Yesterday, Vermont Yankee became the fifth U.S. commercial nuclear power reactor since the beginning of 2013 to announce plans to permanently cease operations. Earlier closure declarations this year involved the Kewaunee nuclear power plant, in Wisconsin; the two-unit San Onofre facility, in California; and Crystal River, in Florida.
Of those plants, Vermont Yankee’s decision has the most in common with Kewaunee, in that a primary determining factor, according to its operator, was changes in the electricity marketplace — particularly an abundance of low-cost natural gas — that impacted the plant’s economic competitiveness.
Given the plant’s satisfactory safety performance, it is currently under the normal level of oversight from the NRC.
For residents of Vermont and neighboring states, one of the first questions that may come to mind is what comes next?
Going forward, the NRC will continue its rigorous oversight of the Vernon, Vt., plant through the remainder of its operation and then into and through the decommissioning process. Once the final operational cycle concludes for the single-unit boiling water reactor, the facility’s owner, Entergy, would have to formally notify the NRC of the permanent cessation of power production within 30 days. Subsequently, Entergy would have to formally let us know once the fuel had been removed from the reactor.
There are numerous steps that would then follow in the decommissioning review process, including holding a public meeting near the plant to discuss the company’s plans. The company will outline its plans in a Post-Shutdown Decommissioning Activities Report (PSDAR), which is to be submitted within two years after the certification of permanent closure. The PSDAR would provide a description of the planned decommissioning activities, a schedule for accomplishing them, and an estimate of the expected costs.
After receiving a PSDAR, the NRC publishes a notice of receipt in the Federal Register, and makes the report available for public review and comment.
More information about the decommissioning process is available in an NRC fact sheet and on the agency’s web site.