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Vermont Yankee

Keeping Entergy on the radar, residents scrutinize closure deal

The Vermont Yankee nuclear plant in Vernon, Vt., will begin shutting down this year, but the terms of the plant’s closure and how it will be paid for are not yet set.
Paul Franz/Birds EyeViews photo

The Vermont Yankee nuclear plant in Vernon, Vt., will begin shutting down this year, but the terms of the plant’s closure and how it will be paid for are not yet set. Paul Franz/Birds EyeViews photo

BRATTLEBORO, Vt. — The agreement announced last month between the State of Vermont and Entergy, which owns the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant, is hardly a done deal.

That much was made clear by a state Public Service Board hearing Tuesday night held as a teleconference here and in 12 other locations around the state. The board, which is considering whether to grant a needed Certificate of Public Good for the 42-year-old Vernon reactor to allow it to legally operate until Entergy’s stated closure date of Dec. 31 this year, is weighing the terms of the agreement hammered out in closed-door sessions between the governor’s office and Entergy officials.

Most of those speaking Tuesday evening — the vast majority of them at Brattleboro Union High School — called for tightening up the terms of the agreement, which many of them said would give Entergy leeway to decide when it had sufficient funding to begin decommissioning and to move highly radioactive spent fuel to dry casks.

“A CPG is a Certificate for Public Good,” said Nancy Craus of Putney. “I don’t see giving Entergy carte blanche to run this plant is in the public good.”

Several of those who testified complained about a provision of the agreement between Entergy Nuclear Vermont Yankee and Entergy Nuclear Operations that allowed the corporation to challenge any state law pertaining to the plant on the grounds that it was preempted by federal law.

“In front of you now is a take-it-or-leave-it case,” said Gary Sachs of Brattleboro, one of more than a dozen people who said that Entergy, which has sued the state, cannot be trusted.

The agreement, which is predicated on the Public Service Board approving a new certificate to Entergy by March 31, calls for putting Vermont Yankee on a faster decommissioning track than the allowable 60-year time frame allowed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission as a “SAFSTOR” option.

It also calls for Entergy to provide $10 million to help the Windham County economy adjust to closure of the plant, to invest $25 million over four years in a site restoration fund, and to provide $5.2 million for clean energy development around the region, as well as a transitional $5 million payment to the state.

Among the chief concerns raised at Tuesday’s session, which drew more than 40 people — several of them Gill, Erving, Leverett and Wendell — was the need to require Entergy to move its spent fuel from a fuel pool six stories above ground into dry casks as soon as possible, beginning with the oldest fuel rods. They argued that the memo’s stipulation that the radioactive waste would be moved to hardened casks “in a timely manner” was not specific enough.

Sally Shaw of Gill and David Deen of the Connecticut River Watershed Council were among those who called for the Public Service Board to require the Vernon plant to begin using its cooling towers for its last year of operation in order to end its practice of “super-heating” the Connecticut River.

With Entergy’s current decommissioning fund totaling a little over $600 million and cost estimates for decommissioning now ranging from $825 million to $1 billion, several of those testifying called for not leaving it solely to Entergy — which doesn’t pay into that fund — to determine when it was sufficient to begin decommissioning.

“Let’s face the facts,” said Dick Brigham of Cuttingsville. “The easier that the Public Service Board is on Entergy, the more that Vermonters will have to pay ... the more likely that Vermonters will be shish-kabobbed.”

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