposal site, Waste Control Specialists — where the vast majority of the remains of Vermont Yankee are headed — at the top of the ownership pyramid of Vermont Yankee, according to the NRC decision.

NorthStar filed the request for the indirect license transfer last November.

Scott State will remain as chief executive officer of both NorthStar and WCS, but the two companies will remain separate legal entities, according to a company spokesman. The NRC decision calls the arrangement “common ownership.”

The decision from the NRC also affects a second decommissioning project that NorthStar is undertaking at Crystal River reactor No. 3 in Florida. However, ownership of that reactor remains with Duke Energy, according to the NRC decision.

“No physical changes to the Vermont Yankee site or operational changes were proposed,” the NRC remarked.

The federal regulator labeled it “an internal reorganization with new intermediary holding company acquiring control of NorthStar.”

“The NRC’s recent approval of a transaction by JF Lehman Company to bring both NorthStar Group Services, Inc. and Waste Control Specialists under one common holding company will better allow for the sharing of corporate assets and management between two of the leading companies in their respective fields,” said State in a statement. “This new corporate structure will enhance the delivery of key services to nuclear decommissioning projects and streamline the overall operations of both businesses.”

Support our journalism. Subscribe today. →

State said the NRC-approved transaction will not impact the parental guarantees and other layers of financial safeguards provided by NorthStar to state and federal regulators on behalf of its subsidiary decommissioning entities, and does not modify the direct control and day-to-day management of the NorthStar companies responsible for VY decommissioning.

“The transaction will also have no impact on NorthStar’s operating approach to the Vermont Yankee project,” State said via email. The safe, efficient, and on-budget decommissioning of the former nuclear power plant will continue so that the site can be restored to conditions suitable for redevelopment decades sooner than previously anticipated.”

The state’s approval of the license transfer by the Vermont Public Utility Commission is pending, NorthStar said.

NRC spokesman Neil Sheehan said the NRC determined there wasn’t a conflict of interest for the owner of the national low-level radioactive waste disposal site to be ultimately in charge of the demolition and cleanup of Vermont Yankee. Sheehan noted there are many low-level radioactive waste facilities in the country.

Yankee was sold by Entergy Nuclear to NorthStar Holding Co., an industrial demolition company, in 2019. NorthStar, anticipating regulatory approval, had already started demolition of the Vernon plant, which shut down in late December 2014.

Demolition and cleanup by NorthStar is expected to take until 2026, which is several decades earlier than the schedule established by Entergy.

NorthStar’s corporate structure was a top concern of Vermont regulators when Entergy proposed the sale to NorthStar. But after extensive review, the Vermont Public Utilities Commission approved the sale in late 2018, and Entergy Nuclear completed the sale in early January 2019.

The indirect license transfer also includes the high-level radioactive waste, which is stored at Vermont Yankee, in large concrete and steel casks.

Contact Susan Smallheer at ssmallheer@reformer.com.