Susan Smallheer / Staff Photo
An interactive Public Service Board hearing on Vermont Yankee is watched on monitors Tuesday night in Springfield. Some of the six other locations across the state had many more participants.
Dozens of Vermonters urged the state Public Service Board on Tuesday night to be wary of the promises made by Entergy Corp. regarding the shutdown of the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant.
During a televised statewide hearing at seven locations, including Springfield, Brattleboro and White River Junction, critics of a memorandum of understanding reached between the Shumlin administration and Entergy easily outnumbered supporters.
The PSB must decide by the end of March whether to grant Entergy a certificate of public good so it can operate Yankee until the end of 2014, when they will shut it down for good. If the PSB does not approve the certificate by then, the settlement reached with Gov. Peter Shumlin a few weeks ago will expire.
But time and again at the interactive hearing, people said they were wary of believing Entergy’s promises, given its track record of lying to state regulators.
Entergy’s original certificate of public good expired in March 2012, and since then it has been operating without a state permit.
A man speaking from the Lyndonville Interactive Technologies site compared Entergy’s continued operation of Yankee to a drunk driver without a license.
“To permit, to allow Vermont Yankee to operate is like allowing a drunk to drive after his license has expired,” said David Bradshaw.
The memorandum of understanding includes a promise to bring $10 million in economic development to Windham County, as well as $5 million to be used statewide for renewable energy.
Entergy has also pledged $25 million toward a “green field” decommissioning cleanup fund, separate from its federal decommissioning trust fund. It also agreed to drop federal lawsuits against the state and its attempt to recover $7 million in legal fees.
While there were supporters of the agreement at the hearing — notably Patricia Moulton Powden, executive director of the Brattleboro Development Credit Corp. — most people said Entergy still could not be trusted to keep its word, and many cited the “vague” language in the agreement, specifically the timing of when Entergy would start decommissioning.
Most people voiced concern about the thousands of spent fuel rods still resting in Vermont Yankee’s spent fuel pool. They urged the PSB to do what it can to force Entergy to move the old nuclear fuel into “hardened” storage — in concrete and steel casks, often called dry cask storage, as soon as possible.
PSB Chairman James Volz noted that two earlier public hearings on Entergy’s original bid to operate Vermont Yankee for another 20 years no longer applied to the current case. Entergy announced last August it was shutting down Yankee because it was losing money on the 41-year-old reactor, and filed another amended petition.
In addition to Moulton Powden, one woman whose husband works at Vermont Yankee urged the PSB to allow the reactor to operate until the end of the year, so its 620 employees and their families have time to plan, find new jobs and sell their homes.
Cheryl Twarog said her husband had worked at Yankee for 15 years. If the PSB grants a certificate of public good, she said, “you are also granting 620 employees and their families time to plan for life after Vermont Yankee.”
Vernon resident Howard Fairman, who said he was pro-nuclear, outlined a series of problems at Vermont Yankee in 2013 involving failed flood seals, which under the wrong circumstances could have led to a disaster similar to the one in Fukushima, Japan.
The PSB, Fairman said, should review Vermont Yankee’s “competence” on handling important issues.
Volz said the board will accept written comments from the public about the memorandum of understanding. Technical hearings on the remaining issues on the Entergy case will be held in Montpelier on Jan. 30 and 31.
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