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Closing Vermont Yankee: big impacts to come?

The planned shutdown of the Vermont Yankee nuclear generating station (VY)in Vernon next year has already begun sending early shockwaves around Vermont and the New England region.

Several non-partisan energy studies have already indicated the shutdown will almost certainly mean higher electricity costs, business defections across the state line, and costly replacement with imported energy-via Hydro Quebec-that will make Vermont less energy independent and more vulnerable to cross border politics.

Last year, the Vermont legislature voted on a resolution to close VY in 2012. Entergy, owner of the plant, also needs a Certificate of Public Good from the Vermont Public Service Board-an entity created by the largely anti-nuclear legislature-to continue operating.

If the board withholds the certificate, Entergy will likely go to court to protect its multibillion dollar asset for its shareholders. VY could be operating while the case is in court which may take months or years to resolve.

Removing VY, fully paid for, from the CO2-free column is an unwise waste of CO2-free resources, according to Willem Post of Coalition for Energy Solutions.

"The U.S. should be adding power plants to the CO2-free column to reduce global warming, not removing them," he said.

Entergy has requested the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to extend the VY license to 2032.

"This is not an unusual request," said Post. "In the U.S., 17 of 36 plants with boiling water reactors had their license extended from about 40 years to about 60 years. All of the extensions, except one, were for Mark 1 reactors (like the one operating at VY)."

In Vermont, the power mix is 62 percent from CO2-producing fossil fuels, 26 percent from CO2-free nuclear, 6 percent from CO2-free hydro, 4 percent from CO2-producing wood waste, 2 percent from CO2-producing solid waste and 1 percent other (CO2-free wind, solar, etc.).

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