Entergy Claims Rights to Yankee Decommissioning Fund

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(Host) State utility regulators will soon decide whether to approve the sale of the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant. But before the Public Service Board rules on the sale, it wants to know about a multi-million dollar fund that’s supposed to be used to dismantle the reactor.

VPR’s John Dillon reports:

(Dillon) When the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant shuts down, the operators are supposed to dismantle all the nuclear components and remove all radiation from the site. The process is called decommissioning and over the years utilities have collected money from ratepayers to pay for this expensive job. The decommissioning fund is now worth than $300 million. That money is invested and will grow over time.

The buyers of the Yankee plant, the Entergy Corporation of Louisiana, want to keep money that’s left over after the decommissioning job. The Public Service Board has just asked all the parties involved in the sale if the Entergy plan is legally justified.

(John Block) "I think the Board has some genuine concerns about the issue …."

(Dillon) John Block represents the Citizens Awareness Network, a group that’s raised questions about how the decommissioning fund will be used. Block says that federal regulations require that any surplus in the decommissioning fund must be returned to ratepayers.

But Block says the state agency that represents ratepayers struck a deal – called a memorandum of understanding – that would allow Entergy to keep some of the excess money:

(Block) "So the promise in the Department of Public Service’s memorandum of understanding – which is up for Board approval – that they get to share in that fund may in fact be quite a substantial windfall for the utility."

(Dillon) It’s not clear just how much money is at stake. The Public Service Board heard testimony in secret on the issue. James Dumont, a lawyer for an anti-nuclear group, attended the closed-door hearings:

(Dumont) "How much is that surplus? We have reliable evidence on that under oath in front of the Public Service. Unfortunately, Entergy wants that information kept secret and the Board has so far agreed to keep that information from the public. So I have an answer to that, but I can’t tell you."

(Dillon) The Public Service Board says those involved in the Yankee sale must provide their answers on the decomissioning fund by Monday.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m John Dillon.

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