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Rep. Tom Stevens Commentary on the Vermont Yankee Relicensing



posted at 11:35 am Wed Feb 24th, 2010 by (WherezIt_Staff)

This turbocharged session continues apace, with the discussion about Vermont Yankee becoming louder.

With the continued leakage of radioactive liquid source from an unknown source, the pressure for "something" to happen legislatively has increased and I would like to utilize this column to clarify where we stand, what legislators can and cannot do and why I cannot support the continued service of the aging Vermont Yankee plant.

The recent revelations concerning tritium coming from pipes that plant officials denied existing is most troubling on a number of fronts. It calls into question the credibility of Entergy's management, which directly impacts almost all of the discussion and decisionmaking as it relates to nearly everything concerning the plant -- except for creating an opportunity for the legislature to vote on closing the plant before 2012.

For the legislature to decide on whether the Public Service Board should issue a certificate of public good, the following process has been developed by the House of Representatives: The New York and Vermont public service boards must decide on whether to agree to Entergy's plan to spin off a shell company called Enexus to run six aging nuclear power plants. The power purchase agreement offered to Vermont's electric companies was proposed by Enexus, which doesn't yet exist. If the spin off is denied, the power purchase proposal will have to be reissued by Entergy. It is unclear at this time whether Entergy would do so.

If the power purchase proposal is reissued, the power companies would have to agree to a deal that provides financial benefit to Vermont ratepayers. The proposal made by Enexus in December has been called "inadequate" and would have to be negotiated to the satisfaction of the companies. As of today, the proposal removes the revenue sharing agreement, increases the price by 50% (with an inflation elevator) and cuts the power offered for sale to Vermont by 50%.

If this comes to pass, then the ball comes to our court. Legislation will be introduced that will ask whether we will approve the issuance of a certificate of public good by the PSB to Vermont Yankee for another 20 years of operation. We will then make our decision based on the reliability of the plant and financial benefit to Vermonters. We cannot, and will not, make the decision based on nuclear safety. This is solely the purview of the NRC and the federal government. The legislature does not have the power or the right to close the plant prior to 2012.

Current events have turned the heat up on the situation. Management has changed at Vermont Yankee, with former Yankee management and lobbyists returning to try to restore trust in the corporation. The governor has asked for a "time out", and would like the legislature to wait six months to allow new management to restore that trust. And legislation is being crafted that will force Entergy to sufficiently fund the decommissioning fund -- variations of which the governor has vetoed the past two years. Needless to say, this issue will drive much of the public debate over the next several months, along with the budget crisis.

And to top it off, it is possible that this week the Senate may take up legislation approving or denying issuance of the certificate of public good, undoubtedly reacting to the recent revelations.

As of now, I do not believe the company to be reliable and do not think the proposed power purchase agreement is in our best financial interest. Therefore, were the vote held in the House of Representatives today, I would not support allowing a certificate of public good to be issued.

I look forward to having the opportunity to discuss this important issue with you at Town Meeting. In the meantime, if you have any questions, please feel free to call me at 244-4164 or email me at tom@stevensvermont.com.

Relevant Address(es):
Waterbury, VT 05676 (Set as Local)

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