Legislative leaders say there won’t be a vote on Yankee relicensing this year

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(Host) There’s not enough time in the legislative session for lawmakers to decide if the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant should operate past 2012.

That was the word this week from Democratic leaders in Montpelier. They said a vote on Vermont Yankee’s future will have to wait until next year.

VPR’s John Dillon reports:

(Dillon) Vermont Yankee says it needs to know soon if it has approval from lawmakers to run for two more decades. Spokesman Rob Williams says officials want to make upgrades at the plant, but need a guarantee that Yankee has a future beyond its scheduled shutdown in 2012.

(Williams) "There’s projects that we would like to be planning and doing … like replacing the condensers. We’ve been looking to do that, but we would like some certainty on license renewal before we move forward with that."

(Dillon) But legislative leaders say Yankee will have to wait until next year before a vote in the Statehouse.

And they place the blame on the owners of the nuclear plant for their failure to agree on a power contract with the state’s utilities.

House Speaker Shap Smith said lawmakers need to know what Yankee power will cost, before they can decide if the plant should continue to operate.

(Smith) "We made it clear at the beginning of the legislative session that it would be necessary for that by Feb. 18 in order for us to take up the issue this year. We still don’t have a contract and given the date, and given what we asked, I do not expect to take it up this year. I just don’t see how we could do it."

(Dillon) Smith said the House will move ahead on legislation to require Yankee to show it has enough money set aside to dismantle the plant.

Voters in about three dozen towns voted this week to ask the legislature to reject Yankee’s license request. They also want Yankee to set aside more money for decommissioning.

Lawmakers said they got the message. Senate President Peter Shumlin:

(Shumlin) "I heard throughout town meetings – I attended nine of them – that whether you’re for or against or neutral on the relicensing of Vermont Yankee, there’s unanimity in Vermont that the promises made by Entergy must be kept, that the decommissioning bill must be paid by the company that promised to pay it."

(Dillon) Entergy bought the plant in 2002. And Yankee spokesman Rob Williams said the state at the time allowed the company to let the decommissioning fund build up in value for up to 60 years. The state also said utilities could share Yankee’s revenues from power sales after it was re-licensed.

(Williams) "All of those things were agreed to when we took possession of the plant. And if we had to pre-fund decommissioning, that would completely destroy the balance, and that is not in anyone’s best interests."

(Dillon) Williams said Yankee hopes to finalize a power contract soon with the state’s utilities.

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

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