Vermont’s only nuclear power plant will shut down by the end of next year, ending a battle over the future of the 4-decade-old plant.
The Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Station should cease power production after its current fuel cycle and will begin decommissioning in the fourth quarter of 2014, said the plant’s owner Entergy Corp. The station will remain under the oversight of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) throughout the decommissioning process.
New Orleans-based Entergy has been battling with the state since 2010, when the Vermont Senate voted against a measure that would have authorized granting Vermont Yankee a permit to operate for an additional 20 years. Lawmakers were concerned about the plant’s safety, age and misstatements by plant management about components at the reactor.
“This was an agonizing decision and an extremely tough call for us,” said Leo Denault, Entergy’s chairman and chief executive. “Vermont Yankee has an immensely talented, dedicated and loyal workforce, and a solid base of support among many in the community. We recognize that closing the plant on this schedule was not the outcome they had hoped for, but we have reluctantly concluded that it is the appropriate action for us to take under the circumstances.”
Denault said when it closes, they will place the plant in “safe-store,” in which federal regulations allow it to be mothballed for up to 60 years while its radioactive components cool down before removal.
The NRC said in a statement it would “continue its rigorous oversight of the plant through the rest of its operations and into and through decommissioning. We have a decommissioning process that the details steps that would have to be taken by Entergy going forward.”
The decision to close Vermont Yankee counted on a number of financial factors, including low wholesale energy prices, high costs and what the company called a flawed market design that artificially deflates energy prices.
Nuclear plants have been under significant price competition due to the recent natural gas boom in the United States. Vermont Yankee, among the oldest and smallest plants in the country and located in a state with one of the nation’s strongest anti-nuclear movements, had long been considered among the most likely to be shuttered.
Rich Sedano, director of U.S. programs for the Regulatory Assistance Project, said the nuclear plant’s small slice of New England’s power supply — about 2 percent — means the closure will have little effect on consumers. It will require more reliance on natural gas and may push the region toward more solar and wind production, especially as states try to meet mandated standards of energy from renewables.
The company employs about 630 people, a staffing level that will gradually reduce as the plant moves through the stages of decommissioning.