HOUSTON -- Entergy Corp. will permanently shut its Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant in 2014 after battling for years with state officials to keep the 41-year-old reactor in service.
The decision to shut Vermont's only operating reactor was based on natural gas prices, the high cost of running the single-unit plant and "artificially low" power prices in the region, New Orleans-based Entergy said in a statement Tuesday.
"The plant was no longer financially viable," said Entergy chairman and CEO Leo Denault in a phone interview.
Vermont Yankee is the fifth U.S. nuclear reactor this year to be scheduled for permanent closure, the highest-ever annual total, as power prices have slumped amid booming natural gas production. Reactors also face higher maintenance costs from stricter regulations following Japan's 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster. Nuclear units in New Jersey, California, Wisconsin and Florida are being shut, reducing the U.S. total to 99 from 104.
Wal-Mart family benefits
NEW YORK -- Wal-Mart Stores Inc. will now allow workers' same-sex partners to participate in its company health benefits, bringing policies at the largest private employer in the U.S. in line with most of the nation's top businesses.
Full-time associates' spouses and domestic partners will be eligible for coverage in medical, dental, vision, life, critical illness and accident plans, the Bentonville, Ark.-based company said in a postcard to employees this week that was provided to Bloomberg news service.
Army gunman rests case
FORT HOOD, Texas -- The Army psychiatrist who fatally shot 13 people at Fort Hood decided not to present any evidence during his trial's penalty phase on Tuesday even though jurors are deciding whether to sentence him to death.
Prosecutors hope emotional testimony from victims' relatives helps convince jurors to hand down a rare military death sentence against Maj. Nidal Hasan, who was convicted last week for the 2009 attack that also wounded more than 30 people at the Texas military base.
Closing arguments are scheduled for today, but whether jurors will hear from Maj. Hasan remains unclear. He has been acting as his own attorney but has put up nearly no defense since his trial began three weeks ago.
Naval Academy scandal
WASHINGTON -- A hearing on rape allegations against three former U.S. Naval Academy football players got underway Tuesday morning at the Washington Navy Yard, with a female midshipman facing her alleged assailants for the first time in a legal proceeding.
The hearing comes at a time the military's ability to police sexual violence within its ranks is under intense scrutiny. The Defense Department estimated that 26,000 service members were the targets of unwanted sexual contact last year, although only 3,374 incidences of sexual assault were reported, the Pentagon said in May.
Firefighters report progress
TUOLUMNE CITY, Calif. -- Firefighters gained some ground Tuesday against the huge wildfire burning forest lands in the western Sierra Nevada, including parts of Yosemite National Park.
The 11-day-old blaze expanded to about 280 square miles, partly due to back burning by crews, but containment jumped to 20 percent.