NRC makes Vermont Yankee license renewal official
In a letter dated March 21, 2011, US Nuclear Regulatory Senior Project Manager Robert Kuntz notified Michael Colomb, Entergy Vermont Yankee Site Vice President, that the nuclear power plant in Vernon had been issued a renewed operating license for another 20 years.
This action was expected after the last official objection before the commission had been rejected March 10. However, the official approval had been put off as the NRC dealt with issues concerning the nuclear power plant in Japan, which was severely damaged by the tsunami on March 11.
The local reaction to the license renewal was also expected.
Entergy released the following statement: “Entergy is pleased that the NRC issued the extension of the operating license for Vermont Yankee through March 21, 2032, as announced on March 10. Today's action comes after five years of careful and extensive review and confirms that Vermont Yankee is a safe, reliable source of electricity and capable of operating for another 20 years.”
Meanwhile, Governor Shumlin, who has insisted as governor and previously as a state senator that the plant be closed when its license expires on March 21, 2012, said: “In light of the on-going crisis at the 40-year-old Fukushima Daiichi nuclear facility in Japan that has prompted other states and nations to review their nuclear power issues, today's decision by the NRC to issue an extension of Vermont Yankee's license is puzzling. Fortunately, Vermont has taken steps to close down the aging Yankee plant, and I have urged other states with older nuclear facilities to follow our example and take control of the lifespan of their plants.”
Vermont’s congressional delegation also weighed in on the relicensing. In a joint statement, Senators Patrick Leahy and Bernie Sanders and Representative Welch wrote:
“It is hard to understand how the NRC could move forward with a license extension for Vermont Yankee at exactly the same time as a nuclear reactor of similar design is in partial meltdown in Japan. We believe that Entergy should respect and abide by Vermont’s laws and the MOU signed with the state in 2002, which require approval by the Vermont Legislature, and then the Vermont Public Service Board, for the plant to continue to operate beyond 2012.”
The Japanese plant is the same General Electric model boiling water reactor as Vermont Yankee.
However, the Vermont Legislature and the Vermont Public Service Board must also approve the relicensing. It is doubtful the Legislature, which voted last year to reject the renewal, would do so at this time. It is possible the case could wind up in federal court.
Entergy officials have chosen not to speculate on what action they might take if the Legislature does not vote in favor of renewing the license by the time lawmakers adjourn this spring. Vermont Yankee is scheduled to purchase a new fuel supply by the end of June. The plant is scheduled to be refueled by the end of this year. Vermont Yankee officials have said they are working on a new power purchase agreement, which is expected by the end of March or early April. It is likely that new contract proposal will feature electric rates lower than the rates Vermont utilities and Hydro-Quebec agreed to last year.