A company-wide downsizing at Entergy will lead to 30 lay-offs at the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant.
Entergy officials announced the restructuring on Tuesday in the face of disappointing earnings. The company plans to cut about 800 of its 15,000 jobs in a move that’s supposed to save up to $250 million by 2016.
Yankee critics worry that the job cuts will compromise safety.
But Terry Young, Entergy’s vice president for nuclear communications, disputed that argument.
“We did give special attention to ensuring that we did not impact the hands-on, core functions responsible for the safe, secure, and reliable day-to-day operations of the plant,” he said.
Entergy announced the lay offs in a conference call with investors and analysts. The hundreds of job cuts are a way to “optimize the organization through human capital management,” said CEO Leo Denault.
“This process is a critical part of our ability to be successful at our goals of being more efficient, continuing to control our costs, and improving service levels,” he said.
But Arnie Gundersen, a nuclear engineer and Yankee critic, said the reductions will put more pressure on a workforce that is already under stress.
“These cuts are going to cut muscle, there is no doubt in my mind,” he said.
Gundersen chaired a state oversight panel that looked at issues confronting the plant. He said that a decade ago Yankee boosted its power production by 20 percent without adding additional workers. He said the oversight panel concluded five years ago that the plant was under-staffed.
“So I think it’s only gotten worse. The same number of people are carrying the same amount of work, and now there’s going to be 30 less of them,” he said. “At some point, somebody is going to break and miss something. And when you miss something at a nuclear plant that can be a real problem.”
Gundersen said Entergy may choose to close the plant rather than invest about $70 million over the next few years to replace aging equipment and to comply with modifications required as a result of the Fukushima nuclear accident.
These costs come as Entergy faces competitive pressure in the Northeast electricity market from lower-cost natural gas fired generators.
On the conference call with investors Entergy CEO Denault said as the company looks at the future of its wholesale nuclear fleet, all options are on the table.