BARRE, Vt. (AP) — The Public Service Board routinely considers the economic impact of Vermont's utilities, but lawyers for Vermont Yankee nuclear plant argued Monday that federal laws that bar the board from considering safety issues would also apply to any economic issues that might arise if there were an accident at the Vernon reactor.
The comments from lawyers for New Orleans-based Entergy Corp., seeking a new state permit to keep Vermont Yankee running, came on the first of five days of technical hearings scheduled during the next two weeks.
The company is seeking the new state certificate of public good — required along with the federal license it got from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in 2011 — against the backdrop of efforts by the administration of Gov. Peter Shumlin and the Legislature to force the state's only nuclear plant to shut down.
Vermont Yankee originally was scheduled to cease operations last March 21, its 40th birthday. But it is one of dozens of nuclear plants around the country to have sought and won permission from the NRC to continue to run for an additional 20 years.
Vermont has balked at going along, with the Legislature blocking the Public Service Board from granting the state permit Entergy and Vermont Yankee also need.
Entergy sued in federal court, and won a round last year, when Judge J. Garvan Murtha of the U.S. District Court in Brattleboro said the Vermont laws were motivated amid concerns over nuclear safety, something that federal law places in the sole jurisdiction of the NRC.
That prompted a reopening of consideration by the board, which could rule later this year or in early 2014.
At Monday's hearing on Entergy's request for a new state permit, company lawyers sought to take that idea of federal pre-emption and run with it, telling the board that it should avoid considering not just the economic impact of a possible nuclear accident, but that the board also should not consider the impact that hosting a nuclear plant might be having on the state's tourism industry.
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