The Iowa Waterfront

If you think that Entergy's decision to close Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant was a sudden and quick event, I have some oceanfront property in Iowa to sell you. A corporation that big does not make quick decisions and I suspect that there is a good possibility that the closing announcement was part of a methodically crafted plan.

Of course, everything I am basing my thoughts on is speculation steeped in a long-standing distrust of the high level Entergy Corporation management. My speculation is leading me to believe that Entergy officials felt some sort of compulsion to fight the "anti-nuke" state of Vermont as long as possible. They beat them in the latest round in the courts, but they really did not gain much with that costly victory.

The next round comes when the state Public Service Board determines whether or not to grant the plant a certificate to allow it to operate. Although the feds control most issues related to plant operation, the owners still need the OK from the PSB.

So, is it possible that Entergy officials realized their chances would be 50-50, at best, to get the certificate? Maybe. By setting a closure date, Entergy is now in position to have some degree of control over the timeline of closure events. If they had waited for the PSB decision then they would have, most likely, had a closure timeline dictated to them. Of course, that could still happen.

Anyone capable of coming close to being able to balance a checkbook knew years ago that the plant was not going to be financially viable for too long. The last few years made that clear, especially given the decision by Green Mountain Power to stop buying electricity from Entergy.

If I was an employee at Vermont Yankee I would have been working hard on my Plan B employment strategy. The plant employees are smart and well-educated, for the most part, and they knew that the plant life was limited and that it had the potential of shutting down in 2012 or a few years later.

As the plant slows down, jobs will be lost but a significant workforce will be needed for a fair amount of time- plenty of time for smart people to find new career options. Sure, it is a tough situation for the plant workers but I don't think the state needs to do more for them than they have done for IBM workers and others who have lost jobs.

Vermont Public Radio recently reported that 35 percent of Yankee workers live in Vermont. That means about 200 Vermonters and their families will have to make drastic life changes. I am confident they will have the support they need to successfully move on.

There is also a great deal of concern about all of the economic ripple effects that will have to borne by businesses and residents of Windham County and surrounding towns in Vermont, Massachusetts and New Hampshire. Vernon will eventually lose some tax revenue. They may even have to learn to live with a realistic property tax base, like most Vermonters.

They have had plenty of time to prepare for the new reality. There will be a lot of belt tightening and difficult decisions to make, but Vernon and surrounding towns will weather the storm and figure out a way to make a new life without the plant. The state, and possibly the town of Vernon, will receive revenue from Entergy for decades as long as spent nuclear fuel is on site.

The PSB will be making a decision and it is possible they could trump Entergy's timeline. I suspect that no matter what the PSB decides there is a good chance that they will accept the corporate timeline. I hope I am wrong, because no matter how competent and dedicated the plant employees are they are still putting duct tape on a 40-year-old worn out piece of machinery that has the potential to ruin a lot of lives.

Then there is the issue of decommissioning. Do we really want to wait 60 years for the place to cool down while all of that potentially harmful waste not only sits on our doorstep in dry casks but also soaks in less secure pools of water? That is what Entergy wants to do because they don't have the money to dismantle the place and return it to a place without doomsday potential.

A new battle has only just begun.

Richard Davis is a registered nurse and long-time health care advocate. He writes from Guilford and welcomes comments at rbdav@comcast. net.


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