Keene mulls having say in VY decom

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KEENE, N.H. -- City staff will have 90 days to complete a report on the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant on whether the city should sign a letter of concern.

At a meeting of the municipal services, facilities and infrastructure committee Wednesday, more than 40 people packed city hall to discuss the implications of Keene signing off on a letter put forward by the Vermont-based Safe and Green Campaign.

The letter is "an opportunity for the city council to have a seat at the table for the discussion of the decommissioning of the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant," said Kendra Ulrich, a coordinator for Safe and Green. "It serves as a way for city councils and selectboards in the tri-state area of New Hampshire, Vermont and Massachusetts to express their concern for the aging plant."

Phil Rice, a code engineer at Vermont Yankee, said the petition and the letter is premature since a relicensing agreement for Entergy, which owns and operates the plant, has not been decided upon.

"It oversteps the bounds of the city of Keene," Rice said. "I’d much rather see the resources of the City Council go into what they’re already doing. I believe that we have plenty of regulations already in place."

City Councilors had varying degrees of concerns but the majority believed that more information on the subject was necessary.

Councilor James Duffy said he sees the petition as a request for the council to express its concerns about the safety of the plant.

Nearly a dozen representatives from Entergy and employees of Vermont Yankee expressed their concerns about the petition to the council.

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"If the petition is to tell the Nuclear Regulatory Commission that the community (of Keene) is concerned, sign me up," said Director of Nuclear Safety Assurance at Vermont Yankee, Mike Romero.

He added that he thought that wasn’t the intent of the letter and that the regulators are the ones to decide on relicensing issues, not towns.

Ulrich responded that the group is very aware of Entergy’s relicensing agreement and that the letter merely states, "In the event that the plant is decommissioned, we already have something on the books to reference on how to proceed."

"What I hear from the community is that the citizens don’t have enough of a say in the decommissioning process," she said. "We would like to see a decommissioning panel made up of citizens appointed by city councils or selectboards from the tri-state area to oversee the decommission of the plant when it happens."

She added that the panel would serve as a "go-between for the residents and those with decision-making authority at the plant."

The letter also states that current employees would be given a fair severance package and that any decommissioning jobs would be offered to them first.

After Keene’s City Manager John McClain said it would be best for the council to allow city staff to create a report about how the letter and petition should be handled, the council voted 5-0 in favor of giving the staff 90 days to write a report.

Entergy has applied to the NRC to extend the plant’s operating license from 2012 to 2032. In addition to NRC approval, Entergy must also receive an OK from the Vermont Legislature and the Vermont Public Service Board to continue operation past March 2012.


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