Vt. board allows nuke plant operation through ’14
MONTPELIER, Vt. — Sternly scolding Entergy Corp. for “bad conduct” during its 12 years of owning the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant, Vermont regulators on Friday approved the plant’s operation through the end of 2014, when it is closing for economic reasons.
The Public Service Board made clear in a 95-page order issued Friday that the outcome might have been different if New Orleans-based Entergy hadn’t announced last August it would close Vermont Yankee. In March of 2011, the plant won federal approval to operate another 20 years, but Entergy officials said the changing economics of the power generation industry made the 650-megawatt plant no longer competitive.
The Connecticut River Watershed Council is “disappointed” with the Public Service Board’s refusal to deal directly with the issue of thermal pollution of the Connecticut River, said Andrew Fisk, executive director of the Greenfield-based organization, which had sued the state to stop hot water discharges.
Friday’s order by the board, in approving the governor’s agreement with Entergy, called on the state’s Agency of Natural Resources to issue a discharge permit for Vermont Yankee — a permit that the natural resources agency has failed to renew using updated standards since the last one expired years.
The watershed council had sought to the PSB require the plant to use its cooling towers this final summer of its operation to avoid heating the river water.
“We understand, but we;re disappointed that the PSB didn’t rule on this. They have could have addressed this directly,” Fisk said. “For people who say the plant’s closing this December,’ that’s not the point. It’s an important precedent” affecting not only all waterways in Vermont, but possibly around the nation in how they are required to deal with effluent. In the state board’s accepting the terms of the closed-door agreement made in December, Fisk said, “It’s clear that Entergy had a lot of levers they could have pulled if the settlement were not enacted.”
If Entergy had wanted to operate the plant until 2032, “its track record may well have led us to find that ownership and operation would not promote the general good,” the board said. “While its decision to cease operations by the end of (2014) does not excuse Entergy VY’s past bad conduct, the decision does alter the perspective from which we contemplate that conduct, given that we are no longer assessing the legal and regulatory implications of granting an operating license for the long term.”
The board said its decision was conditioned on parties living up to an agreement between Entergy and the state under which:
∎ The two sides will drop long-running litigation on a variety of issues.
∎ The company will put up $10 million during the next five years to support economic development in southeastern Vermont’s Windham County, where the plant is located. Closing the plant will cost the region more than 600 good-paying jobs, though some will continue in the short term while the plant is decommissioned.
∎ The company commits to restoration of Vermont Yankee’s Vernon site after the plant meets federal standards for clearing away its radioactive components, so the property may be put to other uses.
∎ The company commits $5.2 million to the state’s Clean Energy Development Fund, with half the money going to projects in Windham County.
Entergy and Gov. Peter Shumlin, a long-time critic of Vermont Yankee and its owner, both expressed satisfaction that the board had approved the agreement between the company and the state.