Vermont Yankee

State officials were in Brattleboro this week to discuss how to spend more than $2.5 million earmarked for clean energy projects in Windham County.

The money is part of a final $5.3 million payment by Entergy Vermont Yankee to the state’s Clean Energy Development Fund. Entergy has funded the state program since it began in 2005. Those payments will stop when the plant closes at the end of December.

Entergy Vermont Yankee has begun the process to gain regulatory approval to move spent fuel from a pool inside the reactor building to another area on the property.

Entergy wants to store the highly radioactive waste in steel and concrete casks on the plant grounds. But first it must construct a large, flat concrete pad to accommodate the new waste facility.

The company filed notice this week with the Town of Vernon and the Windham Regional Commission of its plans for the concrete pad. It plans to file a formal request with the state Public Service Board on June 30.

Voters in Vernon Tuesday passed a slightly pared-down version of the $4.4 million school budget they rejected at town meeting in March. Vernon School Board Chairman Mike Hebert said the board shaved about $50,000 from the original budget.

"We did say to people that we were going to do as much as we could without changing our offerings in the school and what we need to do to maintain our quality level education," Hebert said.

Jason R. Henske / AP

The Vermont Yankee nuclear plant experienced a small leak of radioactive steam last week. But state and Yankee officials say the leak was contained and the public was not in danger.

Yankee spokesman Rob Williams said the leak was discovered by a worker doing maintenance.

"It was work on a pipe and during that process there was a malfunction of a filter, and that has since been corrected. It was corrected immediately," Williams said. "There was this air sampling monitoring during that the time, and it confirmed that the radioactivity was extremely low."

A cold winter and a revenue-sharing agreement with the owners of the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant will mean a big windfall for many Vermont electric customers.

When the Entergy Corporation bought the plant in 2002 from Vermont utilities, the company agreed to share revenues from its sales above a certain wholesale electric price.

That price was exceeded this winter as wholesale power costs skyrocketed in New England. And that means Entergy will pay Green Mountain Power as much as $17.8 million.

The owners of Vermont Yankee say the plant can’t operate under the state’s proposed conditions for releasing heated water into the Connecticut River. A leading environmentalist counters that the plant’s thermal discharge harms the river’s migrating fish.

Entergy Vermont Yankee uses the river to cool its reactor. It’s been releasing heated water into the Connecticut under an expired permit for at least eight years. But a new permit is expected to include more stringent standards on how much heat the plant can add to the river.

VPR/Susan Keese

More than 50 experts and officials met in Putney Wednesday to begin to plan a national conference for regions and states facing nuclear plant closings.

The country will see a landslide of nuclear plant closings in the next few decades, organizer Jeff Lewis told the group. He said the economic and social impacts on those regions will be severe. But Lewis says there isn’t much information on how host communities and states can protect their interests when nuclear power plants stop operating.


The Public Service Board has given the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant the ‘ok’ to operate through the end of 2014, at which point Entergy, the plant's owners, says it will shut down Vermont Yankee.  

State regulators have granted Entergy Vermont Yankee a permit to operate through December 2014, when the nuclear plant will close permanently.

Friday's decision includes the approval of a Memorandum of Understanding between the state and Entergy Vermont Yankee. It also settles years of litigation between  the state and the plant's owners. But not everyone thinks the ruling serves the region’s best interests.

State utility regulators have allowed Entergy Vermont Yankee to operate the state’s only nuclear plant through the end of the year.

The Vermont Public Service Board on Friday also approved an agreement between the state and Entergy that requires the company to pay $10 million for economic development in Windham County and to set up a $25 million fund to restore the Vernon site after decommissioning.

AP File Photo

Vermont utility regulators have until March 31 to decide whether to approve a tentative agreement between Entergy Vermont Yankee and the Shumlin Administration.

The pact calls for Entergy to pay $10 million to help with economic recovery after Vermont Yankee closes later this year. But opponents say the state would lose more than it gains if the deal goes forward.

Susan Keese / VPR

Vernon residents may be asked to rethink their unexpected Town Meeting vote to eliminate funding for the town’s police department.  A petition is circulating in town that calls for a special town meeting to reconsider the original $2.1 million dollar budget proposed by the town select board.

Susan Keese / VPR

Vernon residents met Wednesday for a third and final installment of a town meeting that began on Monday evening. The town is grappling with the unknown impact of losing Vermont Yankee, its biggest tax payer and employer.

After lengthy debate Tuesday, voters made deep cuts in the municipal budget and eliminated the town’s police department. The school budget was defeated by Australian ballot. On Wednesday, several people said they had heard that a petition was being drawn up, calling for a vote to restore the police department.

Susan Keese / VPR

Turnout was heavy at Vernon’s annual meeting Monday night. Voters debated school expenditures until so late in the evening that  discussion of the town budget was postponed. The meeting will continue Tuesday evening.

Vernon select board chairwoman Patty O’Donnell said the strong attendance reflects concerns about losing Vermont Yankee, the town’s biggest employer and taxpayer.

O’Donnell said the proposed town budget is down almost $400,000 from last year’s without cutting programs like the town recreation department or police.

A federal inspection of flood prevention measures at the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant has found several deficiencies but none requiring enforcement action.

A team from Nuclear Regulatory Commission arrived at the reactor last July to conduct the on-site audit. The NRC required the inspections after an earthquake and tsunami crippled several reactors in Japan in 2011.

NRC spokesman Neil Sheehan said the team did identify some problems with Yankee's record-keeping and flood-assessment calculations. He said the observations were similar to what NRC teams found at other 

Susan Keese / VPR

The town of Vernon is bracing for the loss of its biggest taxpayer – the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant.

Yankee has allowed Vernon to offer amenities and services far beyond the reach of most Vermont communities. Yankee's largess can be seen at the town's elementary school, where the gym is pretty impressive. Seth Deyo, the town’s recreation director, said it’s used a lot.

“It’s an NCAA regulation basketball court,” Deyo said. “We’re fortunate in that it has a great dividing wall so we can actually host two programs at the same time.”

Jason R. Henske / AP

A proposed agreement between the state of Vermont and Entergy Vermont Yankee came in for criticism  Tuesday at a hearing before the state Public Service Board.

The hearing took place in locations around the state over Vermont Interactive Television.

Among other provisions, the agreement calls for Entergy to pay $10 million to help the Windham County Economy adjust to the plant’s shutdown.

In return, the Public Service Board would issue a permit for the plant to operate for a year before it closes in December 2014.

Toby Talbot / AP

Members of the public will have a chance to comment Tuesday on a new agreement between the state of Vermont and the owners of Vermont Yankee.

The agreement would allow Entergy to operate the nuclear plant for one more year, and it puts Yankee on a faster track for decommissioning.

The Memorandum of Understanding between Entergy and the state was announced Dec. 23, after weeks of closed-door talks. The deal calls for Entergy to contribute $10 million to help the local economy adjust after the plant closes at the end of 2014.

The Vernon Select Board has signed a one year contract with Entergy that will stabilize the town’s tax base through March 2015. 

The agreement sets the value of the Vermont Yankee plant at $280 million for the entire fiscal year. The current assessment is $300 million.

Officials say the deal is a good one for the town, since the plant will stop selling power halfway through the contract, in December 2014.

Vernon Select board chairman Patti O’Donnell says the agreement buys the town some time to plan for life without its biggest taxpayer.

AP File Photo

An agreement reached earlier this week between the state and the Entergy Corporation ends years of litigation with the owners of Vermont Yankee.

The deal is likely to speed up the timetable for decommissioning the plant. And it suggests that Entergy is willing to consider the region’s interest in how the Vernon nuclear plant is dismantled. The agreement could also provide a roadmap for how other states deal with nuclear plants that are close to their retirement age.

Entergy’s decision to close the plant in 2014 isn’t an isolated event.