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Vermont Yankee

Entergy exec tells state to ignore past problems

MONTPELIER, Vt. — A top executive with Entergy Nuclear tried to convince a skeptical Public Service Board last week that problems at the Vermont Yankee plant in Vernon during the 10 years of Entergy ownership were not relevant to whether the state should allow the plant to run for another 20 years.

T. Michael Twomey, vice president for external affairs for Entergy Wholesale Corp. of White Plains, N.Y., testified for much of the day Friday, the fifth day of hearings on Entergy’s request for a new state certificate of public good to operate Vermont Yankee for 20 more years.

Twomey and his attorney Robert Juman, of the New York law firm of Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, tried to deflect a long list of problems at the Vernon reactor in the 10 years Entergy has owned the plant. Juman raised objection after objection, claiming information about the 2007 and 2008 partial collapse of Yankee’s cooling towers was not relevant, and that neither were other issues at the plant, including the company’s response to the tritium leak there in 2010.

But James Volz, chairman of the Public Service Board, allowed the questions from Robert C. Kirsch, an attorney with the Boston law firm of Wilmer Hale, hired by the state to help it with the case and to cope with Entergy’s four law firms. Volz said he was taking Entergy’s objections under advisement. Juman said many of the questions he objected to were a pretext for issues relating back to safety at the plant, since the state was precluded by federal law from considering safety issues, which are solely the responsibility of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

The Department of Public Service is arguing that Entergy has been a poor partner for Vermont in the past 10 years and is not a trustworthy business, citing the numerous problems at the plant and “misleading” testimony from plant executives about the existence of underground pipes carrying radionuclides. The state has also argued that the nuclear power plant is a poor match for the state’s overall goal of encouraging the development of alternative forms of sustainable energy.

The misinformation, given under oath to the Public Service Board, led to the disciplining of 11 Entergy Nuclear employees at Vermont Yankee. Twomey said the decision about the discipline was done at the “high level of the corporation.”

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