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November 21, 2008

VT Yankee Decommissioning Fund — Toxic?

Radioactive_2_2 The downward spiral of the Vermont Yankee Decommissioning Fund continues.

As I pointed out in "Fair Game" last month the value this fund — set aside to clean up the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant once it's shut down — has been dropping precipitously since the end of 2007.

By early October it had dropped below $400 million for the first time in more than two years.

The Department of Public Service has been asking Entergy to provide them with ongoing, monthly updated numbers. Here's a rundown:

March 31, 2006:   $391,882,501

Sept 30, 2006:     $402,410,980

March 31, 2007:   $422,182,237

Sept 30, 2007:     $440,003,672

March 31, 2008:   $427,406,446

Sept 30, 2008:    $397,035,937

This week we learned that the fund dropped another $34 million in just one month, and now stands at $364 million.


When Entergy bought the plant in 2002, the fund's value was roughly $304 million.

It is expected that the cost of decommissioning Vermont Yankee could run as high as $1.2 billion. Critics fear that if the decommissioning fund is not sufficient that taxpayers will be on the hook to clean up the plant. VY officials say the plant could be mothballed for up to 60 years until enough investment money acrues in the fund to break down the reactor site.

Expect this issue to be a major point of discussion as Entergy tries to: A) spinoff its ownership of Vermont Yankee to a new subsidiary, and B) the legislature debates whether to give VY a 20-year extention on its operating license. It's license to operate expires in 2012.

So, how low does the decommissioning fund have to go before the NRC notices and asks pretty please will you put just a little bit of spare change into the fund?

Or will the Legislature notice that the contributions of ratepayers into the fund in Entergy's care has started to disappear.

And to think that at the sale of VY in 2002, all the fighting was about how to split up the LEFTOVER decommissioning funds after clean up.

Will the PSB please order VT Yankee to replenish my 401K retirement account? It went down, too.

To me the issue speaks to what exactly is the decommissioning fund?

It, the decommissioning trust fund, was created circa 1982 from .01 %( may be .1%) of all VT utility ratepayer bills. In negotiating the sale, 7/31/02, to Entergy, I propose that the then PSB (under Dworkin) was neglectful.
Now - and in ongoing PSB negotiations, the PSB can require Entergy to feed the decommissioning trust fund based on a percentage it makes from either in state or out of state sales. Basically all previous negotiations between Entergy and the state are up for re-negotiation when it comes to the re-license issue. The legislature may not approve Entergy continuing in the state.

It was in July 2002 in the PSB docket 6545, the sale docket, when Entergy through their attorneys agreed to not pre-empt VT state decisions regarding the operation of the reactor. This means that if the legislature says, we do not want your nuclear power for the state, the state can then either allow Entergy to sell all their 2% of the New England Grid worth of power out of state, thus increasing taxes to the state from Entergy, or the legislature can say Entergy must close.

The falling market clearly puts more pressure on the PSB and legislature to mandate that Entergy make the decommissioning fund whole.

The ongoing deferred maintenance errors, worker errors, radiation releases on site, spilled hydraulic oil, cracking in steam dryer, faulty oversight, bogus inspection and repairs of the cooling towers by Entergy and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission respectively paints a bleak picture for the continued operation at face value.

BUT - FOLLOW THE MONEY. That is all the reactor is to the state, a cash cow for Entergy, cash jobs, and millions in taxes based on uprated power sold out of state. Only 1 % of the uprated 20 % was sold in state. Entergy must pay taxes on the rest sold out of state. This represents a steady revenue stream for the state.

Off topic but also related to VY, regards Entergy's recently determined decision to put the reactor in safestor and not take it apart until 2072 even if it shuts in
2012. According to the aforementioned sale agreement, Entergy will pay extra to the state if the reactor is not dismantled within roughly a decade of closure.

Further off topic, who reading this believes Entergy will be held accountable to swap out the dry casks of high level nuclear waste when they merit being changed? Not me. I believe the casks are only supposed to be good for 100 years at most. Does this remind anyone else of the reactors having been designed and built more than 40 years ago for a 40 year span that now the NRC / industry expect to be extended to - mark my words- 80 , yes EIGHTY years ( source NRC Brattleboro Latchis theater 2007). Nothing is to prevent any reactor owner from applying for another license extension after the original license expires. This means that conceivably Entergy could on March 22, 2012, apply to run our antique nuke until 2052. Scary isn't it? Ernest Moniz and John Deutch of MIT and formerly with the Clinton Administration, stated in the MIT white paper , the Future of Nuclear Power, ( 2003) that the current generation of reactors was built to last 50 years. Entergy currently seeks permission to operate VY 60 years.

Sooner than later- we will see in the quest for the severe bailouts for industries that have been flying leased jets, helicopters, limousines etc, the nuclear industry seeking yet one final bailout to have our taxes pay for decommissioning these toxic relics of a military dream gone awry. Our taxes are already expected to pick up the radioactive pieces in case of a worst case scenario accident.

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