Mrowicki discusses impact of VY closure on Putney

PUTNEY — State Rep. Mike Mrowicki, D-Putney, told the Selectboard that Louisiana-based Entergy Corp. should start the decommissioning process for its Vermont Yankee nuclear plant in Vernon “right now, which is what we're hoping for.”

He doesn't anticipate a big slump in the local economy.

“They'll need a lot of jobs; I think they'll actually bring some more people in. There are a number of questions around what to do with that once it cools down and they can move it around,” he said.

Asked by Selectboard members at their meeting Sept. 25 for his thoughts on what the plant closure might mean for Putney, Mrowicki, an informal guest, said that it might be Entergy's decision to let the site sit in what the NRC calls SAFSTOR for 60 years, “and who knows if Entergy's going to be around [that long].”

He added, “One of the concerns we have statewide, and it could affect Putney as well, is what happens with the decommissioning fund.”

He said rough estimates show that it's going to cost $1 billion to decommission the plant, and that there's a little more than half of that in the decommissioning fund.

“Our big concern is that the taxpayers of Vermont don't get stuck with that bill,” he said.

As for the effect on current and eventual former employees in closing the 41-year-old, 650-megawatt reactor, “We're still trying to sort that out,” Mrowicki said.

“There is a list by town of people who work for VY, and I think the qualifier is going be what [Entergy does] next, and how they do the shutdown and whether they put it into SAFSTOR, or start decommissioning right now.”

One of the challenges Putney faces “is that a lot of our neighbors are working for VY, and they're the best people in the world. The problem is they've hitched their wagon to a corporation which has not turned out to be a great neighbor,” he said.

Mrowicki surmised that, “Other places closer to VY, they're thinking it may really hurt the real estate market. We've looked at other places where decommissioning has happened, and there's been like a 10-year bump where things go down for a while, but then they get back to where they were. That's what happened in Maine. We're hoping that can happen here.”

He also said Southeastern Vermont Economic Development Strategies, or SeVEDS, is working to plan a “soft landing” here.

“I think that whole process has accelerated now that VY has announced it's closing after the next refueling,” he said.

The company has attributed its decision to shutter operations here to a number of financial factors: a booming gas market that has driven down natural gas and wholesale energy prices, the high costs of running a single-reactor nuclear plant, and “wholesale market design flaws” that keep energy prices in the region “artificially low” and penalize wholesale merchant plants like VY.

The announced closure does not change the fact that Entergy and Vermont are currently embroiled in four lawsuits.

Subscribe to the newsletter for weekly updates