Bill would allow state to charge for waste storage

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(Host) A bill now before a House committee would allow the state to charge Vermont Yankee at least four-million dollars a year for storing nuclear waste.

The legislation is the first time lawmakers have specified what they think is a fair price for Yankee to pay to store its waste near the Connecticut River.

VPR’s John Dillon reports:

(Dillon) The legislation says the money collected for the nuclear waste storage would go to a special fund to promote clean energy projects.

Representative, Robert Dostis, is chairman of the House Natural Resources and Energy Committee. He says Yankee provides an essential part of the state’s energy mix, and should be kept open until it license expires in 2012.

But Dostis also points out that Entergy, the company that owns Vermont Yankee, wants to increase power output by twenty percent. That power will be sold on the open market. And the committee has heard estimates that Entergy will make between twenty-five to thirty-five million dollars a year from additional power sales.

(Dostis) “So it’s like okay, the benefit is the economic benefit that we all derive as well as Entergy derives from the increased output. The liability that Vermont has to absorb is the storage of these nuclear spent fuel rods. So I think it’s only fair that there be some financial compensation for that. We just have to come up with a number with can both agree on.”

(Dillon) Entergy and the Douglas Administration say the company shouldn’t pay the state anything for its waste storage. They argue that Vermont already gets benefits in the form of low rates from the Yankee plant. The state’s nuclear engineer told the committee that the charge could be a disincentive for Entergy to operate in Vermont.

Still, lawmakers and Entergy are negotiating over the dollar amount. Dostis said the talks are taking place at the same time his committee considers the bill.

(Dostis) “There’s a parallel track going. And that is working with Entergy, trying to come up with a compromise, that where both Entergy and my committee can be happy regarding a charge that they would pay for us to host nuclear waste for an indefinite amount of time. And then some other as some economic and environmental issues”.

(Dillon) Dostis hopes his committee approves the bill by Wednesday or Thursday.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m John Dillon in Montpelier.

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