Closing of Vermont’s Only Nuclear Power Plant Ends Decades-Long Battle by Nuclear Opponents

Thursday, August 29, 2013
Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Station 2007 cooling tower collapse (photo: Vermont Public Interest Research Group)

Vermont’s one nuclear power plant, which has been in operation since the Nixon administration, is finally closing, much to the delight of anti-nuclear activists.


Entergy, the owner of the Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Station, has tried for several years to receive approval from state lawmakers to extend the life of the plant. In 2010, the state Senate rejected legislation reauthorizing Vermont Yankee for decades more, citing concerns with the safety and age of the 41-year-old plant.


Many local residents have called for Vermont Yankee’s closure since Japan’s troubles with the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, which is similar in design. The Japanese facility has caused monumental environmental and humanitarian problems after being damaged in the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.


“Each day of news from the widening catastrophe in Japan brings a grim reminder that this design is inherently dangerous and fundamentally flawed, a known fact since the first day Vermont Yankee came on line in 1972,” Paul Gunter, director of reactor oversight for Beyond Nuclear, told Common Dreams.


Vermont Yankee has had its own accidents in recent years, including radioactive water leaks and the collapse of a cooling tower. Each of these incidents has fueled activists’ resolve in having the operation shut down.


Entergy cited “economic performance” as the reason for the closure of the facility, which also provides power to other New England states.


While lauding the news of Vermont Yankee’s pending closure, activists said their work is not over with regard to the upcoming decommissioning or the loss of employment by plant employees.


“We cannot treat these workers like they're disposable,” James Haslam of the Vermont Workers Center told Common Dreams. “The plant needs to be decommissioned in a way that promotes healthy community and healthy environment.”


Entergy said the plant will cease production after it spends its current cycle of nuclear fuel. Decommissioning should begin towards the end of 2014, although that does not mean the reactors will be dismantled anytime soon.


After it ceases producing electricity, the plant will be in a state of “safe store” and remain shuttered as its radioactive components cool for up to 60 years, according to the Associated Press.


“It is going to be necessary to have accountability going forward,” Beyond Nuclear’s Kevin Kamps told Common Dreams. “The regulations surrounding decommissioning in this country are woefully inadequate, and we are facing leaks of radioactive poisons into groundwater systems. Entergy has not put a single penny into these water systems.”

-Noel Brinkerhoff, Danny Biederman


To Learn More:

Nuke Plant to Shut Doors: Environmental Victory But Vital Work Still Ahead (by Sarah Lazare, Common Dreams)

Controversial Nuke Plant Will Close, Entergy Says (by Robert Kahn, Courthouse News Service)

Appeals Court Rules States cannot Shut Down Federally-Approved Nuclear Plants (by Matt Bewig, AllGov)

Federal Judge Says States Not Allowed to Regulate Nuclear Safety (by Noel Brinkerhoff and David Wallechinsky, AllGov)


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