Owner: No buyer for Vermont Yankee nuclear plant

Posted March 30, 2011, at 9:38 p.m.

MONTPELIER, Vt. — The owner of the troubled Vermont Yankee nuclear plant can’t find a buyer for it, blaming “political uncertainty” over its prospects for a state license to keep operating past 2012.

New Orleans-based Entergy Corp., which announced plans in November to shop the plant, said Wednesday that it’s giving up on a potential sale, at least for now, even though the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission just granted the plant a 20-year license renewal.

“Although we received interest from a number of companies, the conclusion of the sale process, without a sale, was driven primarily by the uncertain political environment in Vermont,” said spokesman Larry Smith. “The plant’s strong operating performance was attractive to potential buyers; the political uncertainty was not.”

Entergy will evaluate any “future opportunity for the plant should conditions change,” said Smith, who said the decision to end the hunt for a buyer wasn’t related to the ongoing nuclear crisis at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant in Japan.

The political uncertainty is Vermont’s status as the only state with a law giving it a say in nuclear plant relicensing. Last year, the state Senate voted against allowing the plant to operate past 2012.

The 38-year-old plant, which sits on the banks of the Connecticut River in the southeastern Vermont town of Vernon, has been plagued by leaks of radioactive tritium into soil and groundwater surrounding it. Entergy contends that it is fit to keep operating.

Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin, who wants it shut down, says it’s no surprise Entergy couldn’t find a buyer.

“The plant and its operators have had numerous issues — cooling tower collapses, a transformer fire, leaked tritium, and misinformation about the underground piping — and I have no confidence in the continued operation of the plant or in its owners,” he said.

In making the announcement, Entergy said it had completed work on a 20-year agreement to sell Vermont Yankee power to customers of Vermont Electric Cooperative, Inc.. But that’s contingent on the plant staying open past March 2012.

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