Leahy: Safety Remains Highest Priority As Closure Looms For Vermont Yankee Plant

Leahy Urges Prompt Decommissioning, Instead Of Entergy’s Preferred “SAFSTOR” Approach

MONTPELIER, Vt.-- U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) says safety should remain the highest priority as Entergy prepares to close the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant.  The company Tuesday announced plans to close the aging plant in 2014.

Leahy said, “Safe decommissioning of Vermont Yankee is an issue of enormous and overarching importance for Vermont.  Every precaution must be taken to insure public and worker safety during the decommissioning, and to insure that we do not leave a public safety nightmare for future generations of Vermonters.”

Entergy has said that they intend to employ the “SAFSTOR” approach, meaning they intend to mothball the plant, largely intact, for 20 or more years before cleanup is fully addressed.  In 2011 Leahy, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) wrote to the chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), [LINK to letter: http://www.leahy.senate.gov/download/delegation-to-nrc-safstor] expressing their deep concerns about the SAFSTOR approach as it might be applied to Vermont Yankee.  Their letter said, in part:  “SAFSTOR would let Entergy off the hook for clean-up, waste disposal, and remediation of the plant site in Vernon, Vermont, for years, or even decades.” 

Instead, Leahy noted, moving quickly to full decommissioning and cleanup would have the added advantage of using the plant’s current highly skilled and experienced workforce, rather than trying to train a new generation of workers with the plant and its older technology decades from now. 

Leahy said the NRC should now be pressed to approve a decommissioning approach which places the highest priority on safety, now and into the future, and not to sacrifice the public interest in the interest of Entergy’s bottom line. 

Leahy said, “The full cost of this decommissioning needs to be paid by the plant owner and must not become a burden for Vermont or for the federal government.” 

Leahy also said that while Vermont Yankee contributes to the regional power grid, none of the electricity currently generated by Vermont Yankee is sold in Vermont, though a significant portion of Vermont’s electricity purchases do come from other nuclear power plants.   Leahy said, “Now is the time for Vermonters to refocus our attention on increasing our energy efficiency and bringing online alternative clean and renewable energy sources. This is added impetus for offsetting as much of Vermont Yankee’s capacity as possible through those better, cleaner and sustainable alternatives.  The cheapest energy of all is the energy we don’t use.”

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