In a huge victory for the grass-roots movement for a green-powered earth, Entergy has announced it will shut its Vermont Yankee reactor by the end of next year.
“It’s fantastic,” says longtime safe-energy activist Deb Katz. “This is such a win for the people, for the state of Vermont and for democracy.”
The Green Mountain State’s only commercial reactor was recently relicensed to operate another two decades. Entergy spent millions in legal fees to establish a right to resist Vermont’s attempt to shut Yankee on safety grounds. Announcing this shutdown just two weeks after an apparent victory in federal court indicates the legal battle was really a holding action to protect its other reactors.
But the decision also opened Entergy to other challenges, especially in front of Vermont’s Public Service Board. “Hidden in the federal ruling Entergy ostensibly won was a confirmation that the state, through the PSB, had the right to reject Vermont Yankee’s continued operation on reliability, economics and more.”
And, says Katz, “The Nuclear Regulatory Commission accepted our petition to pry open Entergy’s finances.”
This is the fifth shutdown announcement since 2013 began with 104 licensed U.S. reactors. Barring other closures—which now seem more likely—Yankee’s demise will bring us to 99. Nebraska’s Ft. Calhoun is still down after being flooded. As many as seven more proposed U.S. reactors have been canceled since January, turning the much-hyped “nuclear renaissance” into a rapidly rising rout. Upgrades at five other reactors have also been canceled.
Entergy’s double-reactor complex at Indian Point, north of New York City, is now under intense political fire. Water and other permits there and at the upstate Fitzpatrick reactor are being bitterly contested in Albany.
Entergy’s embattled Pilgrim reactor at Plymouth, south of Boston, recently had to reduce power due to global-warmed Cape Cod cooling water. Its Palisades reactor on Lake Michigan has been linked to heightened local cancer rates.
Entergy says Yankee’s closure will add more than $100 million to its cash flow over the next few years. Wisconsin’s Kewaunee has been shut for financial reasons by Dominion Power. Nuclear experts like Arnie Gundersen warn that funds set aside to decommission these dying reactors may be inadequate and that the process could take far longer than we are being told.
With gas relatively cheap and renewables dropping in price while rising in efficiency, the financial vise is tightening around the world’s remaining reactors.