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VY cuts staff again

Second major workforce reduction at the shut-down Vernon nuclear plant brings employment to 136, down from 554 when it stopped producing power in 2014

VERNON—On May 5, 16 months after power production ended at Vermont Yankee, the nuclear plant shed about 40 percent of its remaining workforce.

Spokesman Marty Cohn said 93 staffers were “processed for leaving” Vermont Yankee. A majority of those workers departed the plant immediately, though a handful will stay on for a short period of time.

The cuts leave 136 people employed at the Vernon facility.

Vermont Yankee had employed 625 in the summer of 2013, when Entergy Corp. announced plans to close the plant.

At shutdown in December 2014, staffing had decreased to 554.

The following month, as the plant’s reactor was permanently defueled, an initial round of layoffs left employment at 316.

As Entergy prepares Vermont Yankee for an extended period of dormancy called SAFSTOR, staffing has continued to decline. Such voluntary departures are one reason the plant’s post-shutdown spending has been lower than anticipated, administrators have said.

The May 5 large-scale staffing reduction came a few weeks after the plant drastically cut back its emergency operations in accordance with a federally approved regulatory change.

Of the 93 people who are departing Vermont Yankee, 13 are transferring to another Energy facility, Cohn said. The other 80 are either being laid off or are retiring.

As was the case with the first big round of Vermont Yankee layoffs, the staffing changes are affecting the entire tri-state area.

Cohn said 33 of the departing workers live in Vermont, while 36 reside in New Hampshire and 24 are from Massachusetts.

Following the latest cuts, Vermont Yankee employment is expected to remain relatively stable for the next several years. Cohn said the next significant staffing reduction isn’t scheduled until the end of 2020.

That’s Entergy’s self-imposed deadline for moving all of the plant’s spent nuclear fuel into dry-cask storage. Currently, most of that fuel remains in a cooling pool inside the plant’s reactor building; the company expects to begin transferring the material into sealed casks next year.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #356 (Wednesday, May 11, 2016). This story appeared on page C1.

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