Recent news good for NorthStar decommissioning plan

By Guy Page

Vermonters wanting a well-vetted, safe, prompt decommissioning of Vermont Yankee by NorthStar have received these three pieces of good news in the last two weeks.

First, there will be more time for public discussion and comment.

On Monday, July 24, the Vermont Public Utilities Commission (formerly the PSB) rescheduled the next public hearing from Sept. 28 to Jan. 4 and technical hearings from November or December to late January. These extra months allow everyone — from interveners to the merely interested — more time to express questions, concerns, and positions to the media, government, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and directly to the PUC at ePUC.

“This revised schedule continues to support the timing of the proposed transaction between Entergy Nuclear Vermont Yankee and NorthStar,” said Joe Lynch regarding the postponement.

Second, the financial strength of the NorthStar plan has become even stronger.

On Sunday, July 30, VT Digger reported the announcement of the purchase of NorthStar by J.F. Lehman, a New York equities firm specializing in high-tech and military acquisitions.

The NorthStar plan already had plenty of financial back-up to cover unexpected delays, including bonded subcontractors, a budget $73 million under the current value of the decommissioning trust fund, and a $125 million insurance plan.

NorthStar CEO Scott State made the following statement on the Lehman website:

JFLCO’s recapitalization of our Company will enable NorthStar to fully pursue business opportunities which the management team has laid the foundation for over the past several years. NorthStar will have the resources, capital structure and operational resources to support our long term priorities and growth plans — enabling a superior offering that will be well received by our customers and employees alike.

Finally, decommissioning work has already begun.

According to an Aug. 2 VT Digger story, NorthStar has already begun performing engineering and design work, which is permissible even without regulatory approval to begin the actual physical work. This decision by NorthStar (and also by subcontractor AREVA) displays a commitment to the plan and faith in its ultimate regulatory approval. It also decreases $12 million from the project’s budget.

Taken together, these recent developments suggest a bright future for a thorough, prompt, cost-effective decommissioning.

Guy Page is communications director for the Vermont Energy Partnership.