Vt. board allows nuke plant operation through ‘14

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MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) - Sternly scolding Entergy Corp. for “bad conduct” during its 12 years of owning the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant, Vermont regulators on Friday approved the plant’s operation through the end of 2014, when it is closing for economic reasons.

The Public Service Board made clear in a 95-page order issued Friday that the outcome might have been different if New Orleans-based Entergy hadn’t announced last August it would close Vermont Yankee. In March of 2011, the plant won federal approval to operate another 20 years, but Entergy officials said the changing economics of the power generation industry made the 650-megawatt plant no longer competitive.

If Entergy had wanted to operate the plant until 2032, “its track record may well have led us to find that ownership and operation would not promote the general good,” the board said. “While its decision to cease operations by the end of (2014) does not excuse Entergy VY’s past bad conduct, the decision does alter the perspective from which we contemplate that conduct, given that we are no longer assessing the legal and regulatory implications of granting an operating license for the long term.”

The board said its decision was conditioned on parties living up to an agreement between Entergy and the state under which:

-The two sides will drop long-running litigation on a variety of issues.

-The company will put up $10 million during the next five years to support economic development in southeastern Vermont’s Windham County, where the plant is located. Closing the plant will cost the region more than 600 good-paying jobs, though some will continue in the short term while the plant is decommissioned.

-The company commits to restoration of Vermont Yankee’s Vernon site after the plant meets federal standards for clearing away its radioactive components, so the property may be put to other uses.

-The company commits $5.2 million to the state’s Clean Energy Development Fund, with half the money going to projects in Windham County.

Entergy and Gov. Peter Shumlin, a long-time critic of Vermont Yankee and its owner, both expressed satisfaction that the board had approved the agreement between the company and the state.

“The decision provides certainty and predictability for the hard workers at the plant, over $10,000,000 of economic development funding for the region, and lets us focus on the important work of transitioning to a future after Vermont Yankee,” Shumlin said in a statement.

Bill Mohl, president of an Entergy subsidiary overseeing Vermont Yankee, said the board order and agreement with the state “are in the best interest of Vermont and all our stakeholders.”

“Throughout the remainder of 2014, we will remain focused on the safe and reliable operation of Vermont Yankee,” he said.

As for misconduct, the board cited a report from the state attorney general’s office that Entergy had “repeatedly misled State officials with direct misstatements and repeatedly failed to clarify misperceptions.”

The board said in the years since Entergy had bought Vermont Yankee in 2002, plant and company officials had “failed to follow procedural requirements that protect the integrity of Board proceedings.

“The Company has engaged in unacceptable conduct that erodes public trust and confidence in its capacity to act in good faith and to engage in fair dealing.”

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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