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Voices / Letters from readers

Behind the VY settlement, a document filled with vague language

If big news is delivered late in the afternoon just before a holiday, you know someone has something to hide. The 2013 Christmas gift from Entergy and the state of Vermont was their “settlement agreement.” Only the most diehard followers of nuclear news would be reading legal documents over the holidays. Count me among the diehards.

Having read the settlement agreement and the memorandum of understanding to the Public Service Board, there is a big gap between what the documents actually say and the spin from Entergy and Gov. Peter Shumlin.

For example, it is good news that a site assessment will be completed by Dec. 31, 2014, and that the scope of the assessment is broad. The bad news is that Entergy, not an independent contractor, will perform the assessment.

And while the spin is that Entergy has agreed to prompt decommissioning, there is no commitment to prompt decommissioning in the agreement. Prompt decommissioning is only “one scenario” Entergy will include in its site assessment. The closest we get is a commitment to clean up “as soon as reasonably possible” — language guaranteed to provoke debate down the road.

The agreement is full of these vague terms: “as soon as reasonable possible” and “in a timely manner.” For instance, the spent fuel will be moved out of the pool “in a timely manner.” A third of the bullet points in the agreement are about trust and good faith, and offer no substance whatsoever — except to future litigators.

While I certainly hope this is the new era of transparency Entergy claims, I find it hard to trust a corporation that has made so many poor decisions and has not kept its legal agreements.

Entergy says that because it has new leadership, Vermonters can now trust the company’s word. But who will be in charge of the state and of Entergy in 2020, when the rubber hits the road and, with luck and a strong stock market, cleanup begins?

Leslie Sullivan-Sachs

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Originally published in The Commons issue #235 (Wednesday, January 1, 2014). This story appeared on page C2.

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