VERNON -- Opponents to the continued operation of the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant filled its entrance Sunday.
With the plant near the end of a refueling outage, more than 150 people from Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York and Vermont held signs that read "we all live downwind from Vermont Yankee" and "NH stands with VT, shut down VY" demanding the plant's owner, Entergy, to decommission the plant by March 2012.
The protesters pledged to be at the plant's main gate every day until it closes, holding a sign counting down the days.
In April, Entergy filed a lawsuit against the state of Vermont claiming its attempt to forbid continued operation of the plant past March 21, 2012, infringes on the federal jurisdiction of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
Entergy was seeking a preliminary injunction which would prevent the state of Vermont from shutting the plant down until a final decision of the lawsuit has been resolved.
On July 18, Judge J. Garvan Murtha ruled that Entergy had failed to show that any irreparable harm would befall the company and denied its owners a preliminary injunction.
In 2002, when Entergy purchased the plant, it signed a memorandum of understanding with Vermont that included a number of conditions Entergy had to agree to prior to the sale. Entergy is arguing that two of those conditions -- that the Public Service Board has jurisdiction under current law to grant or deny approval of the plant's continued operation and that Entergy waive any claim it might have to federal preemption of any actions taken by the board -- are no longer valid due to two actions that occurred since the memorandum of understanding was signed.
The first, that the Legislature passed Act 160 in 2006, giving itself the authority to forbid the PSB from issuing a certificate of public good; and the second, that the Legislature's discussion whether to give permission to the PSB to issue the CPG was based on an area of review that is under the sole jurisdiction of the NRC -- safety of the plant.
Sponsored by the newly-formed Safe And Green Energy alliance, protesters asked Entergy CEO J. Wayne Leonard to start investing in job training for the plant's employees so that when the plant is shut down they will have another job in renewable energy.
"We really care about jobs and we know when this plant shuts down there's no one more important than (its employees)," one of the protesters said. "This plant needs to be decommissioned and cleaned up and we don't know how to do it."
The protesters' reasons for wanting the plant shut down varied and each wrote down why on a colored index card and hung it on a clothes line.
Alan Surprenant, a volunteer firefighter in Ashfield, Mass., said the plant shouldn't continue to operate past March 2012 and that he's concerned about something breaking down at the plant.
"If there was an evacuation, my pledge as a firefighter to protect public safety means I stay behind until everyone else is safe," he said.
Eleven-year-old Ella Deters of Shelburne Falls, Mass., said she was at the protest because nuclear power isn't good.
"The more I learn about nuclear power and the waste the more I don't like it," she said.
Last weekend about 30 people in support of the plant greeted the employees arriving for the night shift to thank those just leaving.