McQuiston: VY & VT

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Whatever the outcome of the legal dispute between Entergy and the State
of Vermont about the future of Vermont Yankee, commentator Tim
McQuiston points out that some type of ongoing, practical relationship
is unavoidable.

(McQuiston)  In 2004, the town of Killington voted to secede from Vermont. It wanted
to become part of New Hampshire. This was in reaction to Act 60 that
made the average Killington property tax payer look like the lord of the
manor. Killington, and other resort towns, felt like they were getting
fleeced. But Killington had as much chance of seceding as it did of
airlifting Vermont’s second tallest mountain across the Connecticut
River. The state of Vermont has ultimate jurisdiction over all the
towns. Killington, in essence, did not have the legal right to give
itself to New Hampshire.

In something of a reversal of
fortune, however, the state of Vermont does not have jurisdiction over
the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant. The federal government reserves that

The NRC issues licenses to nuclear plants. In
Vermont Yankee’s case, the NRC issued a license renewal earlier this
year. Vermont contends that it has the right to approve a license
renewal. Entergy says it doesn’t need the state’s approval. Vermont says
it has a signed piece of paper from the top Vermont Yankee official
agreeing with the state. But in essence, Vermont Yankee, like
Killington, does not possess that authority. The NRC is the boss.

Entergy, VY’s owner, has sued the state of Vermont arguing exactly that. The judge’s ruling is expected at any time.

But what really struck me during the September testimony was this
attitude by both sides that was declarative: Vermont doesn’t need
Vermont Yankee and Vermont Yankee doesn’t need Vermont.

No way. Even if the plant actually does close when its license expires next
March, its remains will be here for the foreseeable future. All the
spent fuel is stored at the Vernon site. There is no other repository
for spent fuel anywhere in the country. Not only does the spent fuel
need to be maintained because it’s highly radioactive, it’s also
extremely valuable, certainly running into the tens of millions of
dollars just in Vermont. The spent fuel can be reprocessed into new
nuclear fuel. The state of Vermont will no doubt figure out a way of
taxing it. Entergy will be cleaning up and paying taxes on that site for
years after it closes, if not decades.

There is also
the issue of regulation. Entergy might not need licensing approval from
Vermont, and as a merchant plant it might not even sell its electricity
to Vermont utilities, but it will always be locally regulated by the
Vermont Public Service Board.

For Vermont, it’s not just
about the relicensing or the spent fuel. The Vermont Yankee plant
itself is a giant substation. If it goes off-line, there will be a price
to pay in the millions for rewiring part of the grid. There are also
the 600 jobs involved.

Maybe Entergy would want to cut
ties to Vermont immediately and forever, and vice versa, but there’s as
much chance of that as Killington winding up as part of the Granite



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