Vermont Yankee to cut about 30 jobs

The Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant will see about 30 jobs cut by the end of the year, plant owner Entergy Corp. announced Tuesday. The cuts represent about a 4 percent reduction from the Vernon plant, Entergy spokesman Terry Young said. The layoffs are part of about 800 layoffs throughout Entergy Corp. nationally, he said.

While the number of cuts has been identified, the individuals who will lose their jobs have not been, Young said. They will learn their fate by the end of the year, he said, and will come from a variety of jobs. Vermont Yankee has about 650 employees, he said.

“There really isn’t a particular area. It’s across the board,” Young said.

Critics of the Vernon plant have argued that any cuts in employment will pose hazards to its operation. Young argued that’s not true. “Extra care was given to ensure any reductions don’t adversely impact hands-on staff,” he said.

“Thirty is a big deal,” said Vermont Yankee critic Arnie Gundersen, a former nuclear engineer who lives in Burlington. “It’s like a car. As a car gets older it needs more repair, not less and here they are cutting mechanics.”

Gundersen, who served on a 2008 state oversight panel that looked at Vermont Yankee’s operations, said he thought that cutting 30 jobs would have to affect the safe operation of the plant. He noted that the panel concluded that Vermont Yankee was understaffed at that time after increasing output by 20 percent without adding staff.

Rep. Mike Hebert, R-Vernon, said he’s spoken with people who work at the plant who were relieved the announced layoffs weren’t higher. “Many of these cuts are going to be attrition,” he said. “I know a lot of folks who are slated to retire. They just won’t be replaced.”

Entergy, in a corporate second-quarter earnings report Tuesday, said layoffs are part of the company’s “human capital management reorganization,” or HCM.

In a news release, the company said, “HCM, a months-long effort, will position Entergy to provide optimal service to all stakeholders while creating real, sustainable savings. As part of this initiative, the company completed the comprehensive redesign of the organization, which will result in approximately 800 positions being eliminated. Total savings from HCM are estimated in the range of approximately $200 million to $250 million by 2016.”

Entergy’s stock price was down just under 1 point Tuesday, at $69.60 a share.

The federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission has minimum staffing requirements for certain areas of a nuclear power plant — control room operators, security and emergency responders — but does not otherwise specify employment levels, NRC spokesman Neil Sheehan said.

Though it was not required to do so, Entergy informed the NRC that it would be announcing job cut figures Tuesday, Sheehan said.

Vermont Yankee, which was built in 1972, has been licensed by the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission to operate until 2032. Decisions are pending in federal court and with the state Public Service Board over whether the plant needs or has the state’s permission to keep operating. The state Senate voted in 2010 against its continued operation, Entergy sued the state and now the state is appealing a decision in Entergy’s favor.

Source: Burlington Free Press