Vermont demands hearing in Entergy emergency plan reductions

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BRATTLEBORO >> Contending Entergy's plan to reduce its emergency responsibilities at its now shuttered Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant in Vernon would "significantly hinder the State's ability to coordinate and execute an effective response to an emergency situation at the station," Vermont's Department of Public Service is asking the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to hold evidentiary hearings before approving the plan.

In June 2014, Entergy filed for a license amendment request to revise the emergency plan "to reflect a permanently defueled condition."

Vermont Yankee permanently ceased operations on Dec. 29 after 42 years of supplying electricity to the New England grid.

On Thursday, the NRC announced it was establishing an Atomic Safety and Licensing Board panel to review Entergy's application and the state's request for a hearing.

Entergy's requested amendment would reduce the 10-mile emergency preparedness zone around the plant to its actual footprint as well as its financial contributions to emergency management organizations in the EPZ. Entergy is also asking for a reduction in its offsite emergency notification system, elimination of hostile-action scenario planning and remove the state from participating in emergency response exercises. The change in the notification system would increase notification time from 15 to 60 minutes, states the filing presented to the NRC on Feb. 9.

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The license amendment request, wrote DPS Commissioner Chris Recchia, "assumes actions by the NRC that have not yet occurred, and ... may never occur in the future. ... In this instance, Entergy seeks approval of the LAR prior to the necessary foundation being laid."

In the filing, Recchia wrote that if approved the amendment request would "increase the threat to public health and safety in the event of a credible accident scenario ..."

Lack of funding from Entergy would also hinder the state's ability "to implement the Vermont Radiological Emergency Response Programs, and any additional off-site response to an emergency," wrote Recchia.

In its filings for the amendment request, Entergy has noted that because the plant is no longer producing energy in its boiling water reactor, the potential for serious accidents that might affect anyone outside of the plant's footprint is negligible. Even while spent fuel remains in the spent fuel pool until it has cooled down enough to be transferred to dry casks — which is not expected to be complete until 2020 or so — an accident compromising the safety systems keeping the spent fuel cool is highly unlikely, wrote Entergy.

If the NRC approves Entergy's request, it would go into effect in April 2016.

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


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