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‘It's Not Going to Be a Ghost Town:' Start of Demolition on Vt. Nuclear Plant Sparks Optimism

Several residents of Vernon said they are eager to see what replaces the shuttered nuclear plant under an accelerated decommissioning and restoration schedule

A demolition project in the southeastern corner of Vermont marks a significant milestone in the region’s energy history.

Visible work is now underway to remove some of the infrastructure surrounding a closed nuclear power plant.

“It’s just history, that’s all—that plant’s been there a long time,” observed Tim Forrett of Vernon. “This is the next step—it’s coming down.”

The Vermont Yankee nuclear plant operated in Vernon from 1972 until late 2014, and once supplied a third of all the power needs in the state, according to its former owners.

There was a big, visible step this week in the lengthy process of making the land the plant sat on suitable for other uses. A massive cooling tower was torn down.

Forrett, who owns a small convenience store, sandwich shop, and ice cream stand in Vernon, said he is eager to see what replaces the nuclear plant under an accelerated decommissioning schedule.

The former owner, Entergy, sold the property and transferred licenses to a new owner, called NorthStar. The New York-based company is a national provider of complicated demolition services, and has agreed to accelerate restoration, finishing by the end of 2030 at the latest, according to the Vermont Public Utility Commission.

The commission said late last year, when the transfer was finalized, that under a state-and-federally approved plan, most above-ground buildings will be gone; underground structures, too, to a depth of at least four feet, and the land will be regraded and reseeded.

This new approach will shave decades off the site cleanup work, regulators said. Originally, decommissioning and restoration was not set to be done until the year 2075, according to an Entergy media release from November 2016.

“It was supposed to be a 60-year process that turned into a 10-year process,” Vernon Select Board Chair Josh Unruh noted in an interview with necn Friday.

The Brattleboro Reformer newspaper reported that NorthStar company officials said Thursday their exterior work on the closed nuclear power production facility is six months ahead of schedule.

Unruh praised NorthStar’s schedule, and said the company has been great to deal with in terms of keeping the town in the loop with progress on the project. He said after witnessing the demolition work Thursday, he is even more confident in the project.

Unruh told necn he hopes the parcel can once again generate economic activity for the region.

“It would be nice to bring some jobs back to Vernon and some tax revenue back to Vernon, as well,” Unruh said.

Dana McClelland, who was enjoying an ice cream at Forrett’s business Friday, said she and others in Vernon are optimistic for the town’s future.

“It’s not going to be a ghost town or anything,” said McClelland, who lives near the former Vermont Yankee property. “It’s not like they’re just like, ‘Oh no, it’s the end of the world!’ Everybody’s really trying. What can we do next? What can we do to make people want to live here?”

State agencies will have oversight throughout the cleanup process, the Vermont Public Utility Commission said.

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