Vermont Yankee Power Plant (photo NRC)
Vermont Yankee’s fate could influence the future of nuclear power nationally, so a federal lawsuit over the troubled reactor is being watched nationwide as a potentially precedent-setting case. To that end, Vermont Law School faculty experts will provide ongoing analysis of the lawsuit’s federal preemption, constitutional and other implications.
Vermont lawmakers say the state’s only nuclear plant, which opened in 1972, should be shut down because of its age, radioactive leaks, inaccurate testimony by plant officials and other problems. Entergy Corp., the plant’s owners, says the facility is safe, reliable and efficient.
The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission has the final say over nuclear safety regulation, but Entergy agreed in 2002 to get Vermont’s approval if the plant were to operate beyond March 2012. Vermont is the only state with such a requirement for nuclear plants within its borders. In 2010, the Vermont Legislature prohibited the state Public Service Board from re-certifying Vermont Yankee after its operating license expires in 2012.
But the NRC granted Vermont Yankee a 20-year operating extension in March, and Entergy sued Vermont state officials in April in an effort to keep the plant open.
The lawsuit challenges the constitutionality of Vermont’s law giving the state legislature veto power over the reactor’s operation, as well as the right of any state utility commission to determine whether nuclear power should be part of a mix of electricity generation produced within the state.