Fracked Gas Put This Nuclear Plant Out Of Business, But Nuclear Waste Could End Up In Fracking Country

March 6, 2018


It’s the nuclear plant that fracking shut down, and now the Texas company that specializes in disposing of nuclear waste is part of a new agreement to decommission the plant sooner rather than later.

Entergy Nuclear shut the Vermont Yankee plant in 2014, saying at the time that fracked natural gas flowing into the New England markets placed the plant a disadvantage in negotiating power contracts, but a new agreement filed in Vermont on Friday appears to move up the process of dismantling the plant.

Entergy had planned to put the plant into cold storage, but Vermont Public Utility Commission said it has a new agreement with private equity group J.F. Lehman & Co., along with NorthStar Group Services.

In January, Lehman purchased Texas-based Waste Control Specialists, the Dallas-based company that has a state contract to store, treat and dispose of low-level nuclear waste at a site in Andrews County in West Texas.

New York City-based NorthStar specializes in demolishing buildings and has demolished small nuclear test reactors, and was also purchased by Lehman in January.

Lehman is headed by the former US Secretary of the Navy in the Reagan Administration, John Lehman.

Now Lehman and its subsidiaries have reached an agreement with the Vermont attorney general and the state’s governor to begin physical work on decommissioning the Yankee plant in 2019, though there will be regulatory hurdles.

And while the source of fracked natural gas that helped put the Yankee out of service was likely from North Dakota rather than the Permian, the low-level nuclear waste from the plant is expected to end up in West Texas, which, of course, is a source of fracked natural gas.

The deal was agreed to by several groups who initially had concerns, including the environmental group, the New England Coalition on Nuclear Pollution, though the green group Conservation Law Foundation is still not happy with the arrangement.

The Vermont PUC is expected to have a formal ruling on the agreement by August, and the deal is subject to scrutiny by the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission, but Lehman is hoping to close on the deal by the end of the year.