Vermont lawmakers supporting the shutdown of the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant appear to be pinning their hopes on the state Public Service Board. But lawmakers say they're uncertain of their own strategy going forward now that U.S. District Judge J. Garvan Murtha has ruled against the state's efforts to close the plant down.
Vermont had a law saying the plant needs legislative approval to operate for another 20 years, but the judge rejected that. He also said the state can't shut down Vermont Yankee based on a lack of legislative approval for storage of high-level radioactive waste.
Vermont is the only state to have a law giving it a voice in the licensing of a nuclear plant.
The state's Public Service Board still has to sign off on Yankee's continued operation, but the judge seemed to limit the scope of the PSB's power.
The Federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission has already said Yankee is safe and gave it an extension to keep running.
"I don't believe that this was the state of Vermont trying to shut them down for safety. It was a reliability issue," said Arnie Gundersen. The local nuclear expert said the state navigated the legal system correctly, but it's case was not explained well enough. He served on a state- appointed panel that looked into renewing Vermont Yankee's license a few years back. He said he thinks the state's lawyers should have made a better case, focusing on the "reliability" of the plant.
"The panel made a good argument that there were close to 100 different problems with Vermont Yankee that would make it less reliable," Gundersen said.
Despite Thursday's win in court, the owner of the nuclear plant, Entergy, isn't out of the woods yet. The whole matter now goes back to the Vermont Public Service Board, which still has to approve the plant's continued operation. But, the court decision seems to limit the Public Service Board's authority.
In the meantime, Vermont Yankee's parent company issued this statement: "The ruling is good news for our 600 employees, the environment and New England residents and industries that depend on ... Vermont Yankee." Source: WPTZ News Channel 5