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© Greenpeace / Basil Tsimoyianis

In an historic decision, and after the tireless campaigning by local residents, Greenpeace and other pro-environment groups, the Vermont State Senate has voted this week to shut down the aging and dangerous Vermont Yankee nuclear reactor. The reactor’s owners Entergy’s had lobbied hard to extend the lifetime of the 40-year-old reactor, however the Vermont Senate voted to shut down the nuclear plant as scheduled in 2012.

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© Greenpeace / Basil Tsimoyianis

Poor Vermont Yankee was one of the more unloved pets of the nuclear industry, causing trouble and making a mess everywhere. It’s little wonder they’ve decided to end her (and the state of Vermont’s) suffering – she’s been a liability for years. We kept a close eye on her. What we’ve seen was hair-raising. The escape of radioactive particles during refuelling. In July 2008 the coolant system was leaking 60 gallons of water a minute. In 2007, rotting wood in the construction of one of the cooling towers caused it to collapse - further poor maintenance also led to a ‘reactor scram’ and shutdown in the same year.

The list goes on and on. Nuclear waste was put in casks that hadn’t been tested properly. A delivery of lead shielding from another nuclear site turned out to be ‘hot’ (radioactivity from it was found to have exceeded federal radiation levels). Metal fatigue was found in metal nozzles used to supply water and maintain the temperature in the reactor core.

The New England Coalition, a Brattleboro citizen organisation and nuclear watchdog group was nearly bankrupted due to the costs of bringing cases to the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board, the panel that acts as the judicial arm for the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The Burlington Free Press reports that this terrible state of affairs was ‘compounded by misinformation the company gave to legislators, sometimes under oath’. Senior staff were ‘disciplined, either reprimanded or placed on administrative leave’ including the Site Vice President. A massive shortfall in the reactor’s decommissioning budget means it looks like the US taxpayer is going to have to pay over another multi-million dollar nuclear bailout. Then earlier this year Vermont Yankee’s owners Entergy, after first trying to cover it up, admitted that radioactive tritium was leaking from the reactor and had reached the Connecticut River.

That’s one hell of a list. So farewell and good riddance Vermont Yankee. You will not be missed.

Along with the commitments by the Canadian authorities to shut six reactors at the Pickering nuclear plant, that brings the number of reactors listed this year to be shut down to seven. And it’s only February. With more and more new nuclear projects being postponed or cancelled and the designs for the new generation of reactors being found by inspection bodies across the world to be unreliable, untested, and unsafe, this so-called nuclear ‘renaissance’ is going nowhere.

Greenpeace USA: Vermont Senate vote shows that Obama's nuclear renaissance is dead on arrival