VERNON, Vt. (AP) — Vermont's only nuclear power plant will shut down by the end of next year, ending a nasty legal battle over the future of the 4-decade-old plant, Entergy Corp. announced Tuesday.
The Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Station is expected to cease power production after its current fuel cycle and move to safe shutdown in the fourth quarter of 2014, the company said. The station will remain under the oversight of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission throughout the decommissioning process.
The New Orleans-based company has been battling with the state since 2010, when the Vermont Senate voted against a measure that would have authorized a state board to grant Vermont Yankee a permit to operate for an additional 20 years. Lawmakers were concerned about the plant's safety, age and misstatements by plantmanagement about components at the reactor.
"This was an agonizing decision and an extremely tough call for us," Leo Denault, Entergy's chairman and chief executive officer, said in a statement released by the company. "Vermont Yankee has an immensely talented, dedicated and loyal workforce, and a solid base of support among many in the community. We recognize that closing the plant on this schedule was not the outcome they had hoped for, but we have reluctantly concluded that it is the appropriate action for us to take under the circumstances."
The decision to close Vermont Yankee was based on a number of financial factors, including low wholesale energy prices, high costs and what the company called a flawed market design that artificially deflates energy prices.
Vermont Yankee opened in 1972 in Vernon. In the past, the plant has provided as much as a third of the state's electrical supply. Currently, nearly all of its power is shipped to electric companies in neighboring states.
After being granted the federal license it also needed for continued operation, Entergy sued the state and won a first round in federal court in Brattleboro.
The state appealed but largely lost earlier this month. Attorney General Bill Sorrell has said the ruling worked out well in one respect: The court overruled a part of the lower-court decision saying the state had violated the U.S. Constitution by trying to demand cut-rate power from Vermont Yankee if it were allowed to continue operating.
The company employs about 630 people, a staffing level that will gradually be reduced as the plant moves through the stages of decommissioning.