Lawmakers want Vermont Yankee to prove it has sufficient decommissioning funds

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(Host) Vermont lawmakers will once again try to force Vermont Yankee to prove that it has enough money on hand to dismantle the nuclear plant.

Similar legislation last year drew a veto from Governor Jim Douglas.

VPR’s John Dillon reports:

(Dillon) Vermont Yankee says it will cost about $915 million to decommission the plant and decontaminate the reactor site.

But the fund to pay for decommissioning was worth about $372 million at the end of December.

So, after listening to over an hour of testimony about the fund’s finances, House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Tony Klein had a simple message.

(Klein)“They’re going to have to have some sort of ‘show us the money’ but show it in real form.

(Dillon) Yankee’s license expires in three years, and it wants permission from the Legislature to operate for another 20 years.
Klein said his committee will draft separate legislation to force Vermont Yankee to demonstrate it has enough money reserved to decommission the plant if it operates past 2012.

(Klein)“We’re going to require in the bill that the decommissioning fund be full to a level to our satisfaction for that plant to be able to operate past 2012. Period.”

(Dillon) Lawmakers said the company would probably not be required to set aside cash, but it could be forced to get a line of credit or secure a bond to cover the decommissioning costs.

Jay Thayer is vice president for Entergy Vermont Yankee. He says the Legislature wants to change the conditions that were imposed when the company bought the plant in 2002.

(Thayer)“And that didn’t include full funding by 2012. And since our contract with the electric utilities in Vermont are fixed and don’t have any provisions for change or rate increases, we couldn’t accommodate a change to our fundamental business plan like you’re proposing.”

(Dillon) Entergy wants to form a new corporation that would own Yankee and four other nuclear plants. Thayer told the House Natural Resources and Energy Committee that the new company will need to borrow $4.5 billion. But he said it is has the capacity to raise twice that amount.

(Thayer) “In other words, we could take on another $4.5 billion and still in the eyes of legitimate financial advisors within guidelines.”

(Dillon) Klein said if the company can raise that much money, it should be able to guarantee that the decommissioning fund is full.

(Klein) “From the testimony that I heard today, where they’re already being able to borrow $4.5 billion and they just said they haven’t tapped half their borrowing power, and we’re looking for $600 million today. I think it’s doable.”

(Dillon) Klein says he doesn’t want the plant put in mothballs for decades while the fund grows in value. He says the legislation will take this option – called Safstor – off the table.

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

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