Lawyers Wrap Up Vermont Yankee Case In Federal Court
09/14/11 5:50PM By Susan Keese  Download MP3
(Host) Lawyers for Vermont's only nuclear plant and attorneys for Vermont made their final arguments Wednesday, ending a three day trial in federal court in Brattleboro.
As VPR's Susan Keese reports, the case is about states' rights to regulate nuclear power.
(Keese) Entergy Nuclear, the owner of Vermont Yankee, is suing Vermont because the Legislature denied the plant a 20-year extension. Its current license expires this spring.
Entergy claims safety concerns were behind the state's decision. Federal law says nuclear safety issues can only be addressed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
State officials say legislators were motivated by concerns about reliable power and the plant's economic benefits. Credibility also became an issue, after radioactive tritium was found leaking from underground pipes whose existence Entergy had previously denied.
Entergy's lead lawyer says those concerns are a thin disguise for worries about the risks and health impacts of nuclear power.
Her summary included hours of taped comments in which lawmakers often revealed that safety was on their minds.
But Vermont attorney General William Sorrell says the argument misses the point.
(Sorrell) "The question is not whether you're concerned about it. It's whether that's the motivating force behind legislative decisions that you make."
The case has been described as a test of states' rights and federal pre-emption. It is expected to eventually reach the U.S. Supreme Court. But a decision in District Court isn't expected for weeks.
For VPR News, I'm Susan Keese in Brattleboro.