The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) on October 11 issued its consent to the transfer of the Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Station (Vermont Yankee) from Entergy Corporation (Entergy) to NorthStar Group Services, Inc. (NorthStar). The transfer paves the way for the accelerated decommissioning of Vermont Yankee, which could be completed as early as 2026.

Just as importantly for the nuclear industry as a whole, the NRC’s consent to the proposed transfer signals for the first time its willingness to consent to a transfer of a nuclear power plant license where: (1) title to the spent fuel is transferred to the new owner; and (2) spent fuel management costs will be recovered in a future settlement of litigation with the US Department of Energy (DOE). These are new precedents that have significant implications for future transfers of shutdown plants.

On December 1, our Washington, DC, office hosted an all-day roundtable where Morgan Lewis lawyers, in-house counsel, and business leaders from companies involved in nuclear energy decommissioning met to discuss key issues and best practices for large nuclear decommissioning projects. Discussions focused on several key industry issues, including the following:

  • License stewardship and decommissioning general contractor transaction models
  • Project labor agreements and employee benefits
  • Tax issues unique to decommissioning
  • Community engagement
  • Environmental permitting and cleanup standards
  • The current status of decommissioning rulemaking and guidelines
  • Implications of decommissioning on spent fuel claims
  • The completeness and accuracy of reporting

The Morgan Lewis lawyers presenting at the roundtable included energy partners Paul Bessette, Stephen Burdick, Lewis Csedrik, John Matthews, and Ingrid Myers; employee benefits partner Althea Day; environmental partners Chris Amandes and Ella Foley Gannon; labor and employment partner Jonathan Fritts; litigation partner Brad Fagg; and tax partner Paul Gordon.

Chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission Stephen Burns gave a presentation during lunch. He spoke about NRC lessons learned from recent (and ongoing) decommissioning projects, the importance of early licensee engagement, and global trends in decommissioning. Read his full remarks.