Entergy asks court for OK to continue operating Vermont Yankee, as it waits for license approval from Public Service Board

The dry cask storage units outside of the Vermont Yankee plant. Photo by Laura Frohn, News21.org

The dry cask storage units outside of the Vermont Yankee plant. Photo by Laura Frohn, News21.org

Entergy is going back to federal court asking for assurance that the state will not shutter the plant March 21, when its current license expires.

Despite a victory in federal court finding two Vermont laws unconstitutional, attorneys for Entergy expressed concerns that the board would not allow Vermont Yankee to continue operating.

The Public Service Board held a status conference March 9, and briefs are due Friday.

Entergy already asked Judge J. Garvan Murtha for assurance that the plant could continue operating during the proceeding. The Public Service Board at the conference would not guarantee that the plant would keep operating.

With the clock ticking, Entergy’s motion in federal court asks Judge Murtha to preserve the status quo.

The filing states: “A statement from the PSB — in direct conflict with this Court’s Decision — that Plaintiffs may not operate during the interim period stands irreparably to damage Plaintiffs’ ability to keep VY open and to retain critical employees.”

In February, the board issued questions to Entergy and other parties in the docket asking if the plant could continue to operate after March 21. A state law that prevents the plant from storing spent fuel at Vermont Yankee after that date without approval from the Public Service Board.

The Vermont attorney general and Department of Public Service agree that the plant can continue operating while the Public Service Board determines whether to grant a new license. But the board last week questioned whether it had the ability to let Vermont Yankee keep producing spent fuel and pushed Entergy attorneys on why they hadn’t addressed the impending issue earlier.

Entergy’s filing says the delay is not the company’s fault, and the board would have made a decision earlier if it hadn’t been for the Vermont laws that spawned litigation and put the licensing hearing on hold.

Two Vermont laws required legislative approval for storage of spent nuclear fuel at Vermont Yankee after March 21 and for continued operation after that date. In 2010, the Vermont Senate voted against relicensing the plant, and the litigation in federal court ensued.

Federal district court Judge J. Garvan Murtha ruled the Atomic Energy Act pre-empted the two state laws, but his decision left the Public Service Board’s discretion intact.

When the board reopened the proceeding and asked whether the plant could continue to operate, Entergy fired off an immediate request to the court asking it to let the plant operate after March 21.

The status conference apparently did not instill confidence.

Wednesday’s request for a ruling states: “The very real prospect that the PSB will answer its own questions adversely to Plaintiffs, and thus order that VY must cease operation or storage of SNF from operation after March 21, 2012, stands irreparably to harm Plaintiffs.”

The company’s filing implies it might continue operating even if the board says it should not.

The motion goes on: “On March 9, 2012, the PSB made clear that it does not necessarily agree with the AG’s and the DPS’s view. In the event that the PSB ultimately disagrees, Plaintiffs will be forced either to cease operating or, if they defy the PSB by continuing to operate, to face the prospect of a diminished credit rating, a loss of crucial employees, and a demerit in the PSB’s consideration of Plaintiffs’ petition for a new CPG.”

Environmental groups have pushed for the plant to shut down March 21.

Sandra Levine, senior attorney with the Conservation Law Foundation in Vermont, said continuing to operate after March 21 would violate Vermont law and a memorandum of understanding signed by Entergy in 2002 agreeing that the plant could only operate up to March 21 without additional approval from the board.

“Entergy continues to seek approval to violate Vermont law,” Levine said. “They remain bound by the Public Service Board’s orders. They will need the board’s approval for continued operation. The district court’s order was clear that only legislative action is pre-empted.”

Sarah Hofmann, deputy commissioner of the Department of Public Service, said the department agrees the plant can continue to operate under state law but that Entergy has not lived up to its commitments.

“If they are going to be allowed to run on expired CPGs (certificates of public good), then they have to live up to all the commitments in those CPGs,” she said.

A spokesman for Entergy said the company would not offer additional comment on its filing.

Alan Panebaker

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  • Alex Barnham

    I do feel sorry for the people who, in the light of all the evidence, totally disregard the truth. The overwhelming evidence is available to us and the good people of Vermont (as opposed to the bad people) will do everything possible to protect our land, air, and water from being destroyed by nuclear contamination.

  • Bob Stannard

    Nor should we expect Entergy to ever live up to any future promises or committments they may make.

    The fear is that the PSB might grant them a CPG with conditionsto allow them to continue to operate. As has now been proved beyond any doubt, Entergy will agree to anything, but their word is no good.

  • Mike Kerin

    I for one don’t believe anything this corporation says. Entergy has lied and deceived and mislead the State of Vermont from the very first moment they began dealing with us.

    There is only so much we can take.

  • The issue is not with “hard-working” people at Vermont Yankee. The issue is with management. Entergy sat in the PSB meeting on March 9th spewing double speak. Avoiding answers to direct questions. Knowing full well there was a current issue with the plants condenser and saying nothing about it. Saying nothing is as much of a lie as saying there are no underground pipes.

  • John Greenberg

    There were 218 Vermonters working at VY when DPS prepared its report in November 2008, not 500 as Vic Hudson alleges.

  • Ruaidhri O’Cruadhlaoich

    Other than the jobs in Vernon how does Vermont benefit from Vermont Yankee in the future?

    Is there a deal in place to use the power produced by the plant if they continue to operate?

    Where will spent fuel be (safely-is that word allowed) stored in the future?

    Is NRC actively involved in the latest issue of containment failure?

  • Bob Stannard

    Do you now, Vic? You trust the workers who recently left a metal plate large enough to stand on inside the leaking condenser unit? You trust the workers who lost a hot, radioactive spent fuel rod? You trust the control room operator who tested positive for pot? You trust the person in charge of the substance abuse program who blew a positive breathalyzer? You trust the chief operating officer who continually misled the legislature? You trust the same C.O.O who misrepresented the facts before the state’s regulatory board? You trust the employee who threw the wrong switch during the outage.

    And on and on. These are just a few examples of those stellar, trustworthy employees that we hear so much about. The fact is that there have been no less that a half-dozen human error incidents since the beginning of the year; enough so that the Dep’t of Public Service has sent a complaint to the NRC asking that they look into the situation (which of course they won’t to any major degree, since they rarely, if ever, do).

    Many Vermonters are getting tired of hearing how great these employees are as we watch with our own eyes mistake after mistake after mistake being made. If my mechanic made this many mistakes on my car I’d fire him. At VY these guys get rewards and bonuses.

    At least I have an opportunity to vote my legislators out of office.

  • I attended the meeting Vic. I WAS THERE IN PERSON. I am not depending on someone else giving me a version of what was said. I heard it for my self. Entergy did not answer pointed questions. Entergy lawyers repeated phrases, word for word, that certainly appeared practiced. Entergy lawyers spoke with out communicating and the board asked on more than one occurrence to have what was said explained “What does that mean?” They made no mention of the condenser issue at that meeting Vic. It would not have been in their best interest to raise it. The board pointedly asked them if Entergy was expecting the board to try to understand what was in the minds of Entergy’s management and they were not directly answered but the union rep spoke up adding that what was on the minds of it’s members was to keep their jobs. On the other hand Entergy certainly expected the judge to know what was in the minds of our representatives in the legislature, Vic.

    I call it double speak Vic because that is what it was and is.

    Telling the NRC there have been leaks into the river and telling the public there haven’t been is double speak, dis-information, lying!

    Telling us there are no underground pipes and having those non-existant pipes leak is very difficult to explain in any other way. If they made a mistake on something like that they are obviously not the ‘experts’ they claim to be or the alternative is they are deliberately trying to pass off invalid information to get what they want, lying!

    Say anything to get what they want and do what they want if the answer does not please them. We can’t refuel with out an injunction, no injunction, refuel anyway. Agree to having a new CPG in place or shut down the plant, petition the judge to keep running ignoring the agreement.

    Agree to an eighteen month inspection schedule to get NRC approval of an increase in power output. Petition the NRC to change the inspections to “once every ten years or so” after receiving the go ahead on the power production.

    Agree in a Memorandum of understanding that they will run the plant after March 21, 2012 “for the purposes of decommissioning only” and now say they will continue to run based on the old CPG in place.

    How can you tell if Entergy reps are lying Vic, easy, their lips move.

  • What the Governor and the DPS said has nothing to do with the PSB Vic. The PSB was deliberately left out of the legal battle for that reason. This was discussed in the March 9th meeting too. I WAS THERE I HEARD IT FOR MYSELF.

    When the chairman of the board expressed that, Entergy was caught off guard. When the chairman of the board noted that he expected Entregy would have asked about that a long time ago the lawyers tried to come up with something on the spot and the chairman of the board told them outright they would have to put the request for clarification in writing and they “would not be getting an answer at this meeting.”

    I was there Vic, I heard the exchange myself.

    What DPS says is not relevant to the CPG. Not covered under 231 which was not challenged in the court. Not acted on by Entergy for two years and in the meeting they tried to avoid blame for not proceeding on it when they said they would and tried to blame it on the court challenge. The Governors comments were not on the CPG either but on the court proceedings.

    You, vic, are indulging in your own double speak by trying to mix the two issues.

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