Entergy Continues To Negotiate Power Deal, While Utilities Plan On Future Without Yankee

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(Host) Entergy Vermont Yankee has had a rough few weeks as radioactive tritium appears to have spread in the groundwater.

But Entergy continues to negotiate a new deal to sell power to Vermont utilities. At the same time, the utilities are planning on a future without the nuclear plant.

VPR’s John Dillon has more.

(Dillon) As the clock winds down on Vermont Yankee’s 40-year license, the pressure is building for Entergy to come up with a new power sale contract.

The current contract ends in March 2012 along with Yankee’s operating license. Yankee needs approval from lawmakers to keep running for another 20 years. The Senate last year rejected the license extension. And the plant’s supporters in the Statehouse say a new power deal with favorable terms is critical to turn the political tide.

(Driscoll) "Action by the Legislature is very important this session."

(Dillon) William Driscoll is vice president of the business group Associated Industries of Vermont.

(Driscoll) "So given that, to the extent that the utilities and Vermont Yankee can see their way to an agreement that is in everybody’s interest, now or this session would be the time for that to be concluded and made public."

(Dillon) Vermont power companies say they’ve been negotiating with Entergy for three years. But they say there’s no deal yet. Steve Costello is spokesman for Central Vermont Public Service.

(Costello) "Unless or until we actually have an agreement, a signed agreement, I would never say we’re close. We’ve made progress; we continue to talk. But we thought we were close before and haven’t gotten there, obviously. So I think it’s still an open question whether we come to an agreement or not."

(Dillon) CVPS now buys 180 megawatts from Vermont Yankee. It had planned on taking less than half that if the plant is relicensed. But the utility has also been lining up other power sources in case Yankee retires on schedule next year.

(Costello) "In either event the power will keep flowing. The big questions will be, of course, are what will we pay for power here in Vermont and what’s our environmental footprint."

(Dillon) Green Mountain Power also plans to scale back its use of Vermont Yankee, even if the nuclear plant gets the green light from the Legislature. But GMP President Mary Powell said last week that the odds for that aren’t looking good.

Powell was on the witness stand at the Public Service Board to talk about the company’s wind project in the Northeast Kingdom. She was asked about the odds of Yankee winning a new license.

(Powell) "I think that the chances of it have probably deteriorated on a regular basis. The plant has a very tough road ahead."

(Dillon) Governor Peter Shumlin also remains a strong critic of Yankee. He said recently the plant is simply too old to keep operating past 2012. But if the utilities reach a bargain price with Yankee, Shumlin will be under even more pressure to reverse himself.

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

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