Public Service Board hears Vermont Yankee testimony

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(Host) The owners of the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant are requesting permission to increase the plant’s power output by 20%. A public hearing on the issue will be held Tuesday at 7:00 p.m. at the Vernon Elementary School.

VPR’s Susan Keese has more:

(Keese) The increase, if approved would raise Vermont Yankee’s power output from 540 megawatts to about 650 megawatts. Entergy, the company that owns Vermont Yankee, says the upgrade could provide new reasonably priced power for Vermont.

An agreement made when Entergy bought the plant last summer gives Vermont utilities first crack at negotiating for any new electricity the plant generates. Entergy spokesman Rob Williams:

(Williams) “So that’s what we’re committed to do: provide an exclusive negotiating period to those utilities so they can have access to the power if they want it. And we will go through that negotiating process with them and hopefully come to an acceptable agreement so we can get that power to Vermonters.”

(Keese) But more power means that more nuclear fuel will move through the reactor. It also means more radioactive waste will have to be stored. And that has some people worried.

Ray Shadis is the staff advisor to the New England Coalition. The group opposes nuclear power and advocates for alternative energy. Shadis says increased steam from the added fuel will add stress to an already aging reactor, increasing the chances of a nuclear accident.

(Shadis) “What they are really attempting to do here is to pack an additional nuclear reactor in the shell of an old aging reactor with aging components.”

(Keese) For the power increase to happen, the plant needs a Certificate of Public Good from the Vermont Public Service Board. Before the quasi-judicial board reaches a decision next fall it must review supporting testimony from Entergy.

The board will also hear from other groups who’ve been given party status in the proceedings. The New England Coalition is one of those groups. Another is the Department of Public Service, which represents the public.

Another group with party status is the Connecticut River Watershed Council. They’re concerned about possible increased temperatures in water discharged into the river. Any member of the public may speak at tonight’s hearing.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Susan Keese.

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