Rutland Herald: Entergy orders fuel for Yankee

Jul 26, 2011 No Comments by

Reposted here from the Rutland Herald.


Staff Writer – Published: July 26, 2011


Entergy Corp. has placed a $65 million bet on the future of its Vermont Yankee nuclear plant.


The company announced Monday that its board of directors approved the purchase of the fuel, setting the stage for Yankee’s 29th refueling outage.


The company said it had told its employees Monday of the vote to approve the fabrication of the nuclear fuel and the refueling of Yankee in October.


Company officials testified last month the refueling project would cost upward of $100 million, including the fuel.


“Entergy’s board of directors carefully reviewed the merits of our case and the arguments put forth by all parties during the recent hearing in (U.S.) District Court when we requested a preliminary injunction against the state of Vermont taking any actions to close Vermont Yankee,” J. Wayne Leonard, Entergy’s chairman and chief executive officer, said in a release.


“Our board believes both the merits of the company’s legal position and the record strongly support its decision to continue to trial scheduled to begin on Sept. 12,” Leonard added.


Last week, U.S. District Judge J. Garvan Murtha denied Entergy’s bid for a preliminary injunction, saying the company had not made the case that it faced irreparable harm.


The Entergy decision surprised few Monday in Vermont, ranging from Gov. Peter Shumlin to anti-nuclear activists.


“Judge Murtha made clear in his decision to deny Entergy Louisiana’s request for a preliminary injunction that he didn’t buy the company’s argument that the injunction was a prerequisite for refueling. Today’s decision by Entergy Louisiana to refuel affirms that Judge Murtha was right, and that his decision to deny the injunction was the correct one,” Shumlin said in a statement.


Attorney General William Sorrell, who is defending the state in the Entergy lawsuit, said he was not surprised that Entergy ordered the fuel, despite Entergy’s assertions in the courtroom last month.


“They were crying wolf, in the judge’s opinion,” Sorrell said.


He said Entergy, a giant corporation with $11 billion in revenue, had a business decision to make on the $65 million for Yankee.


“They are trying to maximize the return on their investment,” he said. “They want to run it for as much as they can for as long as they can.”


Neil Sheehan, a spokesman for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, said the fuel Entergy is buying for Vermont Yankee could be used at other nuclear plants owned by Entergy, as long as the radiation process is not started in Yankee’s reactor.


Once the plant is restarted after its October shutdown for refueling and maintenance, it cannot be transferred, he said.


But David Lochbaum, a nuclear scientist with the Union of Concerned Scientists, said there were cases in the past where fuel was transferred after it was irradiated.


“Fuel is transferable,” Lochbaum wrote in an email Monday. “In the mid 1990s, the Shoreham nuclear plant on Long Island New York permanently closed. It had never operated above 5 percent power. That fuel was later shipped to the Limerick nuclear plant outside Philadelphia.”


The decision brought a unanimous chorus from conservation groups and anti-nuclear activists that the judge had called Entergy’s bluff and it was further proof that Entergy couldn’t be trusted.


“This decision speaks volumes to the reliability of Entergy,” said former legislator-turned-anti-nuclear lobbyist Robert Stannard, who represents Citizens Action Network, and sat through last month’s hearings in U.S. District Court.


“You simply can’t believe anything they say, either on the street or in a court of law,” Stannard said.


“Once again we’ve witnessed a misstatement from Entergy.”


Stannard and others said Entergy’s lead attorney, Kathleen Sullivan of New York City, had hammered home the necessity of the preliminary injunction to Murtha, saying the company would likely shut down Vermont Yankee if it didn’t get the preliminary injunction.


Sandra Levine, an attorney for the Conservation Law Foundation, whose organization filed a friend of the court brief in the federal preemption case, said Entergy was making “a dubious investment.”


She noted that the NRC license was being appealed by the state’s Agency of Natural Resources, as well as the New England Coalition.


“They are making an investment made with a very uncertain outcome,” she said. “It certainly belies their claims and bullying during the hearing.”


Paul Burns, executive director of the Vermont Public Interest Research Group, said Entergy officials lied under oath about the existence of underground pipes carrying radioactive material.


“Entergy now has an infamous track record in Vermont of saying one thing and doing another. Recall that the state is only involved in this litigation because Entergy broke its promise to abide by state relicensing processes,” Burns wrote in an email.


Burns pointed to Entergy’s “transparency” press conference at the Statehouse days before the Senate vote in February, 2010.


“Officials announced they were turning over a new leaf of openness and then promptly refused to answer questions from the media,” Burns said. “With the fuel order decision today, Entergy is making clear once again that it cannot be trusted. What Entergy officials say is often at odds with the truth. That is irresponsible.”


For Raymond Shadis, a senior technical advisor to the New England Coalition, Monday’s announcement was further proof that Entergy, which is based in New Orleans, doesn’t understand Vermont or New England.


He said Entergy has never understood the questioning attitude of New England regulators, first in Maine and then Vermont, and it certainly never encountered the criticism and advocacy from groups and individuals, who question the safety and viability of nuclear power.


“In Louisiana, people are only too happy to have Entergy and its money machine in its state,” he said.


Shadis called the fuel purchase decision “stupid,” given that Vermont Yankee hasn’t made money for Entergy for several years and faces several expensive repairs in the future, along with upgrades as a result of the nuclear disaster in Japan.


“I don’t know what kind of Disney crystal ball they’re looking into,” he said.





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