Talks off on Vt. Yankee decommissioning
MONTPELIER — The Shumlin administration and Entergy Corp. have failed to reach an agreement about the shutdown and decommissioning of the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant.
Despite weeks of talks, the Department of Public Service informed the Public Service Board late last week that while there had been progress in the talks, there was no agreement by a self-imposed deadline.
The letter, received Monday by the Public Service Board, said the board was now clear to make its long-awaited ruling on the remaining year of operation of Vermont Yankee.
“I don’t want to say anything more,” said Christopher Recchia, commissioner of the Department of Public Service, who is involved in the talks.
Last month, the administration had asked the Public Service Board to hold off on its decision regarding the remaining year of operation of the Vernon reactor because of the talks.
Recchia said the two sides were still talking, “but we don’t have an agreement.”
Entergy Corp., which has owned Vermont Yankee since July 2002, has said it plans to put Yankee into the nuclear equivalent of mothballs — a process called SAFSTOR by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission — and then start clean up and dismantling the plant after about 50 years. During that time, the plant’s decommissioning trust fund would grow to cover the costs of cleanup and decontamination, as well as let some of the low-level radioactivity continue to decay.
Gov. Peter Shumlin has been pushing for a more timely decommissioning, saying a nuclear power plant in mothballs would be a drag on the local and state economy. Two weeks ago, Shumlin said, the two sides were meeting daily, trying to reach an agreement.
According to a letter dated Friday and filed Monday with the Public Service Board, the department said it would update the board “on any developments.” The Shumlin administration had earlier set a deadline of Dec. 11.
“The department appreciates the need to move this proceeding toward conclusion,” wrote Geoffrey Commons, director of public advocacy for the department. Commons didn’t return a telephone call or an email Monday about the issue.
The secret talks between the Shumlin administration, which included Recchia and Shumlin’s chief of staff Elizabeth Miller, among others, had upset some of the parties to the Yankee relicensing case pending before the Public Service Board, who said they were being cut out of the discussions.
Despite the talks, the Department of Public Service, which acts as the public’s advocate, had opposed the state issuing Entergy a new certificate of public good, even with Entergy’s announcement in late August that it would be shutting down Yankee in late 2014 because the 41-year-old reactor was not making money.
Entergy said the New England energy market and the low price of natural gas were making it difficult for Vermont Yankee to meet its capital costs. The Vernon plant employs about 640 people, with about 240 of those people living in Vermont and the others split between New Hampshire and Massachusetts.