Yankee Supporters See Improved Chances For Re-licensing
04/08/10 5:50PM By John Dillon  Download MP3
(Host) Vermont Yankee supporters say the plant's chances of renewing its operating license are improving.
The Senate said "no" earlier this year to a license extension.
But as VPR's John Dillon reports, Yankee is hoping for a reversal next year.
(Dillon) Four pro-Yankee senators say a new study on the plant's economic impact provides a fresh argument for re-licensing the reactor.
Rutland Republican Peg Flory said the new economic report supports her contention that a Yankee shutdown would cost the state jobs. She says the findings are one of several developments that may tilt opinion in Yankee's favor.
(Flory) "The spin off which caused a lot of concerns, is now off the table. The House Natural Resources Committee will be announcing a bill to deal with some of the issues on closure of Yankee. Things are beginning to fall together, but they are not yet all resolved."
(Dillon) The spin-off Flory referred to was a plan by the Entergy Corporation to create a new company called Enexus which would own Yankee and five other nuclear plants.
Utility regulators in New York recently rejected the plan because of its financial risk. They said Enexus would hold too much debt and wouldn't have enough money to cover decommissioning costs or emergency repairs.
Essex-Orleans Senator Vince Illuzzi voted against the Yankee re-licensing - in part because of his distrust of the spin-off proposal. Illuzzi said the vote in February came as Yankee faced a convergence of bad news - including radiation leaks and top executives who had misled state officials.
(Illuzzi)"Now with the Enexus proposal off the table, with the tritium leak stopped, with the plant having instituted some new leadership I think it's a question of waiting to see how things evolve over the next several months before we take a second look at it next January. And I am willing to take a look at it next January."
(Dillon) But East Montpelier Democrat Tony Klein is still a strong skeptic of Entergy Vermont Yankee. And Klein - who chairs the Natural Resources Committee - said he is hardly reassured by the Enexus decision.
(Klein) Because Wayne Leonard the CEO of Entergy has quoted that they have 20 other ways that they can accomplish the same purpose which is quite frankly to suck the value out of these plants and leave them hanging with no ability to cover any problem that may arise there.
(Dillon) And James Moore of the Vermont Public Interest Research Group said nothing has fundamentally changed to cause lawmakers to change their mind on Yankee.
(Moore) Every new piece of information that has come out since the Senate voted has pointed to another reason that the Senate did the right thing to make sure that Vermont Yankee is retired on schedule. The fact that New York regulators saw through the Entergy's corporate off shows what kind of corporation we're dealing with.
(Dillon) A future Legislature can always reverse this year's Yankee vote. The pro-Yankee forces says time is on their side as they try to sway lawmakers.
For VPR News, I'm John Dillon in Montpelier.