Council to NRC: Maintain emergency planning

 

Greenfield Recorder 02/12/2015, Page C01

Unanimous support for resolution: keep emergency zone and notification time until spent fuel in dry casks

By ANITA FRITZ Recorder Staff

GREENFIELD — The town has sent a resolution to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission asking it require the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant to continue emergency planning zone coverage of 10 miles and notification of 15 minutes to surrounding towns, if there’s ever a problem, until its spent fuel pool is empty and all radioactive fuel is in dry cask storage.

The resolution, written by a local anti-nuclear group, received the unanimous support of Town Council.

Sandra Kosterman, who represented the group before the council, said it could take more than five years before all radioactive spent fuel is placed in dry casks, and people want to feel safe until then.

Entergy Inc. has asked the NRC for an exemption that would allow it to discontinue its emergency planning zone and increase its notification time to 60 minutes.

Diane Screnci, a spokeswoman for the NRC, said it is common for nuclear plants to ask for such a waiver because the current regulations are for operating plants. She said there are no regulations concerning emergency planning and notification for plants that have been decommissioned, a process that has begun at the Vermont plant, which is no longer operating.

“The NRC requires a level of licensee emergency preparedness commensurate with the potential consequences to public health and safety,” said Screnci. “The reason the NRC considers the exemptions requests is because the risk of an off-site radiological release is significantly lower and the types of possible accidents are significantly fewer at a nuclear power reactor that has permanently ceased operations and removed fuel from the reactor vessel than at an operating power reactor.”

Screnci said if the NRC were to give Entergy an exemption, it wouldn’t take effect until April 2016.

“It wouldn’t go into effect until the fuel was cooled to a certain temperature,” said Screnci.

Screnci said other reactors that have shut down throughout the country have received exemptions and haven’t had problems.

“The rules are in place for operating reactors, but they remain in place unless an exemption is requested,” she said.

Kosterman said the group sent a copy of the resolution to state and federal legislators who are waiting for the NRC’s decision, which Screnci said will happen by Dec. 1.

Rep. Paul Mark said he believes it is important for the town to speak up and make known its concerns about Entergy’s request.

“I’ll do what I can to advocate,” said Mark. “I think it’s a little early for Entergy to be asking for an exemption.”

The nuclear plant shut down on Dec. 29, but many like Kosterman believe there is still a threat to public safety and will be until spent fuel is safe in dry casks. Entergy has until 2020 to complete that move.

According to the resolution, because areas of Greenfield fall within the emergency planning zone and the town hosts an emergency evacuation reception center at Greenfield Community College, people would like the 10-mile zone to stay in place and notification time if there’s a problem at the nuclear plant to remain at 15 minutes.

Vermont Yankee has asked the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to increase notification time to 60 minutes.

Screnci said that the NRC only takes into consideration the facts of the case by reviewing, for instance, Entergy’s request and making sure the rules no longer apply to the decommissioned Vermont nuclear power plant.

The towns of Gill, Bernardston and Warwick have sent similar letters or resolutions to the NRC and copied state and federal legislators.

The NRC will hold a meeting to discuss and answer any questions the public has regarding the decommissioning of the nuclear plant on Feb. 19 from 6 to 9 p.m. in the Quality Inn on Putney Road in Brattleboro, Vt.

Screnci said the public will be allowed to speak and voice concerns, including those concerning emergency planning zone coverage and notification time.