Business & Economy

Update: Entergy to cut 30 jobs at Vermont Yankee

Entergy plans to cut about 30 jobs at the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant by the end of the year, a vice president at the Louisiana-based corporation said Tuesday.

The news comes on the same day Entergy reported to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission that the company would eliminate roughly 800 positions from its nationwide workforce of 15,000. Entergy employs about 650 workers at Vermont Yankee in Vernon, which means layoffs would affect about 4 percent of employees.

“It’s really across the board,” Terry Young, Entergy VP of communications, said of the job reductions. “What we did through this process is really redesign the way we do business and redesigned the nuclear organization’s structure.”

Entergy’s operational earnings are down more than 50 percent in the second quarter of 2013, from $2.11 a share last year to $1.01 a share this year. Translated into total dollar amounts that is $179.7 million in the second quarter this year versus $374.6 million last year.

To adjust for this decrease, Entergy is reorganizing via its “Human Capital Management initiative.” Entergy projects the restructuring will save the company $200 million to $250 million by 2016.

“Difficult decisions like job reductions are sometimes the very tough outcome of making long-term, fundamental improvements in the way a company works,” Leo Denault, CEO, said in the SEC filing. “The redesign process has been comprehensive, thoughtful and focused squarely on being fair to our employees throughout the process and being responsive to the needs of our customers, our employees, our communities and our owners.”

Young said the plant’s safety would not be compromised as a result of the job reductions.

“We will pay special attention to ensure the changes we are making do not impact the hands-on, core functions of daily operations of plants, so that there’s no impact on safety and reliability,” he said.

Neil Sheehan, spokesman for the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, said federal regulators are aware of Entergy’s plans, and Vermont Yankee must have at least two control room operators on staff at all times. The NRC also mandates certain levels of security and emergency response personnel, but Sheehan said the NRC would not divulge those numbers for the Vernon plant due to security reasons.

“There have been reorganizations in the past at other U.S. nuclear power plants,” Sheehan said. “As in those cases, the NRC has the ability to determine whether there are any adverse impacts through our Reactor Oversight Process. … We also accept allegations, at any time and anonymously, from any staffer who has a safety concern he or she believes is not being addressed.”

In 2013, the fair market value of the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant fell 69 percent, from $517.5 million to $162 million. UBS Securities downgraded Entergy Corp.’s stock from “neutral” to “sell.” The Swiss financial services firm also projected the closure of an Entergy nuclear facility in 2013, saying “Vermont Yankee is the most tenuously positioned plant.”

Entergy is in the process of applying for a new state permit to operate the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant for another 20 years. The Vermont Public Service Department is opposed to the notion of re-permitting the 41-year-old plant.

Geoff Commons, the director of public advocacy for the department, oversees the case for the executive branch. He said that when the quasi-judicial Public Service Board held hearings in June on the matter, he does not remember the issue being raised, and his team has not found mention of workforce reductions from Entergy’s testimony.

“I’m pretty confident that nothing about any potential layoffs came up. This would have gotten some play,” he said. “If this was known before the close of evidence, it does not reflect well upon Entergy’s truthfulness.”

The Public Service Board will, in part, base its approval or denial of Vermont Yankee’s new license on the economic status of the plant. Commons says he is considering asking the board to reopen the hearings to discuss this issue.

“This certainly would have a bearing on the economic benefit they are claiming and the question for us is whether the economic impact of that on the case justifies reopening the case and having more process to get that into the record,” Commons said.

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Andrew Stein

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  • Craig Kneeland

    NRC’s requirement for 2 reactor operators does nothing to address the requirement for maintenance. Inadequate maintenance continues to be a problem at Vermont Yankee.
    This layoff is terrible for those who have kept this old ship afloat. Their job has been difficult because of the equipment age. Nowwhere in these press statements do we even see the word “maiintenance”. we should all be concerned, particularly those living around this aged facility operating beyond it’s design life.

  • Mike Kerin

    Greedy! They want more money for the execs and the stock holders, at the cost of safety.

    • Jim Christiansen

      Your evidence please?

      • Mike Kerin

        Try reading the stories on this and other sites. The execs are extremely highly paid. All the while the corporation is hurting financially. It is all in the stories.

      • Peter Liston

        Average yearly compensation for Entergy CEO J Wayne Leonard: $20+ million per year.

        But somehow there’s not enough money for the decommissioning fund.

  • david klein

    This just in! Entergy has decided to shut down all its nuclear power plants. Executives of the corporation sat down with the board of directors and showed pictures of their grandkids and realized the risks of nuclear contamination were not in their best interests and in the interest of a healthy planet. “Money isn’t everything,” they said, “nuclear power, a legacy of the nuclear bomb age, was a terrible mistake that has created tons of nuclear waste that will threaten our grandchildren for thousands of years.” Conservatives decried their decision as a cave-in to big government and vowed to drill for more fossil fuels and burn the planet up as revenge.

  • Jim Barrett

    What’s the big deal, Shumlin wants to have EVERY employee laid off!

    • Peter Liston

      It wasn’t Shumlin’s idea to design the plant to run for a maximum of 40 years.

  • Rob Simoneau

    I don’t know it might be the engineer in me or maybe the materials scientist but as a plant is pushed beyond it design window and past it decommission date you need to add more personnel not less. The plant will experience a major failure within the next 3 to 5 years. Less personnel I have to move those projections closer, to 2 to 4 years. The state must set up a monitoring system around VY to provide an early warming to the people to evacuate since they laid of the guy who pushes the horn button when the plant fails.

    You have been warned; decommission now before it is too late. Anyone who disagrees with me can accept my charity donation challenge, which still stands. I will put up $1000 in cash to the Children of Chernobyl Foundation and deposit at any bank of your choice. We will start the clock when you meet my challenge for the time to failure within 2 to 4 years. Unfortunately I had to restart the clock a couple of times, collapsing towers, leaking cooling vest … the usual stuff. You will put up $100,000 since you are 100 time more sure that VT will not fail within a 2 to 4 years time frame; any takers? Remember this is chump change considering the current projected cost to decommission the Fukushima Daiichi plant, 140 billion dollars to decommission and counting , oh and it will take 40 years to fully decommission, source NHK. We will not throw in the cost of life, pain and suffering … One final note to remember, VT is land locked, therefore radiation will spread roughly 360 degrees depending on prevailing weather conditions. The Fukushima Daiichi plant was on the seacoast therefore roughly half of all radiation and debris has and is currently going out to sea. Actually some if it is showing up on our west coast.

    New Flash!! —– NHK
    Ohi to be shut down 9/15, turning Japan no-nuke, Japan’s 2 remaining nuclear reactors still in operation will be shut down for regular inspections next month. Kansai Electric Power Company is set to submit to regulators on Thursday an application to shut down the Number 3 reactor at the Ohi plant in Fukui Prefecture. The company says it will stop the reactor on September 2nd for a regular maintenance check. The Number 4 reactor will be halted 2 weeks later. The move will bring all reactors in Japan offline for the first time in 14 months. Four utilities have asked the Nuclear Regulation Authority to restart 12 reactors in 6 power plants. Their applications are currently being screened. But no clear prospects for restarting any of the reactors have emerged, source NHK.