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PSB takes public testimony on proposed VY agreement

BRATTLEBORO—Vermonters around the state took advantage of the opportunity on Tuesday night to comment on a proposed agreement between Entergy and the state on the future of the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant in Vernon.

The Vermont Public Service Board convened the public hearing in Montpelier and took testimony via Vermont Interactive Television.

Turnout was substantial at the VIT sites around the state. More than 30 people were at the Brattleboro studio at Brattleboro Union High School, with more joining throughout the hearing.

People had two minutes to speak. Fifteen people signed up to speak in Brattleboro.

Speakers around the state sounded the familiar theme that Entergy can’t be trusted to hold up its end of the agreement.

“Allowing Entergy to continue operations is like letting a drunk to drive after his license has expired,” said David Bradshaw, who spoke from the Newport site.

Others said a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the state and Entergy is too vague.

Announced on Dec. 23, it calls for the company to put Vermont Yankee on a faster schedule for decommissioning and provide $10 million in economic aid to Windham County to help cushion the blow of Entergy’s decision to close the 42-year-old plant.

In exchange, Entergy would get a Certificate of Public Good (CPG) from the Public Service Board to legally operate VY until the end of this year, plus permission to store additional spent fuel on site.

Speakers asked the PSB to include conditions in the CPG that hold Entergy accountable to deadlines and promises, and to provide penalties if those deadlines and promises aren’t kept.

Speakers also called for the formation of a citizen advisory panel to help oversee decommissioning. The immediate removal of any cooled fuel rods from the spent fuel pool to dry cask storage also ranked high in concerns.

Many speakers also cautioned the board that the country was watching what Vermont would do and what precedents Entergy and the state would set.

A few people spoke in favor of the board granting Entergy a CPG.

Patricia Moulton Powden, executive director of the Brattleboro Development Credit Corp., said that granting the CPG would allow Windham County to move forward quickly with economic development.

Cheryl Twarog of Keene, N.H., who is married to an Entergy employee, said that approving the CPG will allow 620 employees certainty and time to prepare for life post-VY.

Clay Turnbull of Townshend, who also works for the anti-nuclear New England Coalition, had the evening’s final comment.

Turnbull asked: Why wait to decommission the plant?

Referencing documents between Entergy and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the federal agency charged with regulating nuclear plants, Turnbull said the radiological decommissioning portion of the process is estimated to cost $620 million. As of last December, the plant’s decommissioning fund had $602 million.

Money for returning the plant site to green field and moving fuel to dry cask storage will eventually come from other pots of money, said Turnbull. There’s no reason to wait to start the radiological decommissioning of the site.

The board will enter the public comments into the CPG official record. The memorandum of understanding becomes null and void if a CPG is not approved by March.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #237 (Wednesday, January 15, 2014). This story appeared on page A5.

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