PSB grants anti-nuclear group status in Entergy hearings

By   July 14,2015              Rutland Herald  
 MONTPELIER — The Vermont Public Service Board has granted party status to the state’s oldest anti-nuclear group, the New England Coalition, during hearings on Entergy Nuclear’s proposal to expand its spent fuel storage facility.

However, the board restricted the areas the coalition can delve into, saying the coalition must focus its concerns to the “local environment, Vermont Yankee property reuse, regional planning and development and aesthetics.”

“We find that NEC has articulated a substantial interest,” the board wrote, granting the party status over the objections of Entergy Nuclear, the owner of the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant, which shut down in December.

And the board issued a mild warning that the coalition could not raise issues already addressed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

“In addition, we remind NEC that this proceeding is not a forum for litigating issues that are within the jurisdiction of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission,” the three-person board concluded, in an order dated July 7.

At the same time, the board granted the town of Vernon’s request for party status, and gave the Windham Regional Commission similar intervenor power. The town and the regional group were restricted to one area of expertise, the “orderly development” of the area.

Entergy had not opposed either’s request.

Entergy Nuclear spokesman Martin Cohn said Entergy would not appeal last week’s ruling by the Public Service Board. Entergy had claimed the New England Coalition, with which it has done battle for the entire life of the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant, would be redundant to issues raised by state agencies, such as the Agency of Natural Resources and the Department of Public Service.

Cohn said the company felt the coalition would delay the proceedings unnecessarily.

“The PSB has limited the scope of NEC’s participation to a more narrow scope of issues — the second pad’s impacts on the local environment, the reuse of the Vermont Yankee property, regional planning and development, and aesthetics. Therefore, NEC cannot request information or documents from us or cross-examine our witnesses on subjects outside of these four areas,” Cohn wrote in an email Monday.

“We did appreciate the board’s reminder to NEC,” he added.

Entergy filed for another waste storage pad, next to the existing one, a year ago. The company hopes to off-load all the remaining spent radioactive fuel currently in the spent fuel pool into so-called “dry cask” storage — those casks would be on the heavily reinforced concrete pad.

Clay Turnbull, who will represent the New England Coalition during the proceedings, said the decision was a good one.

“We were very pleased with the decision,” he said.

One issue that needs review, he said, is whether storing the Vermont Yankee high-level radioactive waste at another location would make economic sense.

“We have concerns how that place will be maintained over what period of time. Entergy’s assumptions are what they are, and we will want to probe those, of course,” he said.

He said the coalition wants to know what the economic value of the additional waste storage facility would be to both the state and Vernon. “What would they be paying in taxes? What would be the costs?”

Turnbull said that the coalition was currently fundraising to help cover the costs of raising its issues in the state 248 process.

“It’s going to be more than we have, and we’re going to do everything we can with what we’ve got,” Turnbull said. “We’ve been doing that for four-and-a-half decades.”

He said the coalition’s trustees were deeply involved in the process.


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