Vermont board again rules against Entergy, Vermont Yankee

The Vermont Public Service Board (PSB) has dealt Entergy (NYSE: ETR) another legal setback in the company’s quest for a Certificate of Public Good to continue to operate the much-litigated nuclear power plant.

In a Nov. 29 ruling, the PSB said that Entergy effectively agreed to Vermont oversight of the 600-MW plant when the Louisiana-based company purchased Vermont Yankee from regional utilities in 2002.

Entergy, however, will continue to run Vermont Yankee under a 20-year license renewable from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and a federal district court decision that Entergy won on the matter.

This was acknowledged by the Vermont Department of Public Service, which said a U.S. District Court ruling has barred the state from ceasing operation of Vermont Yankee.

The Vermont board has denied a request by Entergy to amend two orders issued by the board in 2002 and 2006, the company said in statement. “We had asked for amendments so that our operation would conform to these orders. This is in parallel to consideration by the Public Service Board of our application for a renewal to our Certificate of Public Good.”

“The decision announced today does not impact Entergy’s plans for plant operations. The Board described the denial as ‘narrow’ and that it does not address the ‘merits of modifying or extending Entergy VY’s obligations under existing orders and CPGs,’” Entergy said.

Vermont board finds that Entergy agreed to state oversight

Nevertheless, an earlier certificate of public good has expired in March and Vermont has taken the position that the plant cannot be allowed to operate without a new certificate.

The order issued Nov. 29 also refused to modify the amount of spent nuclear fuel that Entergy is allowed to store on-site.

“The motions now before the Board request that the Board modify conditions in two Orders that we issued years ago,” the Vermont board said.

In one of the dockets (6545), the board dealt with Entergy’s purchase of Vermont Yankee from Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Corp.  (VYNPC). Two Vermont utilities, Green Mountain Power Corp. (GMP) and Central Vermont Public Service Corp. (CVPS) owned more than 50% of the shares of VYNPC.

After hearings, the board conditionally approved the sale transaction in June 2002, as well as a certificate of public good authorizing Entergy Vermont to own and operate the plant. As part of that sale docket, the board imposed conditions that limited Entergy’s ability to run the station beyond March 2012 when the certificate of public good expired.

Vermont had expected that Entergy would start moving the plant toward decommissioning after March 21, 2012.

In Docket 7082, the board reviewed a request by Entergy for a new certificate authorizing construction of a new spent fuel facility. The board said it conditionally approved a spent fuel facility with conditions that apparently indicate no new spent fuel will be added beyond March 2012, the board said.

In Docket 7440, the Board considered a petition from Entergy to operate Vermont Yankee for an additional 20 years beyond the March 21, 2012, license expiration.

The Public Service Board subsequently found that only the state legislature could authorize spent fuel storage beyond March 2012.

The New England Coalition (NEC), which has intervened against the nuclear plant in the case. NEC said that any “hardship” argument by Entergy is illogical given that the company elected not to challenge the orders that the board set years ago.

Various other conservation groups or nuclear critics also intervened in the case.

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.