Oral Arguments To End Today In Vermont Yankee Trial

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(Host) Oral arguments end today in the three day federal court battle between Entergy Vermont Yankee and the state.

Entergy claims Vermont had no right to deny the power plant a 20 year extension.

On Tuesday Vermont House Speaker Shap Smith and a former Entergy vice president took the stand.

VPR’s Susan Keese has more.

(Keese) Entergy claims the state is trying regulate health and safety issues, a role that belongs exclusively to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

But House Speaker Smith told the court that lawmakers had plenty of non-safety-related concerns when the Senate voted in 2010 not to extend the plant’s life.

Smith says Entergy damaged its own credibility when it disclosed that underground pipes were leaking radioactive tritium.

Yankee officials earlier told the state there were no such pipes.

Smith says the state was frustrated that Entergy hadn’t committed to a power price for Vermont, which made it hard to weigh the economic pros and cons.

And he says lawmakers had doubts over Entergy’s plan to delegate decommissioning to a spin-off company.

Attorney General Bill Sorrell commented during a break that safety had nothing to do with that.

(Sorrell) "Any number of Vermonters including an awful lot of legislators  thought that this Enexus deal was just a shell game and rate payers and  the state could end up holding the bag for decommissioning costs."

(Keese) Sorrell, who stayed on the sidelines,  says he’s pleased with the way the state’s case is emerging.

(Sorrell) " I’m happy with today."

(Keese) Jay Thayer, a former site vice president at the Yankee plant also took the stand on Tuesday. Lawyers for the state asked him to identify document after document in which Thayer or Entergy, acknowledged the state’s regulatory authority.

(Keese) Sorrell says it doesn’t make for courtroom drama.

(Sorrell) "It’s like building a foundation a block at a time. But the important thing is that since this case is going to be appealed, you want to have that record."

Entergy’s legal team isn’t talking about the case. 

But Guy Page of the Vermont Energy Partnership, a group that would like to see the plant stay, isn’t convinced by the state’s arguments.

(Page) "The core concern does seem to be radiological safety. I don’t think the raging grannies when they chain themselves to the front gate of Vermont Yankee are doing it over reliability and energy diversity."

(Keese) Page says the issue of radiological safety is too critical to be left to the individual states’ discretion.

For VPR News, I’m Susan Keese in Brattleboro.

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