• Hearing officer recommends Yankee certificate
     | May 21,2013

    MONTPELIER — A hearing officer for the Vermont Public Service Board has recommended that Entergy Nuclear receive a state certificate of public good for a new 3,000 kilowatt backup diesel generator for Vermont Yankee nuclear plant, which would provide emergency power in the event of a blackout.

    Hearing Officer Lars Bang-Jensen said the project was of “limited size and scope,” and didn’t raise any significant issues under Section 248, the state law that regulates electric generating facilities.

    “And the project will promote the general good of the state,” Bang-Jensen concluded.

    But Bang-Jensen’s recommendation is just that — a recommendation, and it is unknown what the three-member board will do.

    “While we appreciate and agree with the hearing officer’s recommendation, we remain uncertain as to when the board will rule. Therefore we will have to determine how this may affect the federal court hearing scheduled for June 4,” said Entergy Nuclear spokesman James Sinclair.

    Entergy Nuclear filed suit against the Public Service Board last month, saying the state was delaying approval of what was a backup safety system.

    Bang-Jensen said the diesel generator should be approved even while Entergy Nuclear was “not in compliance with existing orders and certificates of public good and has not demonstrated that it is willing to comply with orders of the board.”

    “I recognize the seriousness with which the board regards the deliberate failure by any company subject to the board’s jurisdiction to comply with terms of board orders, CPGs and approved memoranda of understanding, and the board’s particular concerns about Entergy VY’s record of compliance with board orders, CPGs and prior commitments,” he wrote.

    The Public Service Board, while allowing Entergy Nuclear to continue operating Vermont Yankee since March 21, 2012, has noted that it is doing so without a state certificate of public good, a violation of a 2002 board order, which approved the sale of Vermont Yankee to Entergy.

    “I recommend that the board find that the project will promote the general good of the state and that it issue a CPG (certificate of public good) for the construction of the project,” he wrote, in an order released late in the day Monday.

    While Bang-Jensen made the recommendation, parties to the case have until May 28, to file comments.

    Entergy has claimed it needs to know by June 11 whether the diesel generator is approved in order to have it ready for a Sept. 1 deadline set by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

    In fact, there is a hearing slated for June 4 in U.S. District Court in Burlington on the diesel generator permit issue, with Entergy now claiming the diesel generator is a safety issue and thus should only be subject to federal oversight.

    The whole new backup power supply was prompted in part by the nuclear disaster in Fukushima, and a decision by ISO-New England, the electric distribution system, that Vermont Yankee’s current backup source was no longer available.

    Yankee has relied on the immediately adjacent Vernon hydroelection station, owned by TransCanada, for backup power in the event of a widespread power outage.

    Yankee already has two backup diesel generators on the grounds, but the third generator would be dedicated to only station blackout issues.

    @Tagline:susan.smallheer @rutlandherald.com

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