Entergy Corporation has announced that its board of directors has voted to continue with a planned refueling of the Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Plant (Vermont, USA). The board has approved the US$60 million refueling during despite failing to receive a 20-year extension of its license to operate the nuclear plant from Vermont's legislature. Vermont Yankee's current operating license is due to expire March 2012.
On February 24 2010, in a move that sent shock waves through the nuclear power industry, the Vermont State Senate voted overwhelmingly (24-6) to close the Vermont Yankee reactor when its current operating license expires in March 2012. Later that same year, on November 2, the people of Vermont elected Peter Shumlin as Governor. Shumlin is a well known opponent of extending the Vermont Yankee license past its expiration date in 2012.
Vermont is the only state in the country with a law giving its Legislature a say over a nuclear plant's re-licensing. In the memorandum of understanding (MOU) that Entergy signed when it bought the plant in 2002, it agreed to seek a state-issued Certificate of Public Good and not sue the state if the CPG was denied. The Vermont Senate voted last year to direct the Public Service Board not to issue a Certificate of Public Good (CPG) for the plant. Despite all that, Entergy received a 20-year license extension from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) in March 2011.
In April, two of Entergy's units, Entergy Nuclear Vermont Yankee LLC and Entergy Nuclear Operations Inc., filed a complaint in U.S. District Court for the state of Vermont seeking a judgment to prevent the state of Vermont from forcing the plant to cease operation on March 21, 2012. On July 18, the Court issued a decision denying a preliminary injunction motion filed by the two units.
Federal law does not forbid individuals from raising safety or reliability concerns, said Parenteau, nor does it block lawmakers from addressing these concerns in the legislative process. However, the law does forbid nuclear safety regulation by the states. “The NRC will decide if that plant is safe, whether we like it or not.” The U.S. Supreme Court ruled on states’ power to regulate a nuclear power plant in the 1983 Pacific Gas & Electric v. State Energy Commission case. In its ruling, the court stated clearly that states can shut power plants for non-radiological safety reasons. But that same PG & E case also gives companies grounds to sue if a state enacts a law that blocks a plant. Entergy did not sue Vermont in 2006 over the Legislature gaining the right to vote on the awarding of a CPG.
The Court Case is due to start in September.
On June 30, fifteen women, included three women in their nineties (Valerie Mullen, 90; Frances Crowe, 92 and Lea Wood, 94) of the Shut It Down Affinity Group were arrested at the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant and charged with trespass after advocating for replacing nuclear power with solar power.
Sources: Nuclear Monitor 721, 17 December 2010 / Vtdigger.org, 21 July 2011 / Energyboom.com, 25 July 2011
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