After a long struggle, the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant near Brattleboro is slowing shutting down and will cease to split atoms on December 29th. Congratulations to the people of Vermont! Their steadfast efforts over decades made this victory a reality and now there is one less General Electric Mark I reactor, the same design as those that melted down and exploded in Fukushima, threatening New England.
John F. Kennedy once said the “Victory has a thousand fathers ….” This one had a mother and a lot of aunts and uncles too. I cannot mention Vermont Yankee or Yankee Rowe for that matter without lauding my friend and colleague Deb Katz and the Citizen’s Awareness Network. (CAN) Deb and CAN understood that the restructuring of the electricity market offered Vermonters an opportunity to have a say in the fate of Vermont Yankee. They got Vermont the vote that precipitated this shutdown. By the time the Vermont Senate voted on Vermont Yankee the decision to shut it down was almost unanimous. The Senate vote was 26 to 4.
When Greenpeace and other groups like VPIRG entered the fray over the VY vote, I told my colleagues that Entergy, the New Orleans based corporation that had taken over operation of Vermont Yankee, was going to help us shut it down. But even I could not predict the extent of the incompetence and duplicity displayed by Entergy that helped seal this victory. From the collapse of the Vermont Yankee cooling tower, to the leaking of radioactive hydrogen into the groundwater, to the utter ignorance of Entergy executives who then lied about Vermont Yankee not having underground pipes; Entergy has no one to blame but themselves for the loss of their nuclear generation in Vermont.
Also, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the efforts of Governor Peter Shumlin (D) and his administration. Their tenacity and willingness to fight for the people of Vermont in court and in the public arena helped ensure the shutdown vote stuck.
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.
If that’s the case, so be it. If the corporations that run reactors cannot afford the post Fukushima fixes they should shut down their plants, secure the deadly radioactive wastes and ensure that the site is cleaned up. NRC Commissioners are supposed to regulate nuclear power and protect the public health and safety. Instead, they have done their best to hamstring efforts of their own staff who are working to ensure that Fukushima never happens here. Rather than treating their staff with the respect they deserve, NRC middle management do their level best to shoot the messenger. It is due to this reality that the people of Vermont took the fate of Vermont Yankee into their own hands and shut it down and all of New England is safer for it.
No Nukes! And best wishes for a nuclear free new year.