Four-decade old nuclear plant Vermont Yankee closing its doors

by Mark Floegel

August 27, 2013

Vermont residents and activists join a Greenpeace rally outside the Statehouse, following a vote by Vermont Senate to retire the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant in 2012. Vermont is unique in that it is the only state in which the legislature has the ability to vote to shut a plant and this historic vote will mark the first time a nuclear plant has been closed by a state legislature.

© Basil Tsimoyianis / Greenpeace

Vermont residents and activists join a Greenpeace rally outside the Statehouse,

Vermont residents and activists join a Greenpeace rally outside the Statehouse

In yet another blow to the mythical nuclear renaissance, Entergy Corporation announced Tuesday that Vermont Yankee, its troubled Fukushima-like nuclear plant on the bank of the Connecticut River in Vernon, Vermont will close in late 2014.

Vermont will now be a nuclear-free state.

This is a victory for activists who mounted a four-decade campaign of resistance to the plant, since it first split atoms in 1972. Greenpeace joined the battle in the 21st century, but the battle in this case was truly won by the people united. Citizens Awareness Network, the New England Coalition, the Vermont Public Interest Research Group (VPIRG) and hundreds of individual citizen activists, marched, rallied, submitted expert testimony and fought for a clean, sustainable future for their children in the courts, the state legislature, on the streets and in the hills and hollows of Vermont.

As much as Entergy, based in New Orleans, tried to buy or bully support, it never worked. In February 2010, the state senate voted 26-4 to close the plant, a legislative determination later overturned by a federal judge as overreach (a decision affirmed by a federal appeals court earlier this month).

Greenpeace GOT members gather for canvasing instructions on Brattleboro, VT

Activists cant take all the credit. Low energy prices, resulting from a glut of cheap, fracked natural gas played a role, as did ham-handed management by Entergy (the company responsible for this years Super Bowl blackout). Having just spent $5 million in court fees defending Vermont Yankee, Entergy is now shutting the plant down and taking a $181 million charge on its balance sheet. (If Entergy cant even make money, why should they be trusted with the most dangerous substances on the planet?)

The news of Vermont Yankees shutdown comes on the heels of layoffs across Entergys nuke plants: fewer hands on the control rods because the bosses in New Orleans (Entergys HQ) cant manage to make a profit. At least the folks in Vermont will sleep easier if we can get through the next 14 months of this Fukushima-style reactor without another cooling tower collapse (2007), transformer fire (2004) or lost radioactive fuel rods (2010).

Homer Simpson: call your job counselor. Vermont citizens: rejoice. The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.

Read more about the dangers of nuclear energy plants.

Mark Floegel

By Mark Floegel

Mark Floegel is the Research Director with Greenpeace USA. A former journalist, he's been working in public interest advocacy for 30 years, with Greenpeace since 1989. In his current role, Mark helps determine long-range strategic direction for Greenpeace and the execution of Greenpeace campaigns.

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