About a thousand people gathered in Brattleboro and 130 were arrested last Thursday in record heat to peacefully protest an equally hot topic – the continued operation of the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant.
“We have come peacefully to Entergy headquarters’ today with this message, your time is up,” one protester said.
The 130 anti-nuke protesters were arrested for trespassing once they stepped onto Entergy’s office property in Brattleboro.
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Vermont Yankee’s potential meltdown poses a huge threat to Keene State College, as Keene is within 20 miles of the reactor and within the planned evacuation zone.
“If Vermont Yankee melts down it affects all of us, we would be displaced from our homes, or worse, die from radiation sickness,” one KSC student at the protest stated.
Much like the Chernobyl meltdown in former U.S.S.R, a meltdown at Vermont Yankee could leave large areas of New England uninhabitable.
Entergy maintains their regional offices in Brattleboro, but the Vermont Yankee plant is in Vernon, Vt.
While the march to Entergy’s offices included bands of musicians, demonstrations by acting troupes, and people on stilts, the message to Entergy was serious.
“Hell no, we won’t glow,” one protester sign said.
Entergy’s operated the 40-year-old nuclear power plant since 2002, but polls have a majority of Vermonter’s calling for the aging plant to be decommissioned.
“It’s a threat to people who live nearby,” Frances Crowe, 93-year-old anti-nuke activist said.
In 2010, the Vermont Senate voted 26 to 4 against renewing Vermont Yankee’s operating license.
Vermont law prohibits the operation of the plant after its certificate of public good expired on Thursday, which according to the purchase and sale agreement of the nuclear plant is required.
In March of 2011, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission renewed Entergy’s license to operate the plant.
On April 4, 2011 Entergy sued the state of Vermont to remain operating Vermont Yankee, despite the Vermont Senate’s previous decision to close the plant.
The Vermont Yankee plant was commissioned on November 30, 1972 and now a new planned decommission date of March 21, 2032.
The Vermont Yankee plant is identical in design to the Fukushima plant where three reactors melted down, and although earthquakes and tsunamis aren’t typical New England weather patterns the already 40-year-old plant is plagued with structural and maintenance issues. In 2008, one of the cooling towers collapsed.
In 2010, the Environmental Protection Agency sampled groundwater around the plant and Tritium, a radioactive isotope, was discovered to be leeching into the ground through underground steam pipes.
It was these steam pipes that the vice-president of plant operations “did not believe to be radioactively contaminated,” when addressing Vermont’s Public Service Commission in May of 2009.
Entergy has refused to add money to the reactor’s clean-up fund, potentially leaving Vermonters with most of a $1 billion dollar clean-up bill in addition to the nuclear waste that is being stored on the banks of the Connecticut River, according to vpirg.org, Vermont’s voice website.
In January of 2012, Judge J. Garvan Murtha issued an order preventing Vermont from closing the nuclear plant because of the need to store more nuclear waste.
“Denying additional spent fuel storage would be enacted with a preempted purpose, and would force Vermont Yankee to shut down, depriving Entergy of revenues and leading to the loss of vital employees without the ability to recover,” Murtha wrote in a statement.
“I am very supportive of the peaceful protesters gathered today in Brattleboro to express their – and my – frustration that this aging plant remains open after its agreed-upon license has expired,” Vermont governor Peter Shumlin said.
Tom MacLennan can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.