Entergy Could Have a Nuclear Power Plant for Sale (ETR, EXC, DUK)

It’s been nearly three years since Entergy Corp. (NYSE:ETR) first said it would spin off its non-utility nuclear power plants into a new company called Enexus. The state of New York’s public service commission rejected the plan unanimously in March 2010. The company withdrew its spin-off petition in July, after having the state of Vermont also reject the spin-off plan in June.  Now, it appears, the company wants to sell its Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant because the state of Vermont does not want to extend the plant’s license to operate beyond its March, 2012 expiration. Vermont Yankee went into service in 1972 with a license to operate for 40 years. The Oconee nuclear power plant owned by Duke Energy Corp. (NYSE:DUK) received a 20-year contract extension in 2000. Exelon Corp. (NYSE:EXC), the nation’s largest operator of nuclear power plants, received 20-year extensions for two plants in 2009, one of which is the infamous Three-Mile Island.

Entergy does not have a good story to tell in Vermont. The company told the public service commission that its plant did not have any underground piping, which had been causing concerns about leakage at other plants around the country. It turns out that tests at the Vermont Yankee reactor revealed that radioactive tritium had gotten into the groundwater from a leaking underground pipe. NY Times article

Now, Vermont’s governor-elect says the plant should be shut down on schedule in 2012. And anyway, who does Entergy think will buy a the plant? A nuke that’s leaking radioactive material into the groundwater? It’s probably impossible to overstate the dimness of the bulb that wants to buy Vermont Yankee.

The state of Vermont gets more than 50% of its electricity from Vermont Yankee, which generates about 80% of all the electricity in the state. The other 30% of the plant’s generation is exported. As a result, Vermont always figures near the top of green-friendly states. And where the state will get its power, and at what cost, will surely figure in to a decision to renew Vermont Yankee’s license.

Entergy’s shares are down slightly today, probably because most of the news here has already been priced into the share price. The 52-week range is $70.35-$84.44 and the stock’s at about $75/share now.

Paul Ausick

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