Three months from now Entergy Nuclear Vermont Yankee (VY) will be forced to make a fateful decision: whether to give in to the furious anti-nuclear campaign led for years by Peter Shumlin, now Vermont's anti-nuclear new governor, and abandon a safe, reliable, low-cost, nuclear plant that generates about a third of Vermont's electrical consumption. (See last week's Addison Eagle for an indepth look at costs of closing the power station.)
VY's federal operating license expires in March 2012. In 2006 the company applied to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for a twenty year license extension. Slowed to a crawl by the torrent of regulatory interventions by anti-nuclear groups, the NRC has yet to release its recommendations for extension. But based on its approval of extensions for dozens of similar plants, there is little doubt but what it will give VY a green light.
Anticipating that, the 2006 legislature passed a law unique among the 50 states. It declared that the Public Service Board cannot take any final action to authorize continued operation of nuclear plant without an affirmative vote of both houses of the legislature.
It is now clear that the legislative leadership, Speaker Shap Smith and Senate president pro tem John Campbell, have absolutely no intention of allowing a resolution of approval to come to a vote. That resolution would likely be voted down, but not allowing anyone to vote on it will shield the anti-nuclear legislators from having to answer to their voters for the likely consequences of a shutdown.
Those consequences are potentially grave. VY produces 620 Mw of baseload power. It's currently the lowest cost 24/7 power purchased by Vermont utilities. IBM, with its $35 million annual electricity bill, is deeply concerned that without VY, its power costs will rise by as much as 30 percent. That concern is shared by other manufacturers, hospitals, colleges, local governments, and ski areas.