U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and U.S. Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) on Wednesday reintroduced the Nuclear Plant Decommissioning Act of 2018, which gives states a meaningful role in the development and approval of reactor shutdown plans and post-shutdown license transfers.
"Communities experiencing the safety and economic impacts of nuclear plant decommissioning deserve a role in shaping those decommissioning plans for nuclear reactors near them," Sanders said. "This input is especially critical given the potential for non-operational plants to sit for decades before removal and decontamination. The Nuclear Plant Decommissioning Act of 2018 would transform a process that is weighted almost entirely toward the power plant licensees into one that strikes a reasonable balance between licensees and the impacted communities."
Welch, who is introducing companion legislation in the House, said, "Vermonters are well aware that decommissioning a nuclear power plant has an enormous economic and environmental impact on states and neighboring communities. It is essential that state and local leaders have a seat at the table throughout the decommissioning process. This commonsense legislation ensures the decommissioning process is transparent, inclusive and collaborative so that all interested parties are heard."
The Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant in Vernon was shuttered at the end of 2014 and the current owner has proposed selling the plant. This bill would give affected states like Vermont an opportunity to weigh in on the new shut down plan in the instance of a license transfer.
The Nuclear Plant Decommissioning Act is co-sponsored in the Senate by Senators Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.).
The legislation would require licensees to consult with the host state as well as state governments within 50 miles of the plant when drafting a proposed decommissioning plan. This consultation would help ensure that state and local concerns are considered.
The measure also would require the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to solicit public input on the proposed decommissioning plan and would require the NRC to evaluate and formally adopt or reject the input of the affected states, thereby improving accountability and transparency.
If a host state supports the proposed plan or license transfer, the licensee can secure formal NRC approval in an expedited fashion. Otherwise, the NRC must consider amending the proposed plan based on the host state's recommendations.