Having won legal case, Entergy seeks state certificate for Vermont Yankee

Having won its fight over the fate of the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant in federal court, Entergy (NYSE: ETR) said Jan. 31 there is no obstacle to prevent the state of Vermont from granting the nuclear plant a certificate of public good.

The state, however, still has until Feb. 21 to appeal the federal court ruling that found the state’s attempt to close the roughly 600-MW nuclear unit infringes upon the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s (NRC) exclusive jurisdiction over radiological safety.

U.S. District Judge Garvan Murtha returned the decision Jan. 19. That same day Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin said he was disappointed with the ruling and would await the state attorney general’s legal review on whether the state should appeal.

During a quarterly earnings call on Jan. 31, Entergy CEO Wayne Leonard said the company is now asking the Vermont Public Service Board to issue the certificate of public good.

The state had sought to withhold a new certificate for Vermont Yankee although the NRC had issued a 20-year license renewal that enables the plant to run into March 2032.

The CEO said the company has elected not to respond to “Entergy bashing” in the state of Vermont in recent years. But Leonard said that the legal decision vindicated the company’s integrity.

Even if Vermont decides not to appeal, Entergy still faces other major legal or regulatory fights in the Northeast.

The existing license for the 680-MW Pilgrim nuclear plant in Massachusetts is scheduled to expire this June. Pilgrim’s application for a 20-year license extension has won endorsement from NRC’s Atomic Safety and Licensing Board, but several issues are under appeal to the NRC, Leonard said.

Leonard also mentioned that on Aug. 23, Entergy filed a motion stating that NRC regulations allow the staff to issue Pilgrim’s license renewal with appeals pending.

Meanwhile, Entergy’s Indian Point nuclear units still faces various hearings in New York regarding cooling water controls to prevent fish kills in the Hudson River. It’s hard to predict when the various proceedings will conclude, Leonard said.

Entergy expects to achieve a couple of nuclear milestones during 2012. In the spring, Entergy should complete a 178-MW power uprate at the Grand Gulf nuclear plant in Mississippi. 

In addition, a steam generator and vessel head replacement project is scheduled during a fall refueling outage at the Waterford 3 plant in Louisiana. The revised cost estimate for the Waterford project is $687m.

Refueling outages are scheduled this year at Indian Point 2, Palisades and FitzPatrick nuclear units, the company said in its earnings report materials. Leonard said Entergy is also working to solve operating problems at the Palisades plant in Michigan.

Entergy’s merchant fleet had a 93% capacity factor in 2011 compared to 90% in 1990.

Leonard also discussed news related to the company’s operation of natural gas plants. Entergy Wholesale Commodities recently completed its purchase of the 583-MW Rhode Island project, a combined-cycle gas plant. Entergy acquired the project from NextEra (NYSE:NEE).

Entergy is awaiting FERC approval for its purchase of the 620-MW Hot Spring combined-cycle gas facility in Arkansas from KGen Power. Likewise, Entergy hopes to close on its acquisition of the 450-MW Hinds gas plant in Mississippi from KGen in mid-2012.


About Wayne Barber 4201 Articles
Wayne Barber, Chief Analyst for the GenerationHub, has been covering power generation, energy and natural resources issues at national publications for more than 20 years. Prior to joining PennWell he was editor of Generation Markets Week at SNL Financial for nine years. He has also worked as a business journalist at both McGraw-Hill and Financial Times Energy. Wayne also worked as a newspaper reporter for several years. During his career has visited nuclear reactors and coal mines as well as coal and natural gas power plants. Wayne can be reached at wayneb@pennwell.com.