Entergy Argues for Decommissioning Fund at PSB Hearing

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(Host) The company that wants to buy the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant says it may walk away from the deal unless the state Public Service Board changes a key condition that it placed on the sale.

VPR’s John Dillon has more.

(Dillon) Entergy Nuclear of Jackson, Mississippi will pay $180 million for the 30-year old reactor. It also wants to keep half of the money that’s left over in a decommissioning fund after the plant is dismantled. There’s $300 million in that fund now, and there could be hundreds of millions more by the time it’s actually taken apart and all the radioactive material is trucked away.

When it approved the sale earlier this month, the Public Service Board said any excess money should go back to ratepayers. It said that allowing Entergy to keep some of the money could encourage it to cut corners on safety.

As anti-nuclear demonstrators crowded into the hearing room, Entergy came back before the Board asking for a change in this key condition. Entergy lawyer Victoria Brown told the PSB that it was counting on the decommissioning leftovers when it agreed to buy the plant:

(Brown) “Entergy is taking the risk that there’s not going to be enough. It gets nothing if it has to give 100% back to ratepayers, under the Board’s condition.”

(Dillon) Entergy brought in a lawyer from Washington to argue that the Vermont Board lacks the authority to oversee how the decommissioning funds are used. The lawyer, William Scherman, said the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, not the state, has exclusive control over the decommissioning fund. He said Entergy may ask the federal agency to overrule the PSB on the decommissioning issue. Scherman also warned that the deal may be in trouble if it can’t get the Board to change its mind:

(Scherman) “To go to closing in a circumstances like this, on a factor that’s so integral to the financial valuation they placed on the transaction, is not a risk that they assumed in the proposal. And that’s basically why I would not advise them to go forward on that basis.”

(Dillon) In its order the Board said that the decommissioning money was collected from ratepayers and should go back to them if there’s a surplus. Board Chairman Michael Dworkin challenged Entergy’s legal argument with this analogy:

(Dworkin) “If my will says that upon death the house should be sold and the money should be used by the guardian for the benefit of my children in the manner to be determined by the guardian, do you really think the guardian can keep half the money?”

(Dillon) Dworkin promised the company that the Board will have a decision soon.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m John Dillon.

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