State weighs what conditions to place on Vermont Yankee closing

Chris Recchia, commissioner of the Department of Public Service. State of Vermont photo

Chris Recchia, commissioner of the Department of Public Service. State of Vermont photo

Entergy Corp.’s newly amended petition to run the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant past its initial 40-year licensing period is giving the Vermont Department of Public Service pause.

Chris Recchia, commissioner of the department, said there are two main moves his team is considering.

“The options are to support it with conditions or oppose it unless there are conditions,” he said.

For more than a year, Entergy has been embroiled in the process of applying for a new permit to continue operating the plant. But after announcing its intention to close the plant at the end of 2014, Entergy amended its application. Rather than petitioning the Vermont Public Service Board to permit the plant until 2032, Entergy now seeks a certificate of public good to run the plant until Dec. 31, 2014.

The Department of Public Service has opposed the re-permitting of the plant since Gov. Peter Shumlin came into office in 2011. But the sea change in Entergy’s plans for the plant is causing the department and Shumlin’s administration to recalculate their strategy.

“We haven’t taken a position on it,” said Geoff Commons, who is overseeing the case for the department as its public advocate. “There is certainly a lot of thought going into this, and when we file a position with the Public Service Board it will be carefully considered.”

The department and the other 13 parties to the case must file their proposed rulings to the board by the end of the day Oct. 25.

“It’s kind of a fait accompli,” Commons added. “Entergy has now said to us and to the NRC they plan to close at the end of 2014. Having VY close has been a goal. The way it is happening is unexpected, but we support the plant closing, and it being decommissioned as promptly as possible and see that site being devoted to some other useful site as soon as possible.”

But some organizations that have long opposed Vermont Yankee are still against re-permitting the plant for even another 15 months.

“Entergy has not been a trustworthy partner in the state and cannot be relied upon going further,” said Sandra Levine, a senior attorney for the Conservation Law Foundation. “That is true for a year and a half and for 20 years. The facility is not needed for reliability. There are sufficient resources available in the region to provide power for Vermont.”

Whatever the board decides, Recchia’s team is asking them to do it sooner rather than later. Both the department and Entergy’s attorneys are in favor of an expedited review.

While Levine agrees that the “case has already gone on far too long,” the anti-nuclear New England Coalition feels it hasn’t gone on long enough.

On Wednesday, director of the coalition Raymond Shadis submitted an argument to the board to convene further hearings to address the shortened operation schedule and the imminent decommissioning of the plant, which will require an expensive and involved dismantling process.

Shadis argues that now is the time for the state to ensure that it has a say over how Vermont Yankee is dismantled — whether it is done so promptly or mothballed for 60 years, which is the federal limit. By law, the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission would oversee the plant’s decommissioning.

“It is unclear at this point if Entergy VY, if it closes in 2014, will ever have to appear before the VPSB, or for that matter, any state regulatory body ever again,” he wrote to the board. “Chopping the proposed period of extended operation really appears to narrow that possibility and proportionally heightens the need for the VPSB and the parties to ‘get it right.’”

Andrew Stein

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  • David Klein

    Now is the time for the state to ensure that it has a say over how Vermont Yankee is dismantled — whether it is done so promptly or mothballed for 60 years, which is the federal limit.

  • Pete Novick

    Every morning if you like, you can get a cup of coffee and go on-line to the NRC’s Current Power Reactor Status Report where you can see the daily status of every commercial power reactor in the United States, including the Vermont Yankee reactor:

    NRC updates this status report daily and I see Vermont Yankee is at 100% load today, as it was yesterday, and as it will be tomorrow.

    No kidding? How can Entergy operate the reactor without a CPG from the VT PSB?

    Vermont Yankee can and most likely will operate without a CPG until its scheduled closing around December 31, 2014.

    In the interim, Entergy has already, or will shortly apply to NRC for either a site-specific or general license to store spent fuel on site for the next 60 years or so.

    To the best of my knowledge, the state of Vermont has no legal standing to sue, as both the operation of nuclear reactors and the storage of spent reactor fuel are solely under federal jurisdiction, meaning Entergy’s transition to dry cask storage will proceed on schedule, with public comment from Vermonters and hopefully without the pointless and costly shenanigans of the state legislature and the attorney general.

    John Wayne, in character once said, “I’m going to wrestle me a grizzly and kiss me a pretty girl.”

    It’s time for Vermont to get its priorities straight as well:

    – build a world class economy

    – stop the brain drain as our best and brightest high school graduates leave for college elsewhere and don’t come back because our state lacks a healthy and growing white collar job base

    – take concrete steps to attract business and begin by lowering corporate tax rates

    – develop and fund a world-class, technically-oriented graduate school to compete with the likes of MIT, RPI, CalTech and others

    – build a real business partnership with Canada and specifically businesses in Quebec


    Don Quixote: Fortune is guiding our affairs better than we ourselves could have wished. Do you see over yonder, friend Sancho, thirty or forty hulking giants? I intend to do battle with them and slay them. With their spoils we shall begin to be rich for this is a righteous war and the removal of so foul a brood from off the face of the earth is a service God will bless.”

    Sancho Panza: What giants?

    Don Quixote: Those you see over there, with their long arms. Some of them have arms well nigh two leagues in length.

    Sancho Panza: Take care, sir. Those over there are not giants but windmills.

    – Miguel de Cervantes

  • Townsend Peters

    Peter Shumlin lost Vermont its leverage over the plant when he forced a vote in 2010 against the plant’s remaining open. This led to a lawsuit that limited Vermont’s ability to oversee the plant, with the district court judge quoting then-Sen. Shumlin’s comments on the floor about radioactive compounds.

    At the same time, Shumlin refused to allow the Senate to take up a bill passed unanimously by the House to require the plant to set up a trust fund for greenfielding the plant site after closure.

    Now the plant will close in 2014 for economic reasons and there’s no reason to think the plant will close earlier even if the state denies the pending application to operate until then. Once it closes, the plant will sit there for decades until there’s enough money to decommission – if that ever occurs.

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