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Sorrell: Fire a concern at nuclear plants

By John O'Brien | May 8, 2009

MONTPELIER, Vt. (Legal Newsline) - Vermont Attorney General William Sorrell wants a federal agency to investigate the risk of fire at nuclear plants before one in his state comes up for re-licensing.

Sorrell and the Department of Public Service filed a motion to intervene in a case that asks the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to weigh the risks of spent-fuel pools at nuclear plants. Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Station is under license to operate until 2012.

Vermont Yankee's owner, Entergy, was recently the target of criticism by Sorrell over its advertising.

"New information indicates that the risk of catastrophic fires in spent-fuel pools is much higher than previously thought," Sorrell said. "The public needs assurance that this information will be considered by the NRC as part of Vermont Yankee's application for re-licensing."

Entergy is seeking a 20-year extension through 2032. It must be approved by the state's General Assembly and Public Service Board and the NRC, which has jurisdiction over radiological matters.

Other state attorneys general have focused their efforts on Entergy. Mississippi's Jim Hood says the company is overcharging its customers and it is misleading the public about compensation to its executives.

And Connecticut's Richard Blumenthal says a group of power producers, including Entergy, may have failed to deliver power to paying customers.

Sorrell recently scolded the company for its advertising claims of "zero emissions." Entergy recognized the error, calling the ad's wording "unfortunate."

Sorrell said the NRC must invite a discussion over the safety of spent-fuel pools.

"Cutting off debate undermines the public's confidence in the federal regulatory system and hinders good decision making," Sorrell said.

From Legal Newsline: Reach John O'Brien by e-mail at

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