Nuclear power plant in Vermont can continue operating

U.S. district court ruled on Jan. 19 that Entergy Corp. (NYSE: ETR) can continue operating the single-unit, 605 MW Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant. Judge Garvan Murtha found that federal law governing nuclear power plants preempt state laws, according to The Wall Street Journal.

In April 2011, Entergy sued Vermont officials over legislation that sought to block the company from extending operations at the Vermont Yankee plant past March 2012, when its current license expires. Vermont Yankee has been in commercial operation since 1972 and has had a license extension granted by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to 2032. Also in April 2011, Richard Smith, president of Entergy Wholesale Commodities, said “We have made every reasonable effort to accommodate the state of Vermont and its officials while allowing the continued operation of Vermont Yankee – an outcome that benefits all stakeholders, including Vermont consumers and the approximately 650 men and women who work at the plant,”

Judge Murtha, according to the Wall Street Journal, found that Vermont lawmakers' efforts to close Vermont Yankee were driven largely by concerns about radiation and safety, over which the NRC has sole jurisdiction.

"I am very disappointed in today’s ruling from the federal court. Entergy has not been a trustworthy partner with the state of Vermont. Vermont Yankee needed legislative approval 40 years ago. The plant received approval to operate until March, 2012. I continue to believe that it is in Vermont's best interest to retire the plant. I will await the Attorney General’s review of the decision to comment further on whether the state will appeal,” said Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin.

Following the ruling, Entergy released a statement that said, “We’re pleased with the decision, which Judge Murtha issued after a thorough review of the facts and the law. The ruling is good news for our 600 employees, the environment and New England residents and industries that depend on clean, affordable, reliable power provided by Vermont Yankee.

Judge Murtha did reject a request made by Entergy to overturn a state requirement that Entergy sell power to Vermont utilities at below-market rates, stating the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has authority over power contracts.

To read the lawsuit, click here.

To read the judge's ruling, click here.

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