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New Lawsuit Filed in Dispute Between Vermont and Nuclear Power Plant

The owner of the Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Plant has filed a new lawsuit against the state of Vermont.  The company claims the state’s utility oversight board is preventing the company from installing federally required safety equipment.

Vermont Yankee must install a back-up diesel generator because its original backup source, the Vernon Hydroelectric Station, is not renewing its contract with the nuclear plant. Published reports say the owner of the dam, TransCanada, is unwilling to enter into an agreement with Entergy. It’s isn’t immediately clear why TransCanada has chosen not to renew the contract.

The latest Public Service Board docket does not include consideration of Entergy’s request for a permit. Late last week, Entergy filed suit in U.S. District Court. The suit states: “The only practical way for the (plant) to comply with the Station Blackout Rule after September 1, 2013 is through the installation of an on-site diesel-fired generator. Yet the actions of a Vermont quasi-judicial board have prevented Plaintiffs from acting to ensure compliance with this safety-based regulation.”

The state can issue a permit if there is any "substantial change" of a nuclear facility.  Entergy claims Public Service Board scheduling makes it clear that a ruling will not occur before the plant must begin construction on June 11th, and federal law preempts the state oversight.

Vermont Law School Professor Cheryl Hanna notes that Entergy has been making similar arguments in other cases before the courts.

Vermont Law School Professor Patrick Parenteau believes the lawsuit is intended to put more pressure on the Public Service Board in order to obtain a full state operating license.

Vermont Yankee Spokesman Rob Williams e-mailed the company’s statement: “To meet NRC requirements, Vermont Yankee needs to have a new diesel generator operational by September 1 – which means beginning construction by no later than mid-June. While we filed a request with the Vermont PSB more than seven months ago to start construction, we have not yet received approval. Therefore, to ensure the economic and environmental benefits of Vermont Yankee continue, we believe it’s prudent to pursue multiple avenues to ensure we meet NRC regulations.”

This latest legal argument was filed just before the NRC is set to present its Annual Assessment of the plant to the public.  Ethan Allen Institute Energy Education Project Director Meredith Angwin supports the continued operation of Vermont Yankee.  She will attend the NRC session, but isn’t sure what to expect after a chaotic meeting last year.

The NRC’s annual assessment and question and answer session on Vermont Yankee is scheduled Tuesday evening at the Brattleboro Union High School.


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