Yankee Loses Support Of Governor And Regulators

01/27/10 5:51PM By John Dillon
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VPR/John Dillon
left to right, PSB member David Coen, Chairman James Volz, and John Burke

(Host) In one day, Entergy Vermont Yankee appeared to lose the critical support of both the governor and state regulators.

Governor Jim Douglas said the company has lost his and the public's trust due to radiation leaks and a series of misstatements about underground pipes at the nuclear power plant.

This could have a major effect on Yankee's request to continue operating for another 20 years. VPR's John Dillon has more.

(Dillon) Governor Douglas appears to be losing patience with Vermont Yankee.

(Douglas) "We have high expectations from the management of a nuclear power plant - and rightly so. Vermonters are understanding, but never suffer fools. We expect better, we deserve better, and now we demand better."

(Dillon) The company has admitted that its executives provided wrong information about whether the plant had underground pipes that could leak radioactivity. 

Entergy only acknowledged that the pipes existed after a plume of radioactive water was discovered flowing toward the Connecticut River.

Douglas said Entergy should replace the top managers responsible for providing the false information.

But Senate President Peter Shumlin said a house-cleaning at Entergy Vermont Yankee may not be enough.

(Shumlin) I personally don't feel that firing people, getting rid of some managers and bringing in others, is going to change Vermonters' lack of confidence and trust in the company that is running the plant at the time it is leaking radioactive materials into the environment.

(Dillon) Entergy needs approval from the Public Service Board and the state Legislature to operate for another 20 years. The governor said lawmakers should delay a vote until the company regains the trust of the public.

(Douglas) With so many ongoing investigations, unanswered questions, and my own unease with previous information we've received from Entergy management, I can no longer ask legislators to vote this year on whether the Public Service Board should be allowed to decide the case for re-licensing. Therefore, I'm calling for a time out.

(Dillon) Entergy's case at the Public Service Board was also in trouble. Chairman James Volz said the company needs to go back through the entire record of the case and correct any misstatements.

Volz took the unusual step of reading a public statement that scolded the company for misleading the board, lawmakers and the public.

(Volz)  To compound the problem, it appears that Entergy did nothing to correct the record. It should go without saying, but perhaps Entergy needs to hear it anyway. Such conduct is absolutely unacceptable.

(Dillon) Entergy lawyer John Marshall said the company got the message.

(Marshall) They understand that their credibility in this state and the trust is in question and that is why they have initiated a full comprehensive review of what happened here, the results of which will be made public.

(Dillon) The record in the Vermont Yankee case is exhaustive, and it's not clear how long it will take Entergy's lawyers to comb through docket and make corrections.

But the case will be delayed, probably for months. The PSB said questions such as the cost of decommissioning and Entergy's managerial and technical competence now have to be re-examined.

For VPR News, I'm John Dillon in Montpelier.

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