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Leahy, Sanders, Welch Lead Effort to Overhaul Nuclear Power Plant Decommissioning Process

March 15, 2016
Press Release
As Entergy Vermont Yankee is decommissioned, delegation works to ensure transparent process and prompt return to local use

WASHINGTON—Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), and Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT),  joined by 12 House and Senate colleagues, today asked the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to give local stakeholders a seat at the table in the decommissioning of nuclear power plants. Entergy’s Vermont Yankee located in Vernon, Vermont, is the first of several merchant nuclear power plants expected to be decommissioned in the next several years.

The legislators sent a letter – initiated by Leahy, Sanders and Welch -- to NRC Chairman Stephen Burns outlining their proposal as part of his agency’s ongoing multiyear rulemaking process to develop new rules and clear standards that guide the decommissioning of nuclear reactors across the country.  They called for a revised rule that ensures prompt decommissioning of nuclear sites and  provides meaningful opportunities for local input, particularly in how the decommissioning funds are used and the speed at which nuclear fuel is transferred to dry cask storage.

In the letter to Chairman Burns, the lawmakers wrote:  “The decommissioning of a nuclear power plant has an enormous impact on the state and communities hosting the plant.  It is essential, therefore, that the agency work collaboratively with states, localities, and interested parties throughout the decommissioning process.” 

The letter urges the Commission to adopt a final rule that:
·         enhances community involvement by requiring licensees of decommissioning reactors to include state and local officials’ input into, and for the NRC to formally approve, licensees’ decommissioning plans; 
·         ensures that decommissioning funds are used strictly for statutorily-authorized purposes; 
·         requires spent nuclear fuel to be removed from wet storage and placed into safer dry cask storage as quickly as possible;
·         ensures that the site of the plant is rapidly returned to beneficial use instead of decades after the plant ceases operations, and that licensees maintain or obtain the financial resources necessary to do so; and
·         ensures that all emergency preparedness and response, security resources and licensing requirements remain in place until all spent fuel is transferred to dry cask storage.

In addition to Leahy, Sanders, and Welch, the bicameral letter was signed by Sens. Richard Durbin (D-IL), Ed Markey (D-MA), and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and Reps. Michael Capuano (D-MA), Katherine Clark (D-MA), William Keating (D-MA),  Joe Kennedy (D-MA), Stephen Lynch (D-MA), James McGovern (D-MA), Seth Moulton (D-MA), Richard Neal (D-MA), and Niki Tsongas (D-MA).

The letter can be found in its entirety HERE. The Commission is accepting public comments through Friday on the Advanced Notice of Proposed Rule Making.

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