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Vermont Yankee Employees Out of the Loop on Relicensing?


Published April 26, 2011 at 4:32 p.m.

State lawmakers aren't the only ones who have felt left in the dark by the embattled owners of the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant. Some VY employees apparently felt out of the loop too.

The Vernon reactor's corporate owners, Louisiana-based Entergy Corp., sued the state of Vermont in federal court in Burlington last week seeking to prevent the state from shutting the plant down when its operating license expires next year.

Among the hundreds of pages of exhibits attached to the lawsuit are "exit interview" forms completed by eight plant workers on their way out the door. The records are intended to show that uncertainty over the plant's future is costing the company employees — and they do. The eight employees, all of whom left the company between January and March of this year, list uncertainty over the plant's future as the primary or secondary reason for their departure.

One worker wrote: "It was a very hard decision — I waffled back and forth — what I need the company can't supply — get re-licensed."

But the forms wind up illustrating something else too. Several nuke plant workers —  whose names were removed from the questionnaires — complain that plant higher-ups didn't communicate about the status of the re-licensing effort. Ironic, considering Vermont Yankee has spent thousands of dollars on TV and print newspaper ads that use personal testimonials from VY employees to argue for re-licensing.

In response to the question, "What are your general feelings about VY?", one unnamed worker wrote: "Communications are lacking — we find out information from the Newspaper versus in house communications department."

Illustration by Tim Nuke 'Em

Another worker, when asked "What did you like the most/least about working at VY?", responded: "Most — people. well intentioned; Least — lack of communication around re-licensing efforts." That employee again complained about poor communication when asked "What is missing in VY's working environment that you feel is important to employee satisfaction?"

A third anonymous plant worker, asked that same question, responded: "More communication re: future of the plant."

These selected workers had plenty nice to say about their soon-to-be ex-employer, too. "Enjoyed working here. Liked the people and had a lot of fun," wrote one. "Outstanding," wrote another, when asked to evaluate the workplace environment. "Little loud — but other than that excellent."

When asked what he or she liked most and least about working for VY, one employee wrote: "Most — The people. least dealing with the state, how accommodating we are to the state — we don't fight back enough."

Now Entergy is fighting back — and bringing out the big guns: a heap of corporate lawyers. Maybe this employee wants his job back?