Residents throughout New England have reason to celebrate on Monday as Vermont Yankee, the sole nuclear power plant in the state of Vermont, powers down for the final time after years of grassroots organizing and political opposition.
The owners of Vermont Yankee, the Entergy corporation, had fought hard to extend the license of the plant, but a series of accidents in recent years and a pronounced campaign against the extension took place in the streets and within the state legislature ultimately overwhelmed those efforts. Earlier this year, citing economic reasons, Entergy announced it would shutter the plant by the end of the year.
As an editorial published by the local SentinelSource, in neighboring Keene, New Hampshire, explained on Sunday:
Sometime Monday, workers at Vermont Yankee will begin the process of powering down the four-plus-decades-old, single-reactor nuclear power plant — a routine procedure by and large.
But this time, the plant will not be brought back online.
Not tomorrow, not the next day, not next week — never.
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In a blog post for Greenpeace USA, nuclear analyst Jim Riccio offered his congratulations to the people of Vermont, crediting the "steadfast efforts over decades" of Vermonters to make "this victory a reality."
Though the plant will power down and no longer supply energy to the electricity grid, it will likely be decades before it is fully decommissioned. As the Boston Herald reports, "Now the plant moves toward decades of mothballing while its radioactive components cool and its decommissioning fund grows. It's expected to cost nearly $1.25 billion to dismantle the plant. The fund now has about half that."
Riccio points out that the Vermont Yankee plant is a General Electric Mark I reactor, the same design as those that melted down and exploded in Fukushima, Japan in 2011. And though Vermont Yankee's closure marks a clear victory, Ricchio emphasized that an enormous amount of work remains to be done before those pushing for a safe and renewable energy future can truly rest.
He wrote, "So there will be one less Fukushima-type reactor in the U.S. come the New Year. That is certainly something worth celebrating. Unfortunately, there are still dozens of GE designs that are just as deadly and vulnerable throughout the U.S. and some are still being run into the ground by Entergy. Sadly, despite the efforts of green groups to ensure that the lessons of Fukushima have been learned by the nuclear industry and their regulators, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is backing off post Fukushima fixes at reactors around the country due to fear that added regulatory costs would topple more nuclear plants."
On January 3rd, local anti-nuclear groups and residents plan to celebrate with a party at the St. James Episcopal Church in Greenfield, Massachusetts.