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NRC Sides With Entergy in Vermont Plant Debate, Sanders Says

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June 16 (Bloomberg) -- Nuclear regulators urged the Justice Department to intervene in a legal dispute over an Entergy Corp. power plant in Vermont, U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders disclosed as he protested the agency’s action.

The five-member U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission voted 3-2 yesterday in a non-public session to ask the Justice Department “to get involved in that fight,” Sanders said today at a Senate hearing in Washington. State officials want to close Entergy’s Vermont Yankee plant and the NRC shouldn’t get involved, said Sanders, a Vermont independent who caucuses with Democrats.

“It is not your business to tell the people of Vermont to keep open a nuclear plant they do not want,” Sanders said at the hearing, where all five NRC commissioners were witnesses.

While the NRC has approved a 20-year license extension for the plant, Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin, a Democrat, and state lawmakers want to close it next year. Entergy filed a lawsuit against Shumlin and state officials in April to keep the plant open.

The NRC has jurisdiction over nuclear-plant safety. Sanders said the agency wants the Justice Department to side with Entergy in the lawsuit, which says the plant’s federal operating license trumps the wishes of Vermont officials.

The commission wouldn’t confirm the vote. NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko said the agency couldn’t comment on the matter.

Commissioner Kristine Svinicki said “the litigation posture of the U.S. is under active consideration” in the Vermont Yankee case and the Justice Department has asked NRC officials not to comment.

Charles Miller, a spokesman for the Justice Department, declined to comment.

To contact the reporter on this story: Simon Lomax in Washington at slomax@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Larry Liebert at lliebert@bloomberg.net

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