NRC Clears Way For Vermont Yankee License Extension
03/08/11 5:50PM By John Dillon  Download MP3
(Host) Federal regulators are close to issuing a new 20-year license for the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant.
As VPR's John Dillon reports, a Nuclear Regulatory Commission vote this week could clear the way for Yankee's license extension.
(Dillon) Yankee is scheduled to close in March of next year when its current license expires.
But a year ahead of the scheduled shutdown, Yankee is on track to win federal approval for a new 20-year license. Neil Sheehan is spokesman for the NRC. He said the five-member commission is scheduled to vote Thursday on an appeal brought by an anti-nuclear group.
(Sheehan) "So if the commission were to turn down the appeal ... that would be the last remaining piece of business regarding the license renewal application for Vermont Yankee. Then, if the commission were to do that, then it could authorize the staff to issue a license renewal."
(Dillon) Vermont Yankee critics said NRC approval was expected, given that the commission has never rejected a license renewal application. Bob Stannard is a lobbyist for Citizens Action Network.
(Stannard) "The former chair of the NRC stated at a public meeting that they were on a mission to relicense all 104 nuclear plants. So all we can conclude here is that they're inking up their rubber stamp pad and preparing to do what they've been wanting to do for some time."
(Dillon) But while federal approval is likely, Yankee also needs permission from the Vermont Legislature and state regulators. The Senate voted last year against license extension. James Moore is with the Vermont Public Interest Research Group.
(Moore) "It's a good thing that the federal bureaucrats aren't the only ones who have a say in this matter. It's an issue that is of critical importance to Vermont's energy future and that's why our state legislators are weighing in on it and are going to make sure it retires on schedule in 2012."
(Dillon) Bills have been introduced in the Statehouse that would remove the requirement for legislative approval, but it's not likely those bills will pass.
For VPR News, I'm John Dillon in Montpelier.