Lawmakers skeptical of Vermont Yankee request for exemption

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(Host) Lawmakers have put the owners of Vermont Yankee on notice that they’re not likely get a quick OK for storing high level nuclear waste at the plant. Yankee wants a one-word change to state law that would exempt its waste storage from legislative review. But key legislators say it won’t be that easy.

VPR’s John Dillon reports.

(Dillon) Entergy, the company that owns Vermont Yankee, wants permission this year to store some of its spent fuel on the grounds of the Vernon reactor. An unusual provision in Vermont law says Entergy must get legislative approval for the waste storage plan. Jay Thayer, the Entergy vice president in charge of Yankee, is asking for a quick legislative detour around that provision.

The law specifically exempts the Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Corporation. But that company no longer owns the plant. So Thayer hopes lawmakers will exempt Entergy from Legislative oversight as well.

(Thayer) “I think what we seek is the clarification of the exemption that was read to you this morning, that that be continued to the site and the facility and not just the particular company that’s in ownership.”

(Dillon) But members of the House and Senate Natural Resources Committees say Entergy probably won’t win that quick exemption. Lawmakers point out that state law requires a company that wants to build a nuclear waste site to file a petition for approval with the Legislature.

Representative Robert Dostis is a Waterbury Democrat who chairs the House Natural Resources and Energy Committee.

(Dostis) “I would have hoped that Entergy would have put forth a petition to make their wishes known. What they are saying simply is they want to be exempt as Yankee Vermont was exempt from having to go to the Legislature for approval. That is what they’re hoping for. They shouldn’t be too optimistic that they’re going to get that. So the next step would be for them to come to the legislature with that petition.”

(Dillon) But Entergy’s Jay Thayer told the committees that the company can’t afford to go through the legislative process – outlined in chapter 157 of the state statutes – and a separate review by the Public Service Board.

(Thayer) “To run through a 157 review process, as it’s described for the petition and then to initiate a certificate of public good, we’re simply out of time. We’re simply out of time.”

(Dillon) Without specific legislative approval, the law says state officials are not allowed to support the plan. But Public Service Commissioner David O’Brien told lawmakers Yankee does provide cheap, reliable power under a long-term contract. O’Brien also said that in some ways, dry cask storage is preferable than the present system of storing 32 years worth of spent fuel underwater inside the reactor building.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m John Dillon in Montpelier.

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