Lawmakers will continue to push for Yankee decommissioning fund legislation

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(Host) Democratic lawmakers say they’ll once again push legislation to make the owners of Vermont Yankee put up more money to close the plant.

Governor Douglas has twice vetoed similar bills.

Democrats say their concerns were renewed recently when a federal agency said the plant’s decommissioning fund is inadequate.

VPR’s John Dillon has more.

(Dillon) The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has put Vermont Yankee on a watch list of plants that don’t have enough money to safely decommission once they stop operating.

Commission spokesman Neil Sheehan says the NRC will meet with Yankee soon to discuss the funding issue.

(Sheehan) "If it is clear that there is a shortfall in the account, then they would have to come up with a plan of action to address any deficit."

(Dillon) Twenty-six of the 104 commercial nuclear power plants are on the NRC watch list. In Yankee’s case, the fund holds about $380 million, while the cost of decommissioning is estimated at about $930 million.

Yankee wants to operate for another 20 years after its license expires in 2012. The Legislature will have to vote on the license extension. But lawmakers first want Entergy, the plant’s owner, to shore up the decommissioning fund.

Legislative leaders say they’ll send a decommissioning bill to the governor’s desk early next year. East Montpelier Democrat Tony Klein chairs the House Natural Resources and Energy Committee.

(Klein) "Our decommissioning fund is woefully inadequate. And we know what that means. We know that not having enough decommissioning funds means that a plant would sit radioactive with all the waste uncontrolled for decades and that’s not good for anybody."

(Dillon) Democrats say they’re gratified that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has also called attention to the funding shortfall.

But Governor Douglas says the NRC decision to put Yankee on the watch list shows that the regulatory system works.

(Douglas) "What I’ve said all along is that I don’t believe the Legislature can be a regulatory body. They have to let those who have that responsibility fulfill their duties. And this is a clear demonstration that the NRC is prepared to do that."

(Dillon) Entergy has not put more money into the fund since it bought the plant in 2002. The company says the fund will build up in value if it’s allowed to operate for another 20 years.

But meanwhile this week Yankee is operating at 26 percent power while technicians search for the source a leak in the plant’s condenser.

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

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