AG: Yankee Failed To Meet Standards, But Won’t Face Charges

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(Host) Attorney General Bill Sorrell will not bring criminal charges against top executives of the Louisiana company that owns Vermont Yankee.

Sorrell says that – even though the executives "knowingly misled" state officials about the existence of underground pipes at the plant – their actions don’t constitute criminal behavior.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports:

(Kinzel) Sorrell’s announcement capped an 18 month investigation to determine if Entergy executives committed perjury when they testified under oath at the Vermont Public Service Board that there were no underground pipes that could leak radioactive materials at the Vernon reactor.

Entergy officials later admitted that these statements were wrong but they denied that there was any intent to mislead the state.

Sorrell says his investigation came to a different conclusion:

(Sorrell) "Including some documents demonstrating in our view that Entergy and certain of its personnel have acted in at best an untrustworthy manner. However, we lack the smoking gun evidence to prove to our satisfaction, let alone that of 12 Vermont jurors, that this untrustworthy behavior was criminal."

(Kinzel) What kind of evidence did Sorrell need to bring charges of perjury?

(Sorrell) "A smoking gun evidence would be if we could find some sort of a conspiracy to mislead – not a single witness but that there was an overall intention within the organization to mislead the state and the public. We found more incompetence than malevolence."

(Kinzel) Sorrell says a sworn statement by Entergy vice president Jay Thayer illustrates the difficulty of proving perjury in this case. Instead of flatly denying the existence of the underground pipes, Thayer couched his answer this way:

(Thayer) "I don’t believe there is active piping in service today carrying radio nuclides underground."

(Sorrell) "Technically we could not prove that that particular statement was false."

(Kinzel) Entergy officials wouldn’t speak on tape concerning this case, but in a written statement they said they’re pleased that the investigation is over. 

The statement also found fault with some their executives – "after our own internal investigations, we took disciplinary action against them over a year ago." These executives were removed from their jobs and reassigned to other positions within the company.

Bob Stannard is the head of the Citizens Action Network, a group that wants Vermont Yankee to close down when its license expires in 2012. He says Entergy’s personnel decisions are an admission of wrongdoing:

(Stannard) "You don’t let people go if they didn’t do anything wrong, so they know that they did something wrong. It’s just that proving the intent behind it is quite difficult."

(Kinzel) Attorney General Sorrell says he’ll reopen this case if new evidence is presented to his office but he admits it’s unlikely that this will happen.

For VPR News, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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