To Fuel or Not to Fuel

Entergy Self-Imposed Deadline for Costly Fuel Decision Looms.
New England Coalition Offers Long-Time Adversary’s Views on Entergy’s Dilemma

In recent hearings of Entergy’s lawsuit against the State of Vermont, Entergy witnesses testified that the multi-billion dollar Louisiana-based corporation would have to decide if it was going to buy nuclear fuel for its projected November refueling outage by July 23, 2011. Entergy was seeking a preliminary injunction that would permit the company to operate free of state interference beyond Vermont Yankee’s license original expiration date of March 2012 and until Entergy’s question of whether the state has any right to regulate the plant in any way is finally resolved through the Federal District Court and (presumably) the federal appeals process.

On July18th, Judge Garvan Murtha of the Vermont District Federal Court denied the injunction; ordering Entergy and the State to prepare for trial on the main issues in September.

So, now what will Entergy do?

“No one, probably not even Entergy knows,” says New England Coalition technical Advisor, Raymond Shadis, “ We do know that in the end it will be a business decision , driven by considerations of financial risk. The fuel cost is more than $65 million, which will be little more than half recovered by March. The cost of this decision as well as the cost of the preemption litigation are just the costs of doing business in the manner in which Entergy does business.” Shadis , who worked closely with Entergy managers for more than seven years of the Maine Yankee shutdown and decommissioning, says he knows the Entergy management style to be risk-taking and aggressive, “They are used to a pliant NRC and used to bullying their way past concerned citizens and regulators wherever they do business, but that just doesn’t work in New England with its speak-up democratic traditions,” he said, “Bucking public sensibilities here costs money, lots of money, pure-and-simple.”

“Whichever way it plays out in federal court” said Ned Childs, NEC President, “ This may be the last big ticket financial decision that Entergy may ever make for an operating Vermont Yankee plant. Vermont Yankee hasn’t met its allocated maintenance costs, meaning it hasn’t turned a profit for the last three years. One more unanticipated large expense such as a new steam dryer, or modifications resulting from a Fukushima accident inquest, is likely to sink the ship. I can see no rational business reason for Entergy to persist; they should cut their losses and walk. “Know when to hold ‘em and know when to fold ‘em,” is the way the country music classic has it.”

Shadis agrees, “Closing VY before another twenty years elapses is no longer a question of if, but when and how. Entergy has placed itself in the untenable position of trying to operate an antiquated, aging reactor beyond its design capacity and design life in an alienated and increasingly hostile political and regulatory environment. It’s simply unsupportable. Refueling it now is simply letting stubborn wishful thinking get the better of common sense.”

Clay Turnbull, NEC’s Director of Public Outreach, said that NEC has recently joined national nuclear safety advocate’s initiatives calling upon NRC to close all Fukushima-type US boiling water reactors, such as Vermont Yankee.


NEC, organized and founded in 1971, is the region’s sole advocate for environmental and nuclear safety with intervenor status in the Entergy Vermont Yankee federal relicensing process, and is an intervenor in two open dockets before the Vermont Public Service Board Docket 7440 – Shall Entergy Nuclear Vermont Yankee receive a CPG for an additional years of operation and less widely reported Docket 7600 –  re: underground pipes and groundwater contamination.

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