For Immediate Release
Paul Gunter, 301.523.0201 (mobile) 301.370.2209 (o) Kevin Kamps, 240.462.3216
After Decades of Opposition, Fukushima-style Vermont Yankee Reactor to Close
But 22 of the same design still pose daily risk in the US
TAKOMA PARK, MD - After decades of public protest and a 2010 vote by the State of Vermont to close its troubled single-unit reactor, Entergy’s Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant will close next year.
Almost identical in design to the Japanese Fukushima Daiichi reactors that exploded and melted down in an unending catastrophe that began on March 11, 2011, Vermont Yankee, a GE Mark I boiling water reactor, will close 18 years before its current license expires. Vermont Yankee is the fifth US nuclear power reactor to close this year but the first of the country’s 23 operating Fukushima-style reactors to permanently shut down.
“This is a huge victory for democracy after a long struggle by New Englanders for a safe energy future free from the shadow of this dangerous and costly nuclear power reactor,” said Paul Gunter, director of reactor oversight for Beyond Nuclear. “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,” he concluded.
The State of Vermont currently buys none of Vermont Yankee’s electricity, and the 600 megawatts it provides to other New England states, a 2% contribution to the region’s grid, could easily be replaced with simple energy efficiency measures.
Entergy’s CEO, Leo P. Denault, had signaled the likely demise of some of its reactor fleet in February when he said that “near-term power prices are challenging for some merchant nuclear generating units” and that one reason was “the investment required to maintain the safety and integrity of the plants.” The company slashed 800 nuclear jobs in July including 30 at Vermont Yankee.
“Entergy’s decision to shut Vermont Yankee early is yet another indication that these degrading and failing old reactors are too risky and expensive to operate,” said Kevin Kamps, radioactive waste specialist at Beyond Nuclear. “The safety issues at reactors like Vermont Yankee are so profound that it is now cheaper for the owners to close them. This is a trend that must continue in the interest of public safety.”
Vermont Yankee joins a steady cascade of nuclear dominoes in recent months.
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In February, the Crystal River reactor in Florida was the first to fall when owner Duke Energy announced its permanent closure after more than three years off line. Three months later, the Kewaunee reactor in Wisconsin was permanently shut down by owner Dominion. Warren Buffet’s MidAmerican Energy abandoned plans for new reactors in Iowa in favor of installing wind farms.
Plans to build new reactors in South Texas and North Carolina were abandoned in April.
The Paducah uranium enrichment facility in Kentucky was permanently shuttered on June 1st. This was quickly followed by Southern California Edison’s decision not to re-start its two idled reactors at San Onofre in Southern California.
In July, the giant French utility, Électricité de France, which had hoped to build a third reactor at the Calvert Cliffs nuclear power plant in Maryland, and as many as six more elsewhere in the US, announced it was withdrawing from all nuclear expansion projects in the US.
And in August, Duke Energy said it would abandon plans to build two new nuclear reactors in Levy County, Florida.
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Beyond Nuclear aims to educate and activate the public about the connections between nuclear power and nuclear weapons and the need to abandon both to safeguard our future. Beyond Nuclear advocates for an energy future that is sustainable, benign and democratic.