Who will decide the future of Vermont Yankee? - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Who will decide the future of Vermont Yankee?

Brattleboro, Vermont - March 11, 2011

The Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant in Vernon has been under public scrutiny for years, now it is seeing federal support from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Vermont Yankee's Larry Smith said, "It's been a very public process that's taken at least 62 months to come to this decision."

A decision that Vermont Yankee hopes can combat the state. The NRC approved the power plant for a 20-year license extension.

"This confirms that Vermont Yankee can operate safely and reliably and be a source of power for the next 20 years and we've met all the requirements of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for Extended operation," Smith said.

This doesn't mean the plant will stay open past 2012; the state Senate already voted against relicensing the plant. So what does this mean for Vermont Yankee's future?

Reporter Susie Steimle: Do you think there's any potential for this to go to court?

Larry Smith: Again, that is a legal matter that I just cannot discuss.

While Smith can't say, Vermont Law School Professor Cheryl Hanna can.

"Ultimately, I think it's very likely that the courts will decide whether or not Vermont stays open, not the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and not the state of Vermont," Hanna said.

Gov. Peter Shumlin, who believes Yankee should close, doesn't think the case can hold up in court. State law says the Legislature has final say and Shumlin argues Entergy, Vermont Yankee's owner, agreed publicly with that bill. The state originally decided to discontinue the power plants license due to safety issues.

Those include a water cooling tower collapse, misstatements by company officials about underground pipes and revelations that the plant leaked radioactive tritium.

Smith says the NRC's safety inspections should satisfy these concerns.

"This has been one of the most rigorous thoughtful reviews by a government agency of an operating nuclear power plant including its environmental impacts, its safety evaluation report," Smith said.

But the public remains divided.

"I think if the power plant were to close there would be too much of an economic impact to the area," said Stanley Noga of Brookline.

"We should shut it down. It's old, it's done a great job and now we need to move on to renewable energy and decommission it and I think that the people of Vermont have spoken really clearly," said Judy Greenberg of Brattleboro.

So while the future of the power plant remains unclear, one thing is certain-- Yankee is not ready to give up the fight.

While there have been federal cases surrounding state rights and nuclear power, if this case goes to court it would be the first surrounding the closure of a nuclear power plant.

Susie Steimle - WCAX News

Related Story:

NRC clears Vt. Yankee for license extension

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