BRATTLEBORO -- A hearing officer tasked with expediting the Vermont Public Service Board's review of a request by the owner of Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant in Vernon has recommended a certificate of public good for the installation of diesel generator.
According to a document released late Monday afternoon, Lars Bang-Jensen noted the installation of the generator "will promote the general good of the State of Vermont," a conclusion that is necessary for any utility project to receive a certificate of public good from the PSB.
Entergy, which owns and operates the plant, applied for a CPG for the installation of a 3,000 kilowatt diesel generator after it learned it could no longer rely on the Vernon Hydroelectric Dam for backup power during a system-wide shutdown.
Because the cut-off date for relying on the dam was Sept. 1, Entergy asked the PSB to reach a decision before June 10, allowing for construction time. Recently it filed a complaint with the Federal District Court for the District of Vermont to remove the state from the approval process on the grounds the diesel generator was needed for safety reasons and safety is solely under the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission's jurisdiction.
Because the PSB has not rendered its opinion, it's unclear at this time whether Entergy will drop its complaint in federal court.
"While we appreciate and agree with the hearing officer's recommendation, we remain uncertain as to when the board will rule," stated Yankee spokesman Jim Sinclair, in an e-mail to the Reformer. "Therefore we will have to determine how this may affect the federal court hearing scheduled for June 4."
It's now up to the three members of the board to decide whether to accept his conclusion as is, amend it and approve it or reject it altogether.
The PSB is currently taking evidence and testimony to determine whether Yankee should receive a new CPG for continued operation. Its current CPG expired in March 2012, but it continues to operate while the board is deliberating. In March 2011, the NRC issued a new 20-year operating license for the plant.
In his recommendation, Bang-Jensen wrote that he took into consideration the board's concerns over Entergy's spotty record of compliance with board orders, CPGs, and prior commitments.
In an order issued on March 19, 2012, the PSB concluded Entergy does not have the authority to continue the plant's operation without a new CPG. However, noted the board, due to ongoing litigation it would not take action that would force Entergy to shut down Yankee.
Bang-Jensen wrote that even if Entergy had fully complied with board orders and ceased operation of the plant after March 21, 2012, the generator would still be needed.
"The NRC could decide to continue to require a Station Blackout Power Source so long as hot, high-density packaged fuel remains in the spent fuel pool, even though such a requirement during decommissioning is not necessarily clearly covered by existing regulations."
In addition to the generator, Entergy applied for approval to install a a 9,604 gallon fuel tank, a switchgear assembly, a resistive load bank and equipment enclosures mounted on a new concrete pad.
In his review, Bang-Jensen considered the orderly development of the region, environmental impacts, the economic benefits to the region and system stability and reliability.
Bob Audette can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or at 802-254-2311, ext. 160. Follow Bob on Twitter @audette.reformer.