Utilities trying to salvage Yankee deal

Print More

(Host) The owners of the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant hope their $180 million deal to sell the reactor is back on track. The utilities say they’ve worked out a plan that allows a Mississippi company to share money left over in a fund set aside to dismantle the plant. But opponents have already challenged the plan.

VPR’s John Dillon has more.

(Dillon) Yankee’s owners and the Entergy Corporation of Jackson Mississippi have just a week left to close the deal on the 30-year-old reactor.

Last week, the sale appeared dead when Entergy said it couldn’t agree to a condition imposed by Vermont regulators. The state Public Service Board said any money left over in a decommissioning fund had to be returned to ratepayers. Entergy wants to keep half of the decommissioning surplus, which by one estimate could be as high as $100 million.

Under a new deal worked out late Monday, Entergy will get the money from out-of-state utilities, which own 45% of the plant. In exchange, the two Vermont companies that own the rest of the plant will give $1.5 million to the out of state companies. Entergy says Vermont ratepayers would be guaranteed full reimbursement for their contributions to the decommissioning fund.

Yankee’s owners say the new deal doesn’t have to go back to the Public Service Board for approval, a process that could take months. James Dumont, a lawyer who represents an anti-nuclear group, strongly disagrees. Dumont says the PSB was against the idea of Entergy getting any portion of the decommissioning funds because regulators were concerned it would give the company an incentive to cut corners on safety.

(Dumont) “The entire concept of giving Entergy an incentive to cut corners on decommissioning has been rejected by the Board. This puts the concept back in a big way. We intend to file with the Public Service Board and ask them to issue a restraining order to prevent the closing from going forward.”

(Dillon) Yankee officials hope to avoid further review from the Public Service Board. Spokesman Brian Cosgrove says Vermont ratepayers will get their money back, so that should satisfy state regulators. And he says the $1.5 million Vermont utilities will pay to sweeten the deal comes out of shareholders, not from ratepayers.

(Cosgrove) “The way that this is structured is that Vermont ratepayers will receive or be eligible to receive 100% of any surplus that might be in the decommissioning fund many years hence when the plant is decommissioned. And the out-of-state owners of Vermont Yankee, who have assigned their rights to whatever might be in that fund to Entergy, were offered that $1.5 million up front payment for the benefit of their ratepayers in their states. So we feel that covers all the issue involved in the Board order.”

(Dillon) Late Tuesday afternoon, Dumont filed his request to halt the sale with the Public Service Board. He says the new plan to share the decommissioning fund violates the Board’s original order that said the fund surplus could not be kept by Entergy.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m John Dillon.

Comments are closed.