MONTPELIER - The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission has given the green light for
The agency rejected critics' contentions that the new firm, called Enexus Energy Corp., will be saddled with too much debt to ensure its ability to pay for any needed fixes at the plants or for their eventual decommissioning.
It found that a "support agreement" in which Entergy will put up $700 million toward operation and maintenance costs for the plants, plus a $1 billion line of credit backed by New Orleans-based Entergy, would be sufficient to allay those concerns.
The NRC said it looked at the projected finances of the five nuclear stations for the next five years and found that in all cases but one - Vermont Yankee's - the plants' revenues would exceed their expenses.
The Entergy subsidiary that owns Vermont Yankee "would not have demonstrated its financial qualifications" to participate in the transaction "without the assurance provided by the support agreement," the NRC said.
The spinoff still requires the approval of the US Securities and Exchange Commission, as well as state regulators in Vermont and New York.
New York state assemblyman Richard Brodsky, a longtime critic of Entergy and its operations at Indian Point, in Westchester County, said he was glad the state Public Service Commission still has a say in whether the restructuring should go forward.
He said Entergy believes the spinoff would save it more than $400 million in revenue-sharing it otherwise would owe New York state.
"This is the kind of focused corporate greed Entergy is known for," Brodsky said. "That $400 million would be added onto what customers already pay for electricity."
Entergy spokesman Mark Burns said he was not able to offer immediate comment but was likely to do so later.
Entergy's corporate restructuring has been hotly debated in Vermont as well.
Democrats who control the Vermont Legislature have questioned whether the plant's decommissioning fund, now estimated to be as much as $400 million short of what would be needed to dismantle the reactor and remove its radioactive waste and other components, would end up being sufficient under the new management.
The House and Senate passed a bill, despite heavy lobbying against it by Entergy, requiring that before the state Public Service Board approve the transaction, there be guarantees that the decommissioning fund would be sufficient. That would have made the transaction's approval by the state Public Service Board contingent upon the company's guaranteeing that the decommissioning fund be sufficient. Governor Jim Douglas vetoed the measure.
Correction: An Associated Press story in yesterday's City & Region section about Entergy Corp. selling five nuclear plants to a new company incorrectly reported that Entergy will provide a $700 million "support agreement" and $1 billion line of credit for the plants. Those financial instruments will be provided by the new company, Enexus Energy Corp.