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VY to lay off 97 in May

NRC approves upcoming round of job cuts for emergency-planning reductions

VERNON—Entergy has filed official notice of the next round of layoffs at Vermont Yankee, telling state and local officials that 97 positions will be cut May 5.

That’s a smaller number than the 150 layoffs that initially had been estimated. But a spokesman said that’s only because employees have been leaving the Vernon plant, so overall staffing levels are lower than had been anticipated.

After the May layoffs, administrators expect there to be roughly 150 staffers remaining at Vermont Yankee, which stopped producing power at the end of 2014.

The staff cuts are related to upcoming emergency-planning changes at the plant. In December, the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission agreed to amend Entergy’s license to allow a drastic downsizing of Vermont Yankee’s emergency operations.

The change takes effect in April and allows Yankee’s emergency planning zone — which now covers all or part of 18 towns in three states — to shrink to the boundaries of the plant itself. It also allows Entergy to slash its workforce and maintain a much smaller emergency response organization.

Vermont officials have opposed the change, citing the continued presence of radioactive spent nuclear fuel on site. But the NRC asserted that “the risk of an offsite radiological release is significantly lower and the types of possible accidents significantly fewer at a nuclear power reactor that has permanently ceased operations.”

Of the 97 employees expected to be affected by the May 5 layoffs, Entergy’s notice said 38 reside in Vermont, while 34 live in New Hampshire and 25 in Massachusetts.

It will be the latest job cuts at Vermont Yankee, which had been one of Windham County’s largest employers. When Entergy announced its plan to close the plant in summer 2013, there were about 625 employees.

That workforce had decreased to 554 at the time of shutdown in December 2014. The following month, the first round of layoffs shrunk Vermont Yankee’s staff to 316.

As of the beginning of March, a spokesman said plant employment stood at 243.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #347 (Wednesday, March 9, 2016). This story appeared on page A1.

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