MONTPELIER, Vt. — Vermont’s only nuclear power plant will shut down by the end of next year, ending a nasty legal battle over the future of the four-decade-old plant, Entergy announced Tuesday.
The Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Station is expected to cease power production after its current fuel cycle and will begin being decommissioned in the fourth quarter of 2014, the company said. The station will remain under the oversight of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission throughout the decommissioning process.
The New Orleans-based company has been battling with the state since 2010, when the Vermont Senate voted against a measure that would have authorized a state board to grant Vermont Yankee a permit to operate for an additional 20 years. Lawmakers were concerned about the plant’s safety and age, and misstatements by plant management about components at the reactor.
“This was an agonizing decision and an extremely tough call for us,” Leo Denault, Entergy’s chairman and chief executive, said in a statement. “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 that when it closes, the plant will be placed 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.
Reaction from state leaders was swift and nearly unanimous: The closure is overdue and welcomed.
“This is the right decision for Vermont, and it’s the right decision for Vermont’s clean-energy future,” said Gov. Peter Shumlin (D), who has been critical of the plant.
Others said the company’s plan to close the plant over several decades is unacceptable.
Vermont’s U.S. senators, independent Bernard Sanders and Democrat Patrick J. Leahy, both said they would push the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to reject Entergy’s plan, speed the decommissioning process and ensure that Entergy pays for the full cost.
The commission said in a statement released by spokesman Neil Sheehan that the federal agency would “continue its rigorous oversight of the plant through the rest of its operations and into and through decommissioning.”