NorthStar to ship Vermont Yankee’s low-activity wastewater to Idaho

May 10, 2021, 9:30AMRadwaste Solutions
The closed Vermont Yankee power plant is currently undergoing decommissioning. (Photo: Entergy)

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is set to allow about 2 million gallons of low-level radioactive wastewater from the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant, currently undergoing decommissioning, to be disposed of at an Idaho waste facility. As published in the May 7 Federal Register, the NRC has issued an environmental assessment and finding of no significant impact for a request by NorthStar Nuclear Decommissioning to dispose of the wastewater at US Ecology Idaho’s waste facility near Grand View.

In conjunction with NorthStar’s request, the NRC is also considering granting US Ecology a license exemption to allow the company to receive, process, and dispose of the Vermont Yankee wastewater at its Grand View facility, which is not licensed by the NRC. The radioactive wastewater, which contains low-activity by-product material, is the result of decommissioning work at the power reactor, including the segmentation and removal of the reactor vessel.

Based on its review of the request, the NRC found that the maximum dose to any individual, including workers involved in the transportation and disposal of the wastewater, will not exceed “a few mrem per year.” As such, the NRC said that the action “will not have a significant effect on the quality of the human environment, and therefore, the preparation of an environmental impact statement is not warranted.”

Second round: In 2017, the NRC granted a similar request to dispose of low-activity wastewater from Vermont Yankee at the same US Ecology facility. The NRC noted that the primary difference between that request and the current one is the volume of material to be disposed of. The 2017 approval was for 200,000 gallons of wastewater.

While not licensed by the NRC, US Ecology’s Grand View facility is a hazardous waste disposal facility permitted by the State of Idaho. After being shipped by rail to Idaho, the Vermont Yankee wastewater will be mixed with clay to solidify the material prior to disposal.

D&D: Located in Vernon, Vt., the Vermont Yankee plant shut down in 2014, and the NRC approved the sale of the single-unit boiling water reactor from Entergy to NorthStar for decommissioning in December 2018.

According to Vermont Yankee’s revised post-shutdown decommissioning report, submitted to the NRC in 2017, NorthStar estimated that it will complete the decommissioning of the plant by 2026 at a cost of $1.1 billion, including costs associated with spent fuel management and site restoration.

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