Douglas, Yankee Ask Lawmakers To Delay Vote

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(Host) Entergy Vermont Yankee and the Douglas administration asked lawmakers to delay a vote on the plant’s future even as new allegations emerged about underground pipes leaking at the plant.

VPR’s John Dillon reports:

(Dillon) The Senate is prepared to vote next week on whether to allow the plant to operate for another 20 years.

Entergy Vice President Kenneth Theobalds told the Finance Committee that now is not the time to decide the plant’s future.

(Theobalds) "For something this important, you want information and we agree with you. And it’s clear that a hasty vote would deprive you of information that you need to make the right choice."

(Dillon) The Entergy executive said the plant is still trying to find the source of radioactive water leaking into the ground and toward the Connecticut River. He said the state has reopened a reliability study of the plant now that the company has acknowledged it has underground pipes that could leak. And, Theobalds said, legislative consultants are looking at the impact of closing the plant on the state’s economy and work force.

(Theobalds) "Any vote now would take place without your knowledge of those reviews."

(Dillon) Governor Jim Douglas made similar arguments during his weekly news conference.

(Douglas) "Before the tritium leak source is found, until we have a sense of restoration of trust between the company and state regulators, I’d certainly wanted to have a lot more questions answered and loose ends tied up before I made that decision."

(Dillon) A new issue was also raised this week concerning Yankee’s underground pipes – which the company had said didn’t exist.

An anonymous whistleblower told a state oversight panel that Yankee experienced an underground leak two years ago in the same area that now appears to be leaking radioactive water. The whistleblower said the leak was temporarily patched.

Public Service Commissioner David O’Brien says the allegations have been forwarded to the attorney general and the Public Service Board.

(O’Brien) "It’s concerning if that proves to be accurate because it would certainly add to a pretty clear indication that there was knowledge by the company, despite what we were told, that there was pretty good knowledge of the buried pipes and the like."

(Dillon) A Yankee spokesman said it had just received the state’s letter about the whistleblower’s allegations.

The spokesman said the company takes the issue seriously – but could not comment further until more facts are known.

For VPR News, I’m John Dillon in Montpelier.

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