Search for:

NorthStar: Vermont Yankee demolition ahead of schedule

October 18, 2019

By Susan Smallheer
Brattleboro Reformer

VERNON — Nine months into the demolition of the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant, NorthStar CEO Scott State says the project is already about six months ahead of schedule. He said the company has been able to make progress by "doing things differently."

State said the project was divided up into three, two-year segments, and that the company will complete the project ahead of the 2030 deadline easily and on budget.

NorthStar’s partner for the first segment of the project, Orano USA, is already cutting up the nuclear reactor’s internals and getting them ready for shipment to another partner’s waste site in western Texas.

State said he originally expected the job would be completed by 2026.

"I think we’ll be done well before 2026," he said Thursday during a tour of the Vernon site with reporters, giving an update of the $500-plus million project. "We are months ahead of schedule."

State said despite the pace, the company had recently reached 220,000 man hours on the site with no ‘lost-time accidents,’ which he said is a tribute to the company’s planning and safety culture.

"These are big logistical jobs," he said.

State said NorthStar was in negotiations with the town of Vernon about leaving untouched some buildings and components, as long as they pass a radiological survey. NorthStar’s administrative building, which sits outside the security fence surrounding the plant and the de-construction zone, is one asset the town is interested in, State said.

He said he hopes to transfer some of the "assets" to Vernon even before the Nuclear Regulatory Commission releases the entire site from federal oversight.

"This is the community’s asset," said State. "We’re not developers."

The plant’s intake structure on the Connecticut River is another item the town is interested in, said David Pearson, NorthStar’s vice president.


Vermont Yankee’s iconic dual bank of cooling towers are now gone, leaving a large field free of tons of debris, but still sporting a 250,000 gallon hole that was an emergency reservoir for the plant.

"We’ll fill it in," said Corey Daniels, a longtime employee at the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant, as he and others climbed up a now-vacant security tower installed in the hyper security days after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and got a good view of the ongoing demolition and clean up of the 130-acre site.

In all, the demolition is expected to take at least six years, and possibly longer, and cost upwards of $500 million.

By comparison, Entergy Nuclear, which had owned Vermont Yankee since 2002, had estimated it would cost more than double that amount – $1.2 billion – and that included waiting 50 years or so to let the plant’s trust fund grow, and allow radioactivity to decay.

While nothing was under active demolition like the cooling tower project, which was completed in July, workers were busy moving large concrete and steel casks that would hold cut-up components of the plant’s reactor core – some of the most radioactive material, aside from the plant’s fuel.

The vast majority of the demolition will be shipped off site by rail. NorthStar rebuilt the rail line that served Vermont Yankee back when it was constructed in the 1960s and 1970s, to carry heavy loads. The radioactive materials are labeled and put into either special shielded boxes and filled with concrete, or inserted into heavy-duty canisters for the trip to western Texas.

According to Daniels, shipping by rail is much more efficient and much cheaper than trucking.

On Thursday, workers were preparing one of the 17 large boxes that would hold the pieces of the reactor vessel internals.


At Yankee, it’s all about nuclear waste and where it will go.

The transfer of the nuclear fuel from the plant’s spent fuel pool into concrete and steel canisters was completed a year ago, shortly before NorthStar bought Vermont Yankee from Entergy Nuclear Corp., said State.

There are 58 of the giant canisters on the north end of the Yankee site, behind barbed wire and barricades – and guards. It will remain there for years, until the federal government acts to create either permanent storage for the dangerous, highly radioactive fuel (hence the security), or an interim storage site.

State said Waste Control Specialists, which he described as a partner of NorthStar’s, runs a low-level radioactive waste site in western Texas and has proposed building an interim storage site, a plan that is pending before the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Holtec International, a competitor of Waste Control Specialists and the builder of the storage casks being used at Yankee, has a competing application for a nearby site in southeastern New Mexico.

State, who lives in Arizona during the winter, makes a point of coming to Vermont Yankee at least once a month to check on progress.

He said he expects the NRC to make a decision on the proposed consolidated, interim storage in about three years, and he said because the WCS site is owned by a NorthStar affiliate, Yankee’s high-level radioactive waste could be shipped quickly, rather than following a federal requirement of oldest-waste first.

NorthStar is hoping that the Vermont Yankee project brings it other nuclear demolition projects, as by State’s calculation there will be another 10 nuclear reactors shutting down in the next five years. NorthStar recently signed an agreement to demolish Duke Energy’s Crystal River reactor in Florida. That project is awaiting NRC approval, he said.

Contact Susan Smallheer at or at 802 254-2311, ext. 154.

Fair Use Notice
This document contains copyrighted material whose use has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. SEED Coalition is making this article available in our efforts to advance understanding of ecological sustainability, human rights, economic democracy and social justice issues. We believe that this constitutes a “fair use” of the copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. If you wish to use this copyrighted material for purposes of your own that go beyond “fair use”, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

Energy Secretary Perry says he is resigning by year’s end

October 17, 2019

AP News

WASHINGTON (AP) — Energy Secretary Rick Perry announced Thursday that he will leave his job by the end of the year, saying that under President Donald Trump the nation is nearing energy independence.

Perry’s long-rumored departure comes as he is under scrutiny over the role he played in the president’s dealings with Ukraine, the focus of an ongoing impeachment inquiry.

In a letter to Trump, Perry made no mention of Ukraine and exalted policy successes that have led to increased production and exports of oil and natural gas.

"The U.S. private sector is leading the world in energy production, exploration and exports," Perry said. "Today, when the world looks for energy, they can now think of America first."

Trump said Perry "has done a fantastic job" at Energy, "but it was time" for him to leave.

Perry, 69, a former Texas governor, has been energy secretary since March 2017, making him one of the longest-serving members of Trump’s Cabinet, which has seen huge turnover.

He was traveling with Trump to Texas when he notified the president of his decision aboard Air Force One.

Trump told reporters he "knew six months ago" that Perry wanted to leave by the end of the year. "He’s got some ideas for doing something else. He’s a terrific guy," Trump said.

Trump said he already knows who will succeed Perry, but declined to identify the person.

House Democrats have subpoenaed Perry for documents related to a Ukrainian state-owned energy company as well as his involvement in a July call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy. The lawmakers set a Friday deadline.

Trump has said Perry teed up the July 25 call, in which Trump pressed Ukraine to investigate his Democratic rival Joe Biden and his son, who was employed by a Ukrainian gas company.

A spokeswoman for Perry has said he wanted Trump to speak with the Ukrainian leader on energy matters related to U.S. efforts to boost Western energy ties to Eastern Europe. It is part of a long-term effort to lessen the political control Russia wields through its dominance of the fuel supply.

The Associated Press reported this month that a circle of businessmen and Republican donors touted their connections to Trump and his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, as they sought to install new management at the top of Ukraine’s state-owned gas company last spring.

The plan hit a snag after Zelinskiy’s election, but Perry took up the effort to install a friendlier management team at the company, Naftogaz. Perry attended Zelinskiy’s May 2019 inauguration as the administration’s senior representative and met privately with Zelinskiy. He has denied any wrongdoing.

Perry had disputed published reports that he was planning to leave the administration. He told a news conference in Lithuania earlier this month: "One of these days they will probably get it right. But it’s not today, it’s not tomorrow, not next month. Keep saying it and one day you’ll be right."

Perry, who twice ran for president before taking the job at Energy, has kept a relatively low-profile in his 2 ½-year tenure. He has supported Trump’s call for "energy dominance" around the world and pushed to bolster struggling coal-fired and nuclear power plants. He said last year that a rash of coal and nuclear retirements was "alarming" and posed a looming crisis for the nation’s power grid.

"If unchecked, (the plant closures) will threaten our ability to recover from intentional attacks and natural disasters," Perry said at a speech in Texas.

Trump, who has frequently promised to bring back coal jobs, directed Perry in June 2018 to take "immediate steps" to bolster struggling coal-fired and nuclear power plants to keep them open, calling it a matter of national and economic security.

No definitive action has been taken since then. A regional transmission organization that oversees the power grid in 13 Eastern and Midwestern states said there’s no immediate threat to system reliability.

Perry has won plaudits from lawmakers for an easygoing style that reflects a life in politics, and he has frequently distanced himself from severe budget cuts to energy programs sought by the White House. He has toured Energy Department sites around the country, represented the Trump administration at meetings overseas and begun a years-long process to revive a shuttered nuclear waste dump at Nevada’s Yucca Mountain.

Before taking the Energy job, Perry had been subjected to widespread ridicule after forgetting the name of an agency he pledged to eliminate as president. That agency was the Energy Department. Despite that, Perry has emerged as a strong defender of the department’s work, especially the 17 national labs that conduct cutting-edge research on everything from national security to renewable energy.

"I’m telling you officially the coolest job I’ve ever had is being secretary of Energy … and it’s because of these labs," Perry told employees at the Idaho National Laboratory in 2017.

Trump denied reports that Texas Gov. Greg Abbott or Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy could replace Perry, but said, "They would both be very good."


Colvin reported from Fort Worth, Texas. Associated Press writer Kevin Freking in Washington contributed to this report.

Fair Use Notice
This document contains copyrighted material whose use has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. SEED Coalition is making this article available in our efforts to advance understanding of ecological sustainability, human rights, economic democracy and social justice issues. We believe that this constitutes a "fair use" of the copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. If you wish to use this copyrighted material for purposes of your own that go beyond "fair use", you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.