Hearing addresses early construction at Vermont Yankee

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(Host) A hearing officer for the Vermont Public Service Board traveled south for a public hearing in Vernon Thursday night. The topic was preliminary site work begun by Entergy/Vermont Yankee without necessary state approvals.

The buildings under construction would be used to ready a key piece of equipment for a 20 percent power increase at the nuclear power plant. Entergy, the plant’s owner, needs a Certificate of Public Good from the Public Service Board before it can begin the power upgrade. The board is expected to make its decision in March.

Yankee spokesman Rob Williams says top plant officials were unaware that construction had begun prematurely.

(Williams) “I can assure you that it was an honest mistake made by Vermont Yankee employees who were under the impression that limited preparatory work could be done. As soon as upper management became aware of that, they stopped that work and made sure the Public Service Board was notified of it.”

(Host) In December the PSB sided with the New England Coalition, an anti-nuclear group with party status in the proceedings. The coalition wanted to test soil from the excavation at the plant, which was dumped off site. At the PSB’s invitation the coalition has recommended sanctions against Entergy over the incident.

Thursday’s hearing was a chance for the plant’s neighbors to address the issue. Many were longtime Yankee opponents, who questioned whether the state was looking after their concerns. Brattleboro Bookstore owner Rich Geidel said he thought Entergy should be fined.

(Geidel) “But I also believe that they should pay the price of being denied a 20 percent upgrade. If we cannot trust them to even tell the truth in this process, we cannot trust them to run an aging nuclear plant at 20 percent above the limit declared previously as safe.”

(Host) The final round of formal hearings on the uprate application begins in Montpelier next week.

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