Vernon businessman expresses interest in Vt. Yankee site

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VERNON —One of Vernon's leading businessmen wants to make sure the Vermont Yankee site, currently undergoing decommissioning, remains in active, commercial or industrial use.

Mike Renaud, the owner of Renaud Brothers Construction, met with the Vernon Planning Commission last week to discuss his interest.

"I'm just concerned for the town and the tax base," said Renaud, whose firm last year bought the former Marlboro College Graduate Center in downtown Brattleboro.

Renaud has lived in Vernon for more than 10 years; he's a native of Brattleboro.

"I want to do anything I can to encourage reuse of the site as a commercial property," Renaud said Monday. "It's all casual," he said, "there's nothing on paper."

Renaud said he didn't know the details of when NorthStar Services would complete the demolition and clean up of the Vermont Yankee site. After NorthStar completes its work, the site has to be restored to its original "green field" condition and formally released for reuse by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

"I don't know any of that," he said, noting his goal in coming forward was to make sure the site remains a taxable, productive property.

Mike and his brother purchased the former Marlboro College Graduate Center on Vernon Street last year; it is now known as 28 Vernon Street and is home to many businesses, including the Downs Rachlin law firm and the local office of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Renaud Brothers specializes in building and restoring bridges and other heavy construction projects.

Bob Spencer, chairman of the Vernon Planning Commission, said the future of the Vermont Yankee site is of intense interest and importance in Vernon. Spencer said Renaud is a well-respected local businessman.

Spencer said he is aware that no other sites of decommissioned nuclear power plants have been re-developed anywhere in the country, but he hopes Vernon will break that trend. "There's a lot of potential there," he said.

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The town has a memorandum of understanding with NorthStar over the decommissioning of the site, Spencer said, with the goal of not demolishing everything on the site.

He said the town is interested in having some buildings, septic systems, water wells and rail sidings survive the decommissioning and decontamination process.

"The town has a separate MOU with NorthStar," Spencer said, noting the town is also party to the master agreement the state Public Utility Commission struck with NorthStar as part of its purchase of Vermont Yankee from Entergy Nuclear.

"There's been no decision. This is all so new," said Spencer, noting that NorthStar only completed the purchase of Vermont Yankee in January, and started active decommissioning shortly thereafter. He said the company has made great progress.

Spencer said he is pleased with Renaud's interest in buying a portion of it. "They are very entrepreneurial," he said of Renaud Brothers. "They are very local and very low key.

"One thing we don't want is a nature park," Spencer said, while noting that the Vermont Yankee site has beautiful views of the Connecticut River. .

In a prepared statement from NorthStar, company president Scott State said his company hopes to have the decommissioning completed by 2030, though he said it is possible the job will be completed sooner.

"Upon completion, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission must give approval of the site for free release after which point the property could be sold to a new owner for productive economic redevelopment," State wrote.

"NorthStar values the cooperative relationship it has with the town and is working very closely with town officials during the decommissioning process," he added.

Contact Susan Smallheer at ssmallheer@reformer.com or at 802 254-2311, ext. 154.


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