MONTPELIER — Confidential talks between the administration of Gov. Phil Scott and the owner and would-be owner of the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant have made progress in resolving the state’s concerns about the sale. In a series of filings this week with the Public Utility Commission, plant owner Entergy Nuclear and would-be owner NorthStar Group Holdings asked state regulators for more time to reach an agreement with representatives of the Department of Public Service, the Agency of Natural Resources and the attorney general's office. While “no memorandum of understanding or settlement agreement has yet been signed,” Entergy Nuclear and NorthStar said they “are hopeful that such a signing will occur within a short period of time.” It is also possible, they cautioned, that negotiations may fall apart. Both sides in the nuclear plant sale dispute had already successfully asked the PUC to cancel evidentiary hearings in the case that were slated to start Monday in Montpelier, and last about two weeks. A public hearing on the plant's sale was also postponed because of the confidential talks. The PUC Thursday morning cancelled a status conference between the parties regarding the sale and negotiations scheduled for later that day, and rescheduled it for Feb. 5. The state also said it was too soon to reschedule the public hearing. The Scott administration and the Vermont Attorney General’s Office have raised concerns about NorthStar’s ability, from a financial standpoint, to decommission Vermont Yankee and then handle its highly radioactive spent nuclear fuel, which is expected to remain in Vernon for decades. The fuel is being transferred to air-cooled concrete and steel caskets, instead of the five-story spent fuel pool located in the Yankee reactor building. Jim Porter, director of advocacy for the Vermont Department of Public Service, could say little Friday while negotiations were underway. “I hate to comment even generically about negotiations or where we are procedurally right now,” he said. “I don’t think I’d characterize it as unusual,” he said, referring to the last-minute negotiations prior to the formal hearings before the PUC. Entergy Nuclear and NorthStar are also talking to environmental groups including the New England Coalition and the Conservation Law Foundation that have legal standing in the case, according to an order issued about the case on Thursday by the PUC. “Negotiations concerning an amended proposal of the joint petitioners ‘have proceeded in earnest’ and are continuing,” according to the PUC statement. Michael Twomey, vice president of external affairs for Entergy Wholesale Commodities, declined to comment on the status of the negotiations beyond the company’s filings. The PUC told all sides to provide a status report by Feb. 1.  

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