Entergy made it official this morning: They are exploring the sale of Vermont Yankee.
In an announcement posted to Entergy's website this morning, the company said, "The sale process is being conducted on a confidential basis and no additional details will be released at this time. While no decision has been made to sell the plant, the company expects interest from multiple parties," the company noted.
Entergy bought the plant back in 2002 for $145 $180 million. A possible sale of Vermont Yankee has been rumored for weeks and became a campaign issue when Democrat Peter Shumlin, now Governor-elect Shumlin, was circumspect when asked if he could support VY's continued operation if it was sold to a new owner.
Shumlin's opposition to VY's operation beyond 2012 was a key factor to his primary win. He led the effort in April in the Vermont Senate to ensure the plant was shut down as scheduled in two years.
On "The Mark Johnson Show" this morning on WDEV-FM, Shumlin told host Mark Johnson, "I'm not going to speculate on what might happen or what might not happen. We'll deal with that as those events develop. The only thing I'll say is the plant is old and tired, and it's my judgment that it should be retired in 2012."
Entergy has struggled to gain confidence of Vermonters, some regulators and state politicians after lying to regulators and the Vermont Public Service Board about the existence of underground pipes. Two of those non-existent pipes ended up leaking thousands of gallons of tritium into the groundwater and also into one drinking water aquifer at the VY site. The latest leak was only revealed after members of the media asked questions.
Shumlin said cleanup of the VY site, given the tritium contamination and other radioactive isotopes in the soil, would have to be part of any sale deal. Ditto shoring up the plant's decommissioning fund.
"This is not something someone would buy easily, because they'll be responsible for cleaning up the last buyer's mess," Shumlin said on WDEV. "I don't know how many people would enter into that mess."
Entergy's top official said the company is trying to work out a long-term power deal with Vermont utilities, which could help sweeten the deal.
“Our motivation for exploring the sale of the plant is simple – we want to do whatever is in the best interest of our stakeholders, including the approximately 650 men and women who work at the plant,” said J. Wayne Leonard, Entergy’s chairman and chief executive officer. “At the same time, we have been successfully resolving any issues to secure Nuclear Regulatory Commission approval for a license extension at the plant, and we have been in negotiations with the local electric companies to finalize a long-term power purchase agreement to ensure the continued output of clean and reliable energy for Vermont utilities.
“We will aggressively negotiate with potential buyers for extension of employment to all current employees as a condition of any sale.”
One of the parties is likely to be Exelon Nuclear, the nation's largest owner of nuclear power plants and the largest fleet of boiling water reactors — the type of reactor design at Vermont Yankee.