VERNON – The decommissioning work at the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant is on track financially, even though a key reactor core dismantling task is taking longer than originally planned.
Representatives from NorthStar Nuclear Group Holdings LLC told members of the Vermont Nuclear Decommissioning Citizens Advisory Panel last week that the demolition and cleanup was going well.
Corey Daniels, NorthStar’s decommissioning manager, said the reactor withdrawal was late as planned, but said the delays had “not had a significant impact.”
“Overall, the project is on the right track,” he said during the virtual meeting.
According to Daniels’ schedule, the reactor vessel is to be dismantled and shipped to the Waste Control Specialists radiological waste site in West Texas.
“NorthStar is focused on the overall schedule to ensure we finish safely and on budget or ahead of schedule. Because progress towards these ultimate goals remains constant, we are not concerned about the timing of individual tasks that do not impact the overall finish date, ”said Scott State, COO of NorthStar , in a statement later in the week, after the Meeting.
Daniels told the panel about the demolition and dismantling of key reactor building and turbine building components, and said that despite 44 years of operation, contamination levels are “very low.”
The demolition of Vermont Yankee began in 2019, even before NorthStar completed the purchase of the Vernon nuclear reactor from Entergy Nuclear.
Daniels said dismantling workers ship about three cars per week to the West Texas facility and that so far in 2021, 55 cars have been shipped from Vernon, Texas and a total of 269 cars had been shipped since decommissioning began.
NorthStar now intercepts groundwater before it enters the turbine building, where it has been contaminated with low levels of radioactivity.
Daniels said NorthStar “dries up” about 30,000 gallons per day. The Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation has granted NorthStar a permit to dump 15,000 gallons per day into the Connecticut River.
Before the interception system was put in place, water was stored and shipped out of state for treatment.
And Eric Guzman, a lawyer with the Vermont Department of the Civil Service, who has a consultant overseeing the decommissioning, said the project is going financially as planned and on track.
“NorthStar appears to be on track to complete the project with the funds available,” Guzman told the panel. Additionally, the consultant, Nicholas Capik of Four Points Group Inc., of Chantilly, Va., Also found that the completed work listed by NorthStar appears reasonable.
So far, NorthStar has used about half of the original decommissioning trust fund, which now stands at $ 330 million. The site’s restoration fund, which is separate, stands at $ 60 million, the state’s attorney said.
Gerold Noyes of the Vermont Waste Management Division said his division is monitoring non-nuclear cleanup issues.
He said the pollution discovered so far is petroleum-based and “limited in nature” and is associated with fuel oil spills or leaks.
He said that despite the use of fire fighting foam in a transformer fire in Vermont Yankee in 2004, there is “nothing in this water” coming from the site. Fire-fighting foam has been identified as a source of PFOA chemicals that surfaced at Clarendon State Airport, where fire-fighting foam was used, Noyes said. There was another transformer fire, earlier, in Vermont Yankee in 1972, shortly after it was put into service.
Noyes said more soil sampling will be undertaken as demolition continues and concrete slabs are removed. Some slabs have been left in place for now to give demolition crews better access, he said.
In addition, asbestos removal has been largely completed in the various buildings and pipelines at the plant, he said.