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Vermont Senate votes to close Yankee

first_imgNorthstar Vermont Yankee,At just after 3 pm today, the Vermont Senate voted against relicensing the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant in Vernon by a vote of 26-4. The overwhelming vote against the plant included some Republicans who, while concerned about the economic and employment implications connected with the plant, as well as the process of moving the bill quickly through the Legislature, were also concerned by questions of safety of the plant and trust in its management.Republican Senator Randy Brock of Franklin County was one of those who wanted more time to consider all the sides of the bill. But said with what he knows now, he was compelled to vote against the relicensing. Brock said that Entergy could not have done a worse job in trying to make its case.Democratic Senator Peter Shumlin, the Senate president pro tem, was the leader of the opposition. His case against the relicensing was several fold, including: The new power purchase proposal from Vermont Yankee owner Entergy would increase the price of power from the current 4 cents per kilowatt hour to 6.1 cents, while at the same time reducing the Vermont share of power produced by the plant in half; that the plant would not be owned by Entergy, but by a new entity called Enexus that would also own five other older nuclear plants and that it would be burdened by $4.7 billion in debt; that the two largest utilities in Vermont, Green Mountain Power and Central Vermont Public Service, believe the contract terms are unacceptable; that of the estimated $1 billion cleanup costs of the plant, Entergy has only $400 million, calling into question who would have to pay the rest of the decommissioning regardless of when that might happen; that Entergy has not been trustworthy; and that the safety of the plant is in question, given, among other things, an ongoing tritium leak at the plant whose source has yet to be determined, even though it was first reported in early January.The most eloquent supporter of the relicensing was Rutland Senator Peg Flory. Flory said the plant has been incredibly reliable, the cost of power has been reasonable and it is an important employer. She even put forward a motion that would have Vermont look into building a second nuclear power plant, following along President Obama’s initiative to increase nuclear as a power source in the United States.Since the first tritium finding, it was revealed that Yankee officials in 2008 and 2009 made inaccurate statements, some under oath, saying that there were no underground piping systems carrying radioactive material. Governor Douglas pulled his support for the plant until the leak is found and fixed and the company earned back the state’s trust. Douglas had been one of Yankee’s strongest supporters. In response, Vermont Yankee has changed its leadership structure in Vermont and offered a three-year deal for 25 megawatts at the current price. However, Shumlin said that offer was too little, too late.In response to the vote, Vermont Yankee issued a statement saying, “The effort to win a 20-year renewal of Vermont Yankee’s operating license is far from over. We remain determined to prove our case to the legislature, state officials and the Vermont public. The plant is a vital, safe and reliable source of clean power for Vermont and the rest of New England, and we will continue communicating to the public the substantial economic and environmental benefits of keeping the plant operating beyond 2012.”In the interim, we will remain focused on resolving the tritium issue, on operating the plant safely, reliably and securely, and on winning back the confidence and trust of the citizens of Vermont.”The plant employees about 600 people, about half of whom live in Vermont. The license expires in 2012. Entergy Vermont Yankee is seeking a 20-year extension. The Senate vote comes on the heels of the latest bad news for the plant. On February 22, the NRC revealed that a similar, though smaller, leak was found in 2005 in underground piping systems. The 2005 event came to light from a source from within the plant who told a member of the state Legislature. Vermont Yankee has disputed at least some of the facts of that incident.The source of a tritium leak discovered at the plant in January has not been identified, but Yankee officials believe it is from an underground piping system. However, the excavation of the site has been slow because of the sensitivity of the site and the nature of the geology. Yankee officials have emphasized that the radioactive isotope has not entered any drinking water wells or the adjacent Connecticut River.Vermont Yankee has also said that a “parent guarantee” of $40 million from Entergy to the Vermont Yankee decommissioning fund has been approved by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. A drinking water well in the general area of the test wells that have showed elevated levels of the radioactive isotope will be taken out of service as a precaution, even though it is well beneath the test wells and has not shown in testing to contain tritium.last_img

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