A federal judge on Thursday blocked Vermont from forcing the Vermont Yankee nuclear reactor to shut down when its license expires in March, saying that the state is trying to regulate nuclear safety, which only the federal government can do.
The judge, J. Garvan Murtha of United States District Court in Brattleboro, Vt., also held that the state cannot force the plant’s owner, Entergy, to sell electricity from the reactor to in-state utilities at reduced rates as a condition of continued operation, as Entergy asserts it is now doing.
The nuclear operator filed a lawsuit last year challenging the constitutionality of a state law giving the Vermont Legislature veto power over operation of the reactor when its original 40-year license expires.
In an extensive review of the legislative record, Judge Murtha pointed out in his ruling that in remarks “too numerous to recount here,” state lawmakers and witnesses made clear that their effort to close the plant was “grounded in radiological safety concerns” — the province of the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The commission has already granted Vermont Yankee a 20-year license extension.
The ruling is almost certain to be appealed by the state and an array of private groups that want the plant shut down because of leaks of radioactive tritium and other issues…
[continues in the New York Times]