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Plan to close Vermont Yankee marks latest blow to nuclear power

The Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant will shut down by the end of 2014, its owner said Tuesday, citing 'financial factors.' It is the fifth nuclear plant this year to close or to have plans made for closure. 

By Chelsea B. SheasleyCorrespondent / August 27, 2013

A boy fishes Aug. 27 in the Connecticut River in Hinsdale, N.H., across from the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant (rear), located in Vernon, Vt. Entergy Corp. announced it will close Vermont Yankee in late 2014, citing high costs tied to regulation and competition from cheap natural gas.

Brian Snyder/Reuters

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The Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant in Vernon, Vt., will be shut down by the end of next year due to financial factors, the company that owns the plant announced Tuesday, in the latest sign of a difficult economic climate for nuclear power companies.

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Chelsea Sheasley is the Monitor's Asia Editor, overseeing regional coverage for CSMonitor.com and the weekly magazine.

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Entergy Corp., the New Orleans-based company that owns Vermont Yankee, plans on closing and decommissioning the plant by the fourth quarter of 2014, in cooperation with the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission. It is the fifth nuclear plant this year to close or to have plans made for its closure.

"This was an agonizing decision and an extremely tough call for us," Leo Denault, Entergy's chairman and chief executive officer said in a written statement. "Vermont Yankee has an immensely talented, dedicated and loyal workforce, and a solid base of support among many in the community. We recognize that closing the plant on this schedule was not the outcome they had hoped for, but we have reluctantly concluded that it is the appropriate action for us to take under the circumstances."

The company said the decision to close was based on “a number of financial factors” including sustained lower power prices stemming from the natural-gas revolution, a high cost structure for the plant, and what it called "wholesale market design flaws" that artificially deflate energy prices. Some 630 people work at the plant.

Likely also a contributing factor was the ongoing legal battle with the state of Vermont, where state officials had been trying to shutter the plant on their own authority. In 2006 the state legislature granted itself the authority to close the plant and in 2010 voted to do so.

The legal dispute had been turning in Entergy’s favor. Earlier this month a federal appeals court ruled that the Vermont Legislature did not have the authority to close the plant. Entergy had indicated in 2010 that it was considering selling the plant, a single unit boiling water reactor, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Entergy Corp. isn’t the only nuclear power company facing economic challenges. In June, Southern California Edison pulled the plug on the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, a 45-year-old facility in northern San Diego County, because of the high cost of repairs needed less than three years after the company invested $780 million in upgrades.

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