Entergy retires Vermont Yankee after 42 years

29 December 2014

The Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant closed on 29 December due to "wholesale market flaws" which owner Entergy said made its operation uneconomic. The single-reactor power plant represented 72% of electricity generated in the state.

After 42 years of operation the 604 MWe boiling water reactor was gradually powered down to a permanent close. Although safety regulators had granted a licence for the unit to operate until 2032, owner Entergy decided in August last year to close it early for economic reasons.

Vermont Yankee 460x120

Despite investing over $400 million in Vermont Yankee since 2002, Entergy cited the high cost of operating the single-reactor power plant, adding that "the financial impact of cumulative regulation is especially challenging to a small plant in these market conditions." In addition, sustained low natural gas prices have impacted the plant's profitability, while "wholesale market design flaws continue to result in artificially low energy and capacity prices in the region, and do not provide adequate compensation to merchant nuclear plants for the fuel diversity benefits they provide."

Entergy chairman and CEO Leo Denault noted the contribution to local charities made by the plant's 650-strong workforce over the years and thanked the people of Vermont for the "privilege" of serving them.

The closure stands to affect power supply reliability in Vermont and the wider New England area, according to the US industry group the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI). Vermont Yankee generated 72% of electricity in the state, helping to make Vermont stand out among US states as having the highest share of nuclear power and, combined with 22% hydro, the lowest carbon emissions from electricity.

Much of this clean electricity was exported across Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Rhode Island by the ISO-NE regional transmission organisation covering the New England area. The last two winters have seen significant spikes in electricity prices, ISO-NE have reported, reaching $100 per MWh in early 2013 and $160 per MWh early this year compared with about $40 per MWh normally.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News