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Randy Kehler of Shelburne, Mass., was one of more than 140 people arrested on March 2012 while protesting Entergy’s continued operation of Vermont Yankee despite the plant’s no longer having a state certificate of public good.

Voices / Viewpoint

No parades for NorthStar

‘Forgive me if I am skeptical that this agreement will stick throughout decommissioning. For how long has our trust in Vermont Yankee’s agreements with the state been violated?’

Leslie Sullivan Sachs, a longtime antinuclear activist, is a member of the Safe & Green Campaign. Members of the Nuclear Decommissioning Citizens Advisory Panel (NDCAP) will receive an overview of the Memorandum of Understanding for approval of the sale of Entergy Nuclear Vermont Yankee to NorthStar Group Services recently filed with the Public Utility Commission. Participating will be Mike Twomey, Entergy; Scott State, NorthStar; and representatives from the state of Vermont. The meeting — open to all — takes place Thursday, March 22 at 6 p.m. at Brattleboro Union High School’s multipurpose room. Information:


On March 22, I will be showing up for another meeting on Vermont Yankee. We will hear presentations about the latest ownership deal with Vermont Yankee: the sale from Entergy to NorthStar, for decommissioning.

Here is what I will say.

* * *

Thank you for working together on this settlement. I especially appreciate that 10 parties were involved in the negotiations to reach this deal.

Forgive me if I am skeptical that this agreement will stick throughout decommissioning. For how long has our trust in Vermont Yankee’s agreements with the state been violated?

Since day one.

Electric companies sold the state on the idea of VY, saying it would cost $88 million to build, that we would pay 5 cents per kilowatt hour, and that the federal government would take away all the radioactive waste.

Vermont Yankee ended up costing $215 million, opened two years late, and we paid 26 cents per kilowatt hour. And we have no idea how long the radioactive waste will sit here.

In 2002, a memorandum of understanding was struck between the state, Entergy, and the entities that made up the plant’s previous ownership. In it, Entergy agreed that it would not operate beyond the original license, which would expire in 2012, without the approval of the Public Service Board. It also agreed to waive any future claims that federal law preempts the jurisdiction of the board.

Ten years later, Entergy sued Vermont. Repeatedly. Including on preemption, the power of the PSB, and the power of our legislature to even mention the word “safety.”

Between the 2002 sale and relicensing 10 years later, Entergy violated the state’s trust so many times that our Senate voted 26-4 against relicensing. The 26 included Sen. Randy Brock, who said: “If its board of directors and its management had been thoroughly infiltrated by anti-nuclear activists I do not believe they could have done a better job in destroying their own case. The dissembling, the prevarication, the lack of candor have been striking.”

* * *

Since 2004, Safe & Green Campaign has compiled a timeline on Vermont Yankee. I encourage NorthStar and everyone on the Nuclear Decommissioning Citizens Advisory Panel (NDCAP) to take a look at it, especially the events that took place from 2009 to 2012.

It’s astonishing how many times Entergy tried to weasel out of the agreements it made with the Public Service Board. Here are just three examples:

1. In August 2009, Entergy admitted that, starting in June of 2008, it failed to monitor radiation coming from the dry casks of high-level radioactive waste — even though such monitoring was a condition of Entergy’s cask-storage permit issued by the Public Service Board (now the Public Utility Commission).

2. Entergy officials lied under oath to the PSB as well as to the Public Service Department and the Public Oversight Panel. As a result, the PSB required Entergy to review every page of written testimony as well as oral testimony for the relicensing case. The PSB ended up closing that Docket (7440) altogether and opened a whole new relicensing docket (7682).

3. In 2012, Entergy asked the PSB to amend the section of the Sale Order of 2002, which states that Yankee must cease operations March 22, 2012 if there is no certificate of public good.

Entergy did not close Vermont Yankee, and on March 22, in 2012 — also a Thursday — 2,000 people took the day off from work to march from the Brattleboro Common to Entergy’s offices at Old Ferry Road. More than 140 were arrested. Why? Because Entergy was operating without its state permit.

* * *

Now, here we are, six years later. Entergy is desperate to unload this huge problem of nuclear waste onto NorthStar, which intends to prove that decommissioning can be profitable.

In the time since the sale to NorthStar was announced, NorthStar and Waste Control Specialists have both been bought by a private equity firm, J.F. Lehman and Company. Another Lehman — Lehman Brothers — filed for the largest bankruptcy in U.S. history in 2008.

That company went belly up after it entered the housing market, thinking it would make a big profit. Let’s hope this Lehman’s entree into nuclear decommissioning is more successful.

I agree wholeheartedly that Vermont Yankee should be decommissioned in our lifetimes, so that we who made and benefited from the 900 tons of radioactive waste it has created are accountable for cleaning it up. I am glad somebody thinks it is possible to do so.

On the other hand, the history of Vermont Yankee ownership is one of covering up accidents and mistakes, of corporate lies to our legislators and to our state regulators, and of agreeing to honor commitments and then suing the state to get out of those commitments. So do not expect me to throw a parade for this agreement.

Good luck to the state regulators and to the Public Utility Commission. You’ve got your work cut out for you.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #451 (Wednesday, March 21, 2018). This story appeared on page D1.

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