Nuke Plant to Shut Doors: Environmental Victory But Vital Work Still Ahead
Communities celebrate, but demand corporate owners be held accountable for safe decomissioning process and 'just transition' for workers
In a victory for decades-old movements against nuclear power in Vermont, the state's only nuclear power plant will be permanently shuttered by the end of next year, corporate owner Entergy announced Tuesday.
As many celebrate the shutdown of the 'Vermont Yankee' nuclear plant, similar in design to the Japanese Fukushima Daiichi facility currently wreaking environmental and humanitarian havoc in Japan after a 2011 reactor explosion, environmental and workers' organizations acknowledge that the fight to ensure a safe decommissioning process and just transition for workers has only just begun.
"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."
The New Orleans-based owner of the 4 decades-old facility has been fighting against the state of Vermont since 2010, when the Senate struck down a measure that would have extended plant authorization by decades, citing concerns about the safety and age of the plant.
“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,” declared Paul Gunter, director of reactor oversight for Beyond Nuclear.
Entergy officials announced that the plant will cease production after it spends its current fuel cycle and decommission at the end of 2014, a process that will be overseen by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Once it ceases functioning, the plant will be in a state of "safe store" and remain shuttered as its radioactive components cool for up to 60 years, the AP reports.
The Vermont Yankee plant, which ships nearly all of its power to other New England states, is just one of many nuclear plants across the country shutting its doors as concerns about the dangers of nuclear power grow, Beyond Nuclear reports. Entergy slashed hundreds of jobs over the summer, and ultimately cited "economic performance" as the reason for the closure.
Environmental and worker organizations emphasize the importance of holding Entergy accountable throughout the decommissioning process. "We will remain vigilant to ensure that the decommissioning is done responsibly and in the safest way possible," declared Deb Katz of the Vermont Coalition Against Nukes. "Today, we celebrate this milestone in our work to end nuclear power generation in the Northeast and to foster a renewable energy future."
"It is going to be necessary to have accountability going forward," Kevin Kamps of Beyond Nuclear 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. The fight is on to make sure the cleanup is comprehensive."
Organizers with the Vermont Workers Center say Entergy must not just walk away from the harm done to a community that has already suffered the environmental effects of the plant that includes evidence of radioactive leaks into the ground and surface water.
"Entergy is a corporation that has made millions of dollars from our communities and its workers," declared the Vermont Workers Center in a previous statement. "We must hold Entergy accountable to fully fund the decommissioning of Vermont Yankee to make this process safe for our communities."
"We know our communities need both good jobs and a healthy environment," the statement continues. "We must transform public, economic, and environmental policy to put people and the planet first."