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Entergy’s Vermont Nuclear Unit Cleared for License Renewal

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission said it will extend the operating license for Entergy Corp.’s Vermont Yankee nuclear reactor.

The federal nuclear agency will issue a 20-year license extension after upholding an agency board ruling that rejected a challenge to the renewal, Gregory Jaczko, chairman of the commission, said today during a conference call with reporters. The license will be issued in a “matter of days,” Jaczko said.

The commission voted 4-0 to support a decision by its Atomic Safety Licensing Board that denied an objection to the license by New England Coalition on Nuclear Pollution, Eliot Brenner, a commission spokesman, said during the call. The coalition had raised concerns about Entergy’s oversight of underground pipes that had leaked at the plant, according to a statement posted on the Brattleboro, Vermont-based group’s website.

“We believe Entergy, through the exhaustive review that we’ve done for license renewal, meets all of our requirements and standards needed to be able to operate for another 20 years,” Jaczko said.

The commission’s approval is just “one piece” of a variety of permits and actions that are needed for plant to continue to operate, Jaczko said. The actions that the state of Vermont is taking “don’t involve any of our authorities or responsibilities,” he said.

Governor’s Opposition

Entergy, based in New Orleans, said in November it may sell the plant after Vermont voters elected a governor who has opposed extending the plant’s life beyond 2012. The Vermont Senate voted in February 2010 against allowing state regulators to extend the plant’s license after it expires on March 2012 because of leaks of tritium-laced water at the site.

Governor Peter Shumlin, a Democrat, has called for the state to reject a 20-year extension of the plant’s operating license.

The 620-megawatt reactor is located in Vernon, Vermont, about 140 miles (225 kilometers) northwest of Boston, and provides a third of the electricity consumed in the state, according to Entergy.

The reactor came under scrutiny after leaks of water laced with tritium were identified in January 2010. Tritium is a radioactive form of hydrogen and a byproduct of nuclear power generation that in large doses can increase the risk of cancer.

Entergy is in the process of cleaning the areas affected by the tritium leak and would “substantially complete” the effort before any sale, Michael Burns, a company spokesman, said in November.

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