Special Report: VPR's John Dillon On VT Yankee

Aug 28, 2013

The news that Entergy Corporation of Louisiana would close the Vermont Nuclear Power plant at the end of 2014 struck like a bombshell yesterday. But for some long-time observers and reporters tracking the saga of Vermont’s only nuclear facility, the news wasn’t entirely surprising.

Mitch Wertlieb sat down with VPR’s John Dillon, to talk about what’s next for Yankee, and for the future of energy in Vermont.

Entergy said the decision to shut down was an economic one, but also of concern was the fact that Yankee is one of the oldest nuclear plants in the country. Yankee is also similar in design to the plants that were so badly damaged by the tsunami and earthquake in Fukashima, Japan. John Dillon says that may have been a factor in the decision to close the plant:

“It’s the same design as those crippled reactors, and the NRC is going to require some major modifications,” says Dillon.

Dillon says back in March, Entergy had de-valued Vermont Yankee’s worth to $162 million. That was three times less than what it had previously been worth. Dillon says that figure, coupled with the recent layoffs at the plant, made this move less surprising.

Dillon also noted the emerging energy technologies such as natural gas have hurt Yankee’s profits. Entergy’s fixed costs of maintaining Vermont Yankee made them less able to compete in the market. The plant was also no longer supplied any customers within the state of Vermont.

“The estimates for eventual de-commissioning costs range from about $800 million to about $1 billion,” says Dillon.

With Entergy’s de-commission fund currently holding about $582 million, the company will need time to build up those assets. Under Nuclear Regulatory Commission rules, Entergy has 60 years to build up that fund.

Governor Peter Shumlin said yesterday he hopes to speed up that process, but Dillon predicts there could be legal and financial obstacles to that goal.

And as Dillon notes, there will still be plenty of developments as the plant prepares for closure and de-commissioning.