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Vermont Yankee & That Sinking Feeling


Published December 10, 2008 at 5:47 p.m.

The state of Vermont's Department of Public Service is now receiving monthly updates from Entergy on the performance of Vermont Yankee's Decommissioning Fund — you know, the amount of money that needs to be set aside to clean up the plant once its closed.

Anyone with a 401(k) knows the stock market has been in a bit of a rut. OK, a ditch. OK, maybe a canyon. Anyway, as I pointed out in "Fair Game" in October the fund's value has actually been dropping precipitously since the end of 2007.

So, here's a rundown with the latest, Nov. 30, 2008 figures tacked on.

March 31, 2006:   $391,882,501

Sept 30, 2006:     $402,410,980

March 31, 2007:   $422,182,237

Sept 30, 2007:     $440,003, 672

March 31, 2008:   $427,406,446

Sept 30, 2008:     $397,035,937

Oct 31, 2008:       $364,426,383

Nov 30, 2008:       $360,673,692

It's good to remember that when Entergy bought the plant in 2002, the fund's value was roughly $304 million. All of that money came from ratepayers. In other words, you and I, not investments or corporate profits.

Given that taxayers in Connecticut and Massachusetts were asked to pony up the shortfall when their nuke plants were shut down, it should give anyone pause that the cost of decommissioning Vermont Yankee could run as high as $1.2 billion.

VY officials contend the plant could be mothballed for up to 60 years until enough investment money accrues in the fund to break down the reactor site.

The tanking of the fund only adds to Vermont Yankee's woes as it tries to convince lawmakers to give it a thumbs up to operate for another 20 years. At least one key lawmaker has said he doesn't expect there to be a vote taken this session, but rather in 2010.

A group of anti-nuke activists hopes to fill that void by putting Vermont Yankee's relicensure request up for a public vote on Town Meeting Day 2009. So far, people in about 40 towns have expressed an interest, according to Dan DeWalt, one of the resolution's backers.

The resolution asks the Legislature to:

  1. Agree that the power produced by Vermont Yankee's equals 2% of what is used in the region, and that such a small amount of power can be replaced with renewables and conservation;
  2. Operating VY beyond 2012, a time in which it will be 40 years old, does not benefit the general welfare of the state; and,
  3. Entergy should be held liable to pay for the full cost of decommissioning Vermont Yankee.

Meanwhile, Entergy has dumped its long-term lobbying team of Gerry Morris and Allison Crowley DeMag. In Mid-October, Entergy hired on MacLean, Meehan, and Rice as their lobbying firm of choice. Christopher Rice will serve as the nuke company's chief face under the Golden Dome.