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Decommissioning Vermont Yankee

On November 8, 2016, Entergy Corp. announced an agreement to sell Entergy Nuclear Vermont Yankee and transfer the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission licenses to subsidiaries of NorthStar Group Services, Inc. to accelerate decommissioning and site restoration by decades.

AREVA Nuclear Materials (ANM) is proud to be one of the member companies on the NorthStar team.

FAQs

To learn more about the companies and activities involved in the agreement to decommission Vermont Yankee, read through the following information.

  • The Team
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    1. What qualifications does the NorthStar team have to complete decommissioning projects?

    The companies represented in the NorthStar team possess all required management, regulatory, technical and financial qualifications to decommission U.S. nuclear energy sites safely and in accordance with all NRC and state requirements.

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    2. What is AREVA Nuclear Materials’ role in this agreement?

    As a subcontractor on the NorthStar team, AREVA Nuclear Materials (ANM), based in Washington, D.C., will be responsible for segmentation of the reactor vessel and its internal machinery, and monitoring the used nuclear fuel stored on the onsite Interim Spent Fuel Storage Installation (ISFSI).

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    3. How much experience does AREVA Nuclear Materials have decommissioning nuclear energy facilities?

    Globally, AREVA Nuclear Materials and its parent company New AREVA Holdings SAS (aka New AREVA) have more than 30 years' experience in decontaminating and dismantling nuclear reactors and facilities, and more than 60 years’ experience transporting and storing used nuclear fuel. ANM, through its subsidiary TN Americas, has safely and securely managed used nuclear fuel at more than 30 U.S. facilities using its state-of-the-art dry cask storage system, NUHOMS®.

    More information about ANM’s decommissioning experience: us.areva.com/decom

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    4. What decommissioning experience does ANM have in the U.S.?

    AREVA Nuclear Materials and its legacy companies (Framatome, Transnuclear) have an established reputation in the United States for effectively and safely decommissioning nuclear energy reactors.

    • Maine Yankee, 931MWe PWR (Framatome ANP)
      • Project management, engineering, used fuel storage site design and construction, demolition, waste management and packaging
      • Fixed price contract for segmentation of the reactor vessel internals using abrasive water jet and mechanical cutting.
      • Developing and implementing the Solid Waste Collection System (SWCS)
      • Loading segments into containers for GTCC waste storage and transport.

    • Millstone Unit 1, 652 MWe Mark I BWR (Framatome ANP, Transnuclear)
      • Project management, engineering, component dismantling, demolition, waste management and disposal, segmentation of reactor pressure vessel and internals.
      • All internals segmentation work performed underwater.
      • Several remotely operated mechanical segmentation tools used. Segmentation and removal of Upper Grid Assembly using remote hydraulically operated rotating cutting equipment (HORCE), segmentation waste collection system, full-scale mock-up testing.

    • Rancho Seco, 913 MWe PWR (Transnuclear)
      • Project management, engineering, used fuel storage site design and construction, waste management and packaging
      • Segmentation of the reactor vessel internals using mechanical sawing and milling methods.

    • Yankee Rowe, 167 MWe PWR
      • Project management, engineering, primary system decontamination, component dismantling, demolition, waste management and disposal, segmentation of reactor pressure vessel and internals.

    • Connecticut Yankee, 590 MWe PWR (Transnuclear)
      • Project management, engineering, primary system decontamination, component dismantling, demolition, waste management and disposal, segmentation of reactor pressure vessel and internals.

    • SONGS Unit 1, 450 MWe PWR (Transnuclear)
      • SONGS 1 Dry Cask Storage Project team selected the design of the ISFSI canisters, storage modules, and support equipment from Transnuclear (TN). The fuel canisters are placed horizontally into NUHOMS® Advanced Horizontal Storage Modules (AHSM) on the ISFSI pad.
      • TN provided 18 AHSMs and the associated transfer equipment to move the 17 loaded SONGS 1 used fuel canisters and one greater-than-class-C (GTCC) canister from the used fuel pools to the ISFSI.
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    5. What is NorthStar’s decommissioning experience?

    NorthStar has provided solutions to both commercial and government decommissioning and closure projects for more than 20 years, including experience with US Department of Energy (DOE) nuclear facilities.  NorthStar has performed nuclear reactor D&D to support NRC License Termination Plans at five (5) reactor facilities

    • Federal nuclear research reactor in Omaha, Nebraska – NorthStar was selected as the prime contractor to decommission the A.J. Blotcky Reactor Facility (AJBRF) within the Omaha Veterans’ Affairs Medical Center. The work was completed and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) license was formally terminated in July, 2016. The Veterans’ Affairs Medical Center will continue to function as a hospital post-decommissioning. The owner plans to re-purpose the current AJBRF areas for storage, laboratory space, and/or staff offices.
    • University of Illinois Mark II reactor research facility – NorthStar dismantled, removed, and packaged the reactor, systems, and structures and decontaminated and removed radiologically contaminated surfaces, components, and debris with unrestricted site release. The NRC license was terminated in 2013.
    • University of Arizona reactor and Nuclear Reactor Laboratory (NRL) – NorthStar dismantled the reactor, ancillary support systems, removed all radioactive materials from the NRL, and reduced the radioactivity to levels that permitted release of the licensed area for unrestricted use. The NRC License was terminated in 2012.
    • University of Washington nuclear reactor – NorthStar removed and disposed of all hazardous and radioactive materials above unrestricted release limits to allow the University to terminate its NRC license for the training reactor, which operated from 1961 to 1988.

    Each of these jobs was completed without any NRC or Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) safety violations

    NorthStar’s international experience includes supporting 10 of the United Kingdom’s Magnox Ltd. Reactor sites, as well as installation of radiological detection systems for safeguards and security around the world.

    More information about NorthStar’s decommissioning experience: www.northstar.com/services/nuclear-services

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    6. How will the decommissioning project be financed?

    The ownership transfer to NorthStar includes the funds in the Vermont Yankee Nuclear Decommissioning Trust (NDT), which are intended to be used for the decommissioning of Vermont Yankee. As part of its project evaluation, NorthStar created a detailed plan of the Vermont Yankee decommissioning schedule and its associated costs. The total cost of the proposed plan is less than the amount in the NDT.

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    7. Why is NorthStar’s Decommissioning Cost Estimate lower than the original owner’s?

    NorthStar’s cost estimate is based on its team’s ability to start Vermont Yankee’s decontamination and dismantlement immediately after the transfer of all irradiated fuel from wet storage in the reactor’s used fuel pool to dry storage in the Independent Spent Fuel Storage Installation (ISFSI). The original owner’s Decommissioning Cost Estimate includes expenses during a multi-decade dormancy period between the fuel transfer and the start of decontamination and dismantlement. The NorthStar team’s expertise and earlier start reduces the overall cost of decommissioning. Also, as the self-performing owner, NorthStar avoids the additional expenses in the original owner’s plan to delegate the management and oversite of the project to a third party.

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    8. How does NorthStar ensure it has enough funds to complete the decommissioning?

    As the NRC licensee, NorthStar will be required to submit annual decommissioning funding status reports to the NRC. In the case of cost overruns by NorthStar or its subcontractors, no additional funding will be used from the NDT beyond the fixed price schedule, so the cost risk is carried by the contractor.

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    9. Are AREVA-named companies all part of the same company?

    No, they are separate companies. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., AREVA Nuclear Materials (ANM) is the U.S. subsidiary of a new global company provisionally named New AREVA Holdings SAS (aka New AREVA or NewCo) formed from segments of a predecessor named AREVA.

    The global New AREVA was formed as an independent company after the recent global division of the AREVA Group (aka AREVA or AREVA SA) into multiple independent global companies. In the U.S., the former AREVA business lines were grouped into two business entities: ANM as the U.S. subsidiary of New AREVA, and AREVA Inc. (aka AREVA NP) as the U.S. subsidiary of a new global company named New NP focused on reactor services and development. New NP is being acquired by the French utility EDF.

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    10. Is ANM connected with AREVA-named companies experiencing delays at reactor construction projects or concerns about reactor component quality?

    No, ANM and its global parent New AREVA are legally separated from other AREVA-named companies (e.g., AREVA, AREVA SA, AREVA NP, New NP), and have no financial liability or operational links to any reactor construction or servicing projects, including the projects in Finland, France, and China, nor any association with operations at Creusot Forge. These AREVA-named companies have no relation to our ANM decommissioning business or performance.

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    11. What is ANM's financial position?

    The solid financial position of parent company New AREVA (aka NewCo) and its U.S. subsidiary ANM is based on a revised business plan that has developed a global book of business under contract equaling 33 billion euros (March 2016). Within this total, New AREVA’s global contracts for decommissioning activities, used nuclear fuel management, and used fuel recycling equal 11.7 billion euros, or more than 70% of New AREVA’s sales for the 2017-2020 period and more than 5% growth on average per year. Adding to New AREVA’s financial foundation is the French government’s stake of more than two-thirds of New AREVA’s capital (directly and indirectly), with the balance held by strategic investors. The French State initiated a 3 billion euro equity capitalization of New AREVA in 2017.

    Within the NorthStar team’s proposed work schedule for decommissioning Vermont Yankee, ANM’s scope of work segmenting the reactor vessel and reactor internals is on a fixed price basis; therefore, ANM’s project costs applied to the Vermont Yankee Nuclear Decommissioning Trust Fund will be defined prior to this work beginning and cannot result in cost escalations to the project.

  • The Decommissioning Process

    The Decommissioning Process

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    1. How long will it take to decommission Vermont Yankee?

    Except for the small portion of the site that will be used for dry cask used fuel storage, NorthStar has committed to complete the radiological decommissioning and site restoration by December 2030. Complete site restoration cannot be completed until the Department of Energy (DOE) satisfies its legal obligation to remove all used nuclear fuel stored on the facility. NorthStar’s planned completion date for partial site release is decades earlier than the completion date of June 2075 in the existing Post Shutdown Decommissioning Activities Report (PSDAR).

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    2. How does NorthStar expect to complete decommissioning decades earlier than the original owner?

    A utility’s expertise is in managing a nuclear power facility to generate energy, not decommissioning the facility. NorthStar will leverage its team’s decontamination and dismantling experience to perform the decommissioning in a more efficient manner. NorthStar team member companies bring proven, specialized expertise to complete the complex aspects of decommissioning, including:

    • access to advanced and specialized technology and equipment
    • the ability to leverage scale to secure lower disposal fee rates for material
    • the ability to self-perform activities, which allows NorthStar to collapse a level of management and avoid the expenses that a utility would ordinarily experience managing a decommissioning contract.
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    3. What benefits may result from an earlier decommissioning?

    Accelerating the decommissioning schedule to achieve site restoration promotes the public interest by benefiting the local community, region and state through (a) allowing the site to be released decades sooner for alternative development; and (b) creating decommissioning-related jobs and economic activity many years sooner, with benefits for the local economy.

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    4. Which agencies will oversee the decommissioning of Vermont Yankee?

    The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) will maintain oversight of the radiological decommissioning of Vermont Yankee. The Vermont Department of Health will oversee industrial safety and groundwater monitoring and the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources will oversee the non-radiological remediation and restoration of the site at the completion of radiological decommissioning.

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    5. Who must review and approve the Vermont Yankee transfer?

    The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) must approve the indirect transfer of control over Vermont Yankee and the transfer of the facility operating license to NorthStar. Similarly, the State of Vermont Public Service Board (PSB) must also approve the transfer of ownership to NorthStar.

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    6. When will the ownership transaction be completed?

    The transaction requires approval of the license transfer from the NRC and obtaining a Certificate of Public Good from the Vermont Public Service Board. The transaction is expected to close in in the 4th quarter of 2018.

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    7. Who is responsible for Vermont Yankee’s used nuclear fuel?

    The original owner will complete the transfer of used nuclear fuel from the reactor’s used fuel pool to the dry storage pad on Vermont Yankee’s Independent Spent Fuel Storage Installation (ISFSI). Once the ownership transfer is finalized, NorthStar will assume all responsibility for management of the stored used fuel until the Department of Energy fulfills its legal obligation to take custody of the used fuel and transport it from the Vermont Yankee site to consolidated storage or disposal facilities. NorthStar team member ANM has more than 60 years’ experience transporting and storing used nuclear fuel. Learn more about ANM’s used fuel experience: http://us.areva.com/TNamericas

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    8. What will happen to the segmented reactor vessel internals and other radioactive waste?

    All radioactive waste will be secured in NRC-licensed containers. Used nuclear fuel and reactor-generated greater-than-Class-C (GTCC) waste will remain in secure storage onsite pending transfer to the Department of Energy. The balance of radioactive waste will be packaged and transported for disposal at Waste Control Specialists' licensed facility in Andrews, Texas.

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    9. How will radiation exposure be contained during the decommissioning process?

    All work will be performed in compliance with NRC regulations governing any exposure during decommissioning. The NorthStar project team is sensitive to the proximity of Vernon Elementary School and residences, and will use proven methods to ensure continued safety and protection. The team is experienced in decommissioning and dismantling processes that include robust protection of the workers and surrounding environment through using the facility’s existing barriers, such as performing work inside the containment building, using remotely operated machinery, and additional protection strategies where needed.

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    10. What will happen to concrete or waste that is not radioactive?

    There is a lot of building material and concrete outside of the containment area that can be verified as not radioactive or contaminated. The nonradioactive and non-contaminated concrete could be reduced to rubble and used as backfill during site remediation. Using onsite disposal of broken up verified concrete would avoid road transportation and potential congestion by dump trucks for offsite disposal. All nonradioactive concrete and waste will be securely disposed according to the eventual agreement among regulatory and community stakeholders for onsite and offsite disposal.

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    11. If rubblized concrete is approved for use to regrade the site, will it include any contaminated material?

    No, concrete remaining on site will not include contaminated material. Before the buildings are demolished, concrete that may be used for backfill material will be tested for chemicals and radiological materials. Then, only concrete that meets the Vermont, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and NRC regulations will be broken up and used as non-impacted or “clean” construction debris. Contaminated concrete and building materials that that do not meet the regulations' strict standards will be shipped offsite to a nuclear waste repository. The area will be checked again after restoration: Before the remediated site is released back to the community, it must first pass external evaluations by state and national regulators to confirm that all standards, including chemical and radiation, have been met and are protective of human health and the environment.

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    12. Who will be responsible for site restoration?

    As with the site decommissioning, NorthStar will have full responsibility for site restoration, and is working with the Public Service Board to approve proposed site restoration standards that are generally consistent with those of other regional decommissioning projects.

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    13. How many people does decommissioning employ, and will local companies be included?

    The decommissioning process normally involves 100-200 workers, though certain significant activities may temporarily require more workers on site. For the decommissioning process, the project would seek to retain existing facility employees for their site knowledge and expertise. While the hiring of specialized subcontractors may be necessary, local firms will be given consideration.

Send Us Your Question

Additional Resources

  1. Link to this Decom VY page: http://us.areva.com/decomVY
  2. NorthStar Decommissioning: https://www.northstar.com/services/nuclear-services/
  3. AREVA Decommissioning & Dismantling: http://us.areva.com/decom
  4. AREVA Used Fuel Management: http://us.areva.com/TNamericas
  5. AREVA blog posts, Safe Used Fuel Management:  http://us.arevablog.com/category/nuclear/safe-used-fuel-management/
  6. NRC Staff Responses to Frequently Asked Questions Concerning Decommissioning of Nuclear Power Reactors (NUREG-1628): https://www.orau.org/ptp/PTP%20Library/library/NRC/NUREG/1628.PDF  
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Entergy announces Vermont Yankee transfer to NorthStar