* Entergy can continue to operate Vermont Yankee
* State continues to seek reactor shutdown
* Vermont Yankee is the biggest plant in Vermont
By Scott DiSavino
June 26 A U.S. appeals court on Tuesday ruled
that the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant can keep its new
operating license, rejecting a challenge that the state of
Vermont brought to the license granted by the U.S. Nuclear
Regulatory Commission (NRC).
The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling means Entergy can
keep operating the reactor. The government of Vermont and local
and environmental groups were still trying to shut the plant in
other legal and regulatory proceedings.
The state had challenged the validity of the plant's water
permit. But the court determined the state failed to exhaust its
administrative remedies and has waived the right to judicial
review, the NRC said in an e-mail.
The NRC said the court found the Vermont Department of
Public Service failed to take advantage of multiple earlier
opportunities to raise its argument the water permit.
Vermont Yankee is the biggest plant in Vermont by far,
representing over 50 percent of the state's total generating
New Orleans-based Entergy Corp, the second-biggest
nuclear operator in the United States and owner of Vermont
Yankee, wants to run the 620-megawatt reactor for another 20
years under its new license.
Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin, however, wants the 40-year
old plant shut.
The court found that after the NRC's judicial arm, the
Atomic Safety and Licensing Board (ASLB), ruled on Entergy's
application to renew the license in 2008, the state "sat silent
for two and one-half years raising their objection only after
the Commission issued the license renewal in March 2011," the
Entergy filed with the NRC to renew the original 40-year
operating license for Vermont Yankee in January 2006.
Even after the NRC renewed the license for another 20 years
in March 2011, the state continued to say it could shut the
reactor when its original license expired in March 2012.
When Entergy bought the reactor from New England utilities
in 2002 for $180 million, the company agreed to seek a
certificate of public good from state utility regulators before
operating the plant beyond March 2012.
Entergy sought that certificate, but state legislators
blocked the Vermont Public Service Board from issuing the
Entergy sued the state and in January 2012, a federal judge
ruled in favor of Entergy. The state has appealed that lawsuit.
Entergy is now in the process of applying for the
certificate of public good from the Public Service Board again,
which may not make a decision until 2013 or 2014. The state,
along with local and environmental groups, are urging the board
to reject that application.
Entergy said in a statement it was "pleased with the
decision." Vermont's department of public service said it was
disappointed that "the court declined to address the substantive
water quality issue" and would discuss a potential appeal of the
decision with the New England Coalition, an environmental group
that has opposed nuclear power in the region.