Entergy filed a motion Tuesday asking state power regulators to approve continued operation of the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant following a recent court decision favorable to its relicensing.In a conference call on the company’s fourth quarter earnings, Entergy CEO J. Wayne Leonard said the state’s next step is unknown, and it has until Feb. 21 to appeal the decision. In it, a judge ruled that Vermont laws compelling the closure of the plant after its original federal license expires this year infringed on the federal government’s authority to regulate nuclear safety. For its part, Leonard said Entergy is confident that the lower court’s ruling will stick. The company is looking at ways to recover attorney’s fees from the state, and Leonard highlighted language in the judge’s decision saying there was no evidence that Entergy acted in bad faith in its dealings in Vermont.Leonard also anticipated a long legal process for the license extension at the Indian Point plant in New York. Legal challenges to the plant’s operations are working their way through state water quality authorities, the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Litigation before the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation began in October, and hearings before the ASLB are expected to begin in the third quarter of this year. If litigation drags on past the end of the original licenses in 2013 and 2015, Leonard emphasized the plant can continue to operate under NRC rules until the matter is resolved, which might be well into the license extension period the company is seeking in the first place.At the company’s other nuclear plants, executives noted Exelon’s fleet recorded a 93 percent capacity factor in 2011, including two scheduled refueling outages. A 178-megawatt uprate scheduled for this spring will make the currently 1,300 megawatt GE-6 reactor at Grand Gulf the largest single-unit plant in the country.
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