Vermont Yankee nuclear site being eyed for $350M biomass plant

Friday, July 11, 2014
VERNON, Vt. — With half a year to go before the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant is scheduled to cease operation, town planning and selectmen’s boards have discussed a preliminary proposal to build a biomass plant on the reactor site.

Discussion of what could be a $350 million wood-burning plant in this town that’s also home to one of New England’s largest lumber processors is being described as in “the very beginning stages,” and it’s unclear how many years it would be before the nearly 150-acre site could be decommissioned and reused.

But in his presentation to the two boards, G. Donald Campbell Jr. representing American Generation Partners LLC said that a biomass plant could take advantage of Vernon’s position as “an epicenter of New England forestry products” as well as the rail line that runs through the plant site and electricity transmission lines to help replace the nearly $50 million in tax revenue to the town.

Campbell said that preliminary evaluation shows that a plant burning “woody and agricultural biomass and certain municipal solid waste as primary fuels” could be viable at the site to generate of 75 to 100 megawatts, and that the project could also burn natural gas, either from liquefied natural gas brought in by rail or from a gas pipeline proposed for northern Massachusetts.

Chris Campany, executive director of the Windham Regional Commission, said no one has made clear what the parameters are for redeveloping the Vermont Yankee site, and it would make sense to convene a meeting with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Entergy and town officials to clarify how the property could be best used.

Campbell told the boards he has worked on large-scale energy projects, although according to Vernon Planning Commission member Martin Langeveld, that has been in financial rather than operational experience.

Although he acknowledged, “Nobody’s indicated whether Vermont Yankee or the NRC would be open to having the site used in this way,” Langeveld said a biomass project probably would only require 10 to 15 acres of the 150-acre site.

Campbell could not be reached for comment.