|Owner:||Entergy Nuclear Vermont Yankee, LLC|
|Reactor Type:||Boiling Water Reactor|
|Reactor Manufacturer:||General Electric|
|Turbine Generator Manufacturer:||General Electric|
|Commercial Operation Date:||11/72|
|License Expiration Date:||3/21/12|
Entergy Nuclear, evidently convinced that the Vermont legislature will not allow the company to run the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant for another 20 years, announced on Thursday that the plant was up for sale.
The company acted two days after Peter E. Shumlin, a prominent opponent of the plant and the state Senate’s president pro tem, was elected governor.
It was not immediately clear if a new owner would be more persuasive with the legislature in Montpelier. State lawmakers have reacted vehemently to a series of misstatements and missteps by Entergy and leaks of radioactive tritium at the plant, in Vernon, Vt., on the banks of the Connecticut River near the Massachusetts border.
Entergy, based in New Orleans, said it expected multiple parties to be interested in the reactor and that it wanted to keep hundreds of highly skilled employees from seeking work elsewhere.
The reactor has been on track to receive a 20-year extension to its initial 40-year license from the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission. But as a condition of Entergy’s acquisition of the plant from local utilities in 2002, the state of Vermont required the legislature’s approval for continued operation.
In February the Vermont Senate voted down an extension.
It was reacting partly to testimony before two state panels from plant officials on the question of whether Vermont Yankee could leak radioactive material from underground pipes, as other reactors around the country had. The executives replied that Vermont Yankee had no such pipes. Then tests found radioactive tritium that had leaked into the groundwater from an underground pipe.
Mr. Shumlin, a Democrat, was a leading force in the February vote.
There is some question whether the legislature’s decision would be in the form of a law that would come to him for signature, or in the form of a resolution by the state House and Senate that would not require his assent, but his election does not help Entergy’s prospects.
Reached by telephone, Mr. Shumlin said a change of ownership would make no difference. “We have a tired nuclear power plant that was designed to be shut down on schedule in 2012, and we should meet that schedule,” he said.
With radioactive materials now in the soil around the plant, he asked, “Why would anyone else want to inherit that legacy? Or pay cash for it?”
But Entergy, which paid $180 million for the plant in 2002 and has made substantial investment in it, is apparently hoping to convince a potential buyer that it could win over the legislature.
“It may be that people like that plant more than they like Entergy,” James Steets, an Entergy spokesman, said.
Randolph D. Brock III, a Republican state senator who won re-election on Tuesday, said the problem was largely Entergy’s “lack of candor and inept government relations.”
He added, “Moe, Curly and Larry are more credible than Entergy Louisiana in the Senate.”
John J. Reed, an investment banker who specializes in the purchase and sale of nuclear plants, suggested that a sale could be structured for “a new owner with a clean track record” and be contingent on the plant’s winning state approval for continued operation.
But other plant opponents agreed with the governor-elect. “The problems are bigger than ownership,” said Sandra Levine, a senior attorney for the Conservation Law Foundation in Vermont. “The problems at Vermont Yankee come from it being an old plant that’s leaking radioactivity into the environment. That would not be corrected simply by changing ownership.”
At Entergy’s headquarters, Michael Burns, a spokesman, said that while the license did not expire until March 2012, the company would have to begin making “some key decisions” in the second quarter of 2011.
One decision would be on how, or whether, to refuel the reactor. It is scheduled for refueling next fall. Several companies are likely to be interested in bidding, Mr. Reed said, but the deal would also depend on “how willing Entergy is to take an offer that may be a lot less than they thought the plant was worth two years ago.”