N.E.’s nuclear money pit

By Maggie Mulvihill, Shay Totten and Matt Porter, The New England Center for Investigative Reporting and Hearst Conn. Media Group

…New England plants, among the nation’s oldest, have already generated more than 4,200 tons of spent fuel, data from the Nuclear Energy Institute…

the plants have no clear financial plan on how to pay for long-term storage. The spent fuel sits at or near the nine regional reactors in either pools of water or dry cement fortifications known as “dry casks,” which cost between $6 million and $8 million annually per plant to secure.

At least one New England plant is seeking U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission approval to raid funds set aside to decommission to cover mounting spent fuel costs, raising concerns about its plans to pay for the future dismantling and cleanup costs.

New England’s continuing federal bill for the waste generated to date tops $2.1 billion, including interest, NEI data shows. Millions more will be needed to house the additional 20 metric tons that plants are generating annually.

Regional plants have a bleak history of underestimating decommissioning costs by hundreds of millions, shifting those unanticipated costs onto taxpayers and ratepayers far into the future….

At least one New England plant is seeking an exemption from federal law that would allow it to use its decommissioning fund to pay for storage costs.

Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power — whose fund is already short millions — wants the NRC to allow them to use the money to pay for fuel storage, according to a 2008 plan it filed with the agency.

Vermont Yankee, in Vernon, Vt., is on the west bank of the Connecticut River, just north of the Massachusetts border; the plant, in operation since 1972, last week won a 20-year license renewal from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, allowing it to operate until 2032.

Whether Yankee will operate beyond March 2012 remains an open question. The Vermont Public Service Board has yet to issue the plant a Certificate of Public Good, because the Vermont Senate last year voted to deny Vermont Yankee a license extension. In 2006, when the Vermont Legislature approved the storage of spent fuel in dry casks, lawmakers included a provision in the law that the Public Service Board couldn’t grant a Certificate of Public Good without legislative approval.

It is widely expected that Entergy will file suit against Vermont, arguing that federal law pre-empts any state decision on the operation of nuclear power plants. Vermont Attorney General Bill Sorrell said he expects Entergy to file suit, “perhaps any day now.”

full article – http://www.berkshireeagle.com/ci_17766207

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