Driving North on Route 119 towards Brattleboro, Vermont, you'll inevitably pass the Vermont Yankee Nuclear Plant, a boiling water reactor facility on the banks of the Connecticut River. One of the oldest nuclear generators in the country, the aged plant is currently the center of a major debate about its future. Its owner. Mississippi-based Entergy Corporation, seeks to extend operation well beyond the plant's planned closing and license termination date in 2012. CLF is at the forefront of the debate questioning the economic benefits of continued operation. It also begs a much larger question: What role does nuclear power play in our collective energy future?
Vermont Yankee generates 620 megawatts of electricity, supplying about one-third of Vermont's power. Operational since 1972, the plant is scheduled to be decommissioned--a process of shutdown, clean up of radiation and subsequent demolition--in 2012 when it reaches the end of its current license.
The price tag for safely closing Vermont Yankee in 2012 has reached over 5900 million--more than twice the amount currently available in the plant's decommissioning fund. When Entergy purchased the plant in 2002, it took over responsibility for decommissioning but has not made any additional contributions to the fund. Now, Entergy is hoping that by continuing operation for an additional 20 years, the fund will act like a retirement account: build up over time and eventually cover the cost of cleanup down the road.
Although it wants to keep Vermont Yankee operating, Entergy has made no commitment to sell low-cost power to Vermont past 2012. Rather, current estimates suggest that Entergy will sell power at twice the price after 2012. If it won't sell low-cost power, CLF argues, there is little benefit to Vermonters from Vermont Yankee's continued operation.
Adding to the controversy are the repeated concerns over safety and reliability. Several accidents over the past two years have forced Vermont Yankee to shut down or reduce power. These events have ranged from leaks of radioactive water to a major collapse of the cooling towers in 2007. Nuclear plants of Yankee's generation -built in the early 70s--were designed for an average life of 30 years and are now showing serious signs of wear.
"These events have shaken the confidence of Vermonters and our neighbors in New Hampshire and Massachusetts about the safety and reliability of the plant," said Gov. Douglas following the tower collapse. "They...