State weighs conditions to place on VY closing

DPS mulls options with Entergy’s amended petition for plant

Entergy Corp.'s newly amended petition to run the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant past its initial 40-year licensing period is giving the Vermont Department of Public Service pause.

Chris Recchia, commissioner of the department, said there are two main moves his team is considering.

“The options are to support it with conditions or oppose it unless there are conditions,” he said.

For more than a year, Entergy has been embroiled in the process of applying for a new permit to continue operating the plant. But after announcing its intention to close the plant at the end of 2014, Entergy amended its application.

Rather than petitioning the Vermont Public Service Board to permit the plant until 2032, Entergy now seeks a certificate of public good to run the plant until Dec. 31, 2014.

The Department of Public Service has opposed the re-permitting of the plant since Gov. Peter Shumlin came into office in 2011. But the sea change in Entergy's plans for the plant is causing the department and Shumlin's administration to recalculate their strategy.

“We haven't taken a position on it,” said Geoff Commons, who is overseeing the case for the department as its public advocate. “There is certainly a lot of thought going into this, and when we file a position with the Public Service Board it will be carefully considered.”

The department and the other 13 parties to the case must file their proposed rulings to the board by the end of the day Oct. 25.

“It's kind of a fait accompli,” Commons added. “Entergy has now said to us and to the NRC they plan to close at the end of 2014. Having VY close has been a goal. The way it is happening is unexpected, but we support the plant closing, and it being decommissioned as promptly as possible and see that site being devoted to some other useful site as soon as possible.”

But some organizations that have long opposed Vermont Yankee are still against re-permitting the plant for even another 15 months.

“Entergy has not been a trustworthy partner in the state and cannot be relied upon going further,” said Sandra Levine, a senior attorney for the Conservation Law Foundation. “That is true for a year and a half and for 20 years. The facility is not needed for reliability. There are sufficient resources available in the region to provide power for Vermont.”

Whatever the board decides, Recchia's team is asking them to do it sooner rather than later. Both the department and Entergy's attorneys are in favor of an expedited review.

While Levine agrees that the “case has already gone on far too long,” the anti-nuclear New England Coalition feels it hasn't gone on long enough.

On Oct. 10, NEC technical advisor Raymond Shadis submitted an argument to the board to convene further hearings to address the shortened operation schedule and the imminent decommissioning of the plant, which will require an expensive and involved dismantling process.

Shadis argues that now is the time for the state to ensure that it has a say over how Vermont Yankee is dismantled - whether it is done so promptly or mothballed for 60 years, which is the federal limit. By law, the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission would oversee the plant's decommissioning.

“It is unclear at this point if Entergy VY, if it closes in 2014, will ever have to appear before the VPSB, or for that matter, any state regulatory body ever again,” he wrote to the board. “Chopping the proposed period of extended operation really appears to narrow that possibility and proportionally heightens the need for the VPSB and the parties to 'get it right.'”

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