State regulators: No indulgence for Vermont Yankee

Saturday December 1, 2012

MONTPELIER -- In a sternly worded ruling, Vermont regulators tell the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant they will not overlook the fact that the plant is still operating and generating nuclear waste despite failing to fulfill promises to shut down if it didn't secure new state permits by last spring.

The Public Service Board, in a decision Thursday, essentially rejected a request from plant owner Entergy Corp. to be excused from promises it made to shut down by March 21 if it hadn't secured new permits from the state to operate and produce highly radioactive spent fuel. Entergy wanted the board to modify its orders from 2002 and 2006 that were based on the company promises.

The board warned Vermont Yankee that failure to fulfill the promises would be "relevant considerations" when the board makes a final decision on whether to permit the plant to operate to 2032.

The state has been trying to shut Vermont Yankee down, and is in a legal battle with Entergy that is pending before the 2nd U.S. Circuit court of Appeals in New York. Last year, Vermont Yankee got permission from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission to operate past its scheduled March 21 license expiration date, for 20 years.

Meanwhile, Entergy is trying to get the Public Service Board to grant Vermont Yankee a new state certificate of public good. The New Orleans-based corporation noted Friday that the board denied the company's request to amend its orders. "We had asked for amendments so that our operation would conform to these (state) orders," Entergy said in a statement.

Entergy essentially argued in pleadings to the board that it was Vermont's fault -- meddling by the Legislature and slow action by the board -- that prevented the company from having a new state certificate by March 21.

But the board said much of the delay in resolving Vermont Yankee's future was Entergy's fault. The board said Entergy waited five years before challenging state laws, now being tested in federal court. The company also slowed the process down by making misleading statements in 2009 that it didn't have certain kinds of underground piping at its Vernon reactor, the board said.

"Any hardship Entergy faces is a direct result of choices it made," the board said.

Sandra Levine, a lawyer with the Conservation Law Foundation, which has advocated closing the plant, said in an email: "Entergy's in a very tight box. It cannot prove to the Board that it is a trustworthy operator when it is operating in defiance of the same Board's orders."


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