Vermont Yankee: Entergy launches TV program on decommissioning process
VERNON — A new, locally produced television show opens with a jaunty theme song and some aesthetically pleasing aerial shots.
But it's clear that this is a different sort of production: The song lyrics make reference to a method of decommissioning a nuclear power plant, and the overhead shots feature Vermont Yankee on the bank of the Connecticut River.
Administrators at the Vernon plant, which ceased producing power in December, say they have launched a monthly show called "SAFSTOR Matters" as an attempt to tell their story in a different, more-accessible way.
Taped at Brattleboro Community Television's station, the show is available on the BCTV as well as on Entergy's local website, www.vydecommissioning.com.
"It's something that we developed, and its a first in the nation for Entergy," company spokesman Marty Cohn said of the show. "What we were looking at were ways in which we can communicate to the public information about what's going on with decommissioning."
Entergy administrators repeatedly have promised transparency as they shut down Vermont Yankee and work toward eventual decommissioning. The new show is aimed at fulfilling that promise, but it's also a venue in which Entergy can communicate directly with viewers without the opposition the company encounters in public forums.
With two shows under his belt, Cohn — who hosts the program — said he has heard mostly positive reviews.
"A lot of people have written in that they really enjoy the show and have ideas for other shows," he said.
The program takes its name from the federal term for an extended period of dormancy that precedes actual decommissioning work. Vermont Yankee is headed into decades of SAFSTOR while the plant's decommissioning trust fund grows to the level needed to finish that work — an estimated $1.2 billion.
That doesn't mean there's nothing to talk about in the meantime. The first episode of SAFSTOR Matters featured Joe Lynch, government affairs manager at Vermont Yankee, offering an overview of the decommissioning process.
The second episode focuses on emergency planning, a hot topic as Entergy seeks federal permission to greatly decrease the size of its emergency-planning zone in spring 2016. The show features Greenfield Fire Department Chief Robert Strahan and Mike McKenney, Yankee's emergency planning manager.
June's episode will examine dry cask storage of spent fuel, and a future episode is expected to expound on economic development. "We're picking topics from feedback we've gotten from the public," Cohn said.
He added that the format is informal and "not really scripted." The theme music, Cohn said, is an original composition by Deniz Cordell of Chesterfield, N.H.
At a meeting last week of the Vermont Nuclear Decommissioning Citizens Advisory Panel, Lynch mentioned the new show under the heading "open communication and transparency." During the same talk, he also noted that Entergy in April held an informational forum at Greenfield Community College.
"It was an opportunity for us to provide an update to the folks in western Massachusetts and allow them to ask questions about the process and those issues that were of concern to them," Lynch said.
Additionally, the company continues to offer tours of the plant site, hosting several local fire chiefs on May 21 and three Windham County legislators on April 13.
Meanwhile, post-closure site work continues:
• Lynch said Entergy is draining and "laying up" plant systems that will no longer be needed. "Currently, we're planning to lay up about 52 of the previously active systems at the plant. Twenty-two of those are currently in progress, and seven of those are complete," he said.
• With spent nuclear fuel still on site, security remains tight — though that presence is different than it once was. Entergy has said a now-unmanned outer gate belies the fact that its security force still is active.
Lynch said the company recently increased its warning signs "regarding entering the site without permission."
"We're finishing up quite a few security modifications and enhancements as we go forward — as we're shrinking down the footprint of the site, (we're) making sure that security is still our primary focus," he said.
• Entergy has completed removal of seven buildings at the Yankee site. That work is finished for now, but administrators made clear that, going forward, they'll be further evaluating the company's holdings.
"We're looking at all of our properties, not only in Vernon, but also in Brattleboro," Cohn said.
TALK TO US
If you'd like to leave a comment (or a tip or a question) about this story with the editors, please email us. We also welcome letters to the editor for publication; you can do that by filling out our letters form and submitting it to the newsroom.