BRATTLEBORO -- Entergy Corporation, the owner of Vermont Yankee Nuclear plant in Vernon, on Tuesday morning announced plans to close and decommission the power station following its current fuel cycle.
In a release Entergy stated the decision was "driven by sustained low power prices, high cost structure and wholesale electricity market design flaws for Vermont Yankee plant."
It added that Entergy's focus would "remain on safety during remaining operation and after shutdown."
"This was an agonizing decision and an extremely tough call for us," said Leo Denault, Entergy's chairman and chief executive officer. "Vermont Yankee has an immensely talented, dedicated and loyal workforce, and a solid base of support among many in the community. We recognize that closing the plant on this schedule was not the outcome they had hoped for, but we have reluctantly concluded that it is the appropriate action for us to take under the circumstances."
After this morning's news broke, Gov. Peter Shumlin said this was "the right decision for Vermont." After speaking with his gubernatorial counterparts in neighboring New Hampshire and Massachusetts, he pledged to "work with Entergy to ensure that those losing their jobs have a bright economic future."
"My heart goes out to the hard-working employees and their families," Shumlin said.
Meanwhile, New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan said that as the plant is preparing to close, her state will continue to work with Vermont to prepare for and minimize any impacts to the electric grid and energy costs.
Hassan said Tuesday the state also stands ready to work with local, regional and federal partners to assist displaced workers and to ensure that the closing protects the health and safety of New Hampshire residents.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., said he was delighted the plant was closing down, after facing so many problems in recent years.
"The closure will allow Vermont to focus on leading the nation toward safer and more economical sources of sustainable and renewable energy like solar, wind, geothermal and biomass," Sanders, a member of the Senate energy and environment committees, said on Tuesday.
Sanders also stressed that jobs at the plant be preserved while the decommission process moves forward.
Speaker of the House Shap Smith in a statement said the closure reflected part of a broader national trend in which the economic viability of nuclear power is uncertain, as the country looks to develop an affordable and sustainable energy profile for the future.
"In the coming months and years, the legislature will work with the administration, Windham County leaders and others to assist employees of the plant and the surrounding communities during this transition period," Smith said. "Entergy repeatedly has assured Vermonters that it will decommission the plant in a safe and environmentally sound way."
Entergy said the decision to close the plant was based on a number of financial factors, including low natural gas and wholesale energy prices; a "high cost structure for this single unit plant" ("Since 2002, the company has invested more than $400 million in the safe and reliable operation of the facility."); along with what it called wholesale market design flaws resulting in artificially low energy and capacity in the region.
Entergy believes that continuing operation through the fourth quarter of 2014 would allow workers to properly "plan for a safe and orderly shutdown and prepare filings with the NRC regarding shutdown and decommissioning."
Entergy said it will create a decommissioning planning organization, which will be responsible "for planning and executing the safe and efficient decommissioning of the facility." Following the shutdown, workers on site will de-fuel the reactor and place the plant into SAFSTOR.
"We are committed to the safe and reliable operation of Vermont Yankee until shutdown, followed by a safe, orderly and environmentally responsible decommissioning process," Denault said.
Vermont Yankee opened in 1972, and at one time provided as much as a third of Vermont's electrical supply. Currently, nearly all of its power is shipped to electric companies in neighboring states.
After being granted the federal license it also needed for continued operation, Entergy sued the state and won a first round in federal court in Brattleboro.
The state appealed but largely lost earlier this month. Attorney General Bill Sorrell has said the ruling worked out well in one respect: The court overruled a part of the lower-court decision saying the state had violated the U.S. Constitution by trying to demand cut-rate power from Vermont Yankee if it were allowed to continue operating.
The company employs about 630 people, a staffing level that will gradually be reduced as the plant moves through the stages of decommissioning.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Reaction to today's announcement: