Yankee May Close Down Without Approval Of Spin-off

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(Host) The owners of Vermont Yankee say they might shut the plant down in 2012, if Vermont doesn’t approve of a new spin-off corporation that would own the reactor.

Legislative leaders say they remain strongly opposed to the spin-off.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) In the next few months, the PSB is expected to rule on the spin-off plan.  Under the proposal, the current owners of Vermont Yankee, Entergy, would reorganize six of its unregulated nuclear power plants into a new corporation known as Enexus.

Jay Thayer is a vice president for Entergy. He says it’s a good plan because Enexus will have greater financial resources available to help support Vermont Yankee for the next 20 years:

(Thayer) "To make sure that the operation of Vermont Yankee has enough financial backing during the operating period, during the shut down period and during the decommissioning period – much more so than they have under Entergy ownership."

(Kinzel) Senate President Peter Shumlin isn’t buying this argument, and Shumlin will play an important role in the legislative debate over renewing Vermont Yankee’s license:

(Shumlin) "Have we learned from AIG, from Lehman Brothers and Fairpoint and the rest? Or are we going to continue to let Wall Street make these sweetheart deals for themselves, where they leave us back holding the bag?  I’m just not willing to let Vermonters take that risk."

(Kinzel) The reorganization plan requires the approval of regulators in several states where Entergy owns nuclear power plants.

Bob Young is the president of CVPS – the state’s largest utility.

He says Entergy officials told him that they’re prepared to shut Vermont Yankee down when its license expires in 2012, if Entergy gets approval for its reorganization plan from the other states, but not Vermont.

(Young) "They’ve indicated to me that if VY was stranded was not allowed to go to Enexus than a very high probability was that once we got to 2012 they would just shut the plant down."

(Kinzel) Entergy Vice president Thayer says closing the plant down is a real option because he says it makes no sense for Entergy to hold on to a facility that doesn’t fit in with its energy portfolio:

(Thayer) "So to have this one non regulated nuclear plant here in Vermont would be incongruous, which is what Entergy has set out for their mission forward."

(Kinzel) And if the PSB does give its approval to the spin off, Vermont Yankee’s future is still very uncertain because senator Shumlin says he’ll be more likely to fight the license extension.

(Shumlin) "I have told Entergy, the Speaker has told Entergy on no uncertain terms that we think that if they succeed in spinning off Entergy to Enexus and leave us with a debt-ridden company that Vermonters are going to be very, very hesitant to extend that license."

(Kinzel) Shumlin says several legislative committees will begin reviewing the re-licensing of Vermont Yankee when lawmakers return to the Statehouse in several weeks.

For VPR News, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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