The state of Vermont has issued a draft pollution permit for Vermont Yankee that imposes new limits on how much the nuclear plant can heat the Connecticut River.
Yankee uses the river for cooling water. Environmentalists for years have argued that the heated discharge harms fish and other aquatic life.
Plant owner Entergy plans to shut down the reactor by the end of the year. But if the permit is finalized over the next several months, the lower limits would apply to Yankee’s operation this fall.
David Dean is river steward with the Connecticut River Watershed Council. He says the permit is good news for the river because the water temperature is critical in the fall when American shad migrate downstream.
“Unusually warm temperatures can disorient fish when they are moving toward the ocean, when the young are beginning their out-migration,” Deen said. “And if we get through this process to the fully issued permit, then we will presumably have a stronger out-migration of American shad, young of the year.”
Plant spokesman Rob Williams says Entergy is reviewing the new permit and does not know yet whether it will contest the limits it would impose.
“I can tell you that Vermont Yankee’s operation is in compliance with the existing permit and that’s fully protective of the Connecticut River,” he said.
Entergy Vermont Yankee has been operating under the terms of an expired discharge permit since 2006.
But the Connecticut River Watershed Council had argued that the temperature model used by Entergy Vermont Yankee did not reflect the true conditions in the river. Deen said the Agency of Natural Resources agreed with this argument when it drafted the permit.
“The actual temperature of the river was higher than what the model predicted it would be. And we used Entergy’s own data at their own monitoring stations to prove that,” he said.
Deen said the new temperature limits could help the river, even after Yankee shuts down at the end of the year.
“We think this is an important change,” he said. “Yes, the plant is closing down, but they may not be the last user of the Connecticut River at that site. And this would in fact be a precedent that would be set to control thermal discharges into the river.’
The state Agency of Natural Resources will hold a public hearing on the draft permit in mid-August.