Yankee Owner Tries New Strategy To Win Over Vermonters

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(Host) Owners of Vermont Yankee have adopted a new strategy as they try to persuade Vermonters that the nuclear power plant should continue operating for another 20 years.

They’re challenging the idea, raised by Governor Peter Shumlin, that Vermont Yankee is an aging plant that was designed to run only for 40 years.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) There’s no question that Governor Shumlin wants Vermont Yankee to shut down when its current license expires in March of 2012.

He says Vermont Yankee was originally given a 40-year license to operate because 40 years represents the effective lifespan of the plant.

(Shumlin) "It should be evident to any objective person that the plant was licensed and designed to run until 2012. That was the agreement, the promise that was made to Vermonters. … We are pushing the limits of 20th century engineering and with irrational exuberance pretending that we can run the plant beyond its design life."

(Kinzel) Shumlin says Vermont Yankee has encountered serious problems over the past few years and he says these problems are clear evidence of an aging plant that needs to be retired.

(Shumlin) "I don’t think you can convince most Vermonters today that a plant that was designed for the 20th century, that was designed to run for 40 years … has leaked numerous times, had tower collapse… that Vermont’s best energy choice is to play Russian Roulette with an aging nuclear power plant."

(Kinzel) John Herron is the CEO of all of Entergy’s nuclear power plants and previously worked at Vermont Yankee for 16 years.

He says the governor is dead wrong and that the 40-year license period has nothing to do with the design of the plant.

(Herron) "There’s a fallacy out there that the first 40 years of operation is what the plant was licensed for. There’s a difference between the plant being licensed for 40 years versus … some people out there saying it was only designed for 40 years. That’s a completely different issue. The plant was designed to operate beyond 40 years and you’re not going to believe this, but the basis was a financial basis for depreciation of an asset. That’s how they came up with the 40 years."

(Kinzel) Herron says Entergy has invested $400 million upgrading Vermont Yankee over the past decade, and it’s planning to spend another $200 million in maintenance costs if the plant is re-licensed.

(Herron) "It’s no different than how you maintain your house. Or it’s not different from how to maintain your car. If you need new tires, you put new tires on. If you need to change the oil, you change the oil. That’s what we try to do in all the plants."

(Kinzel) Herron says Entergy will decide in June whether or not to proceed with a very expensive re-fueling process.

If the re-fueling effort goes forward, it will be a sign that Entergy plans to operate the plant without state approval beyond 2012.

For VPR News, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier

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