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License Renewal Vote Says More About NRC Than Vermont Yankee

by Jim Riccio

March 11, 2011

Yesterday, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) decided to end the legal proceeding on the license renewal for the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant and said that the agency expects to issue the renewed license soon.

While discouraging, this should not come as a surprise.  The NRC has renewed every reactor license since Yankee Rowe withdrew its application in the early ‘90s and threw the nuclear industry’s efforts to run aging reactors another 20 years into chaos. 

So why did Yankee Rowe withdraw and Vermont Yankee receive NRC approval?
Simple, after Yankee Rowe shut down the NRC gutted its renewal rule.  Yankee Rowe had to prove that it met the original terms of its operating license; not so Vermont Yankee.  Entergy merely had to prove that it had a program to manage the aging reactor.

Now you might think that the series of screw ups at the reactor: the turbine fire, the cooling tower collapse and the never ending leaks of radiation into groundwater, would give the Commission reason to question running the reactor another 20 years.  But NRC’s rubberstamp of this old and leaking nuclear reactor says more about the Commission and its deference to the nuclear industry than it does about the battle over Vermont’s energy future.  The NRC ‘s standard for renewal is now so lax that the Commission could relicense the Chicago Pile.

(Chicago Pile was the first nuclear reactor built on a rackets court, under the stands of  Stagg Field stadium, at the University of Chicago)

So while the Vermont Senate voted 26 to 4 denying Vermont Yankee the right to operate past March 2012. The nuclear bureaucrats in Washington have approved 20 more years of nuclear mishaps for Vermonters. The people of Vermont have spoken, Entergy is no longer welcome to split atoms at Vermont Yankee.  Greenpeace will stand with Vermonters to oppose Entergy’s plans to continue operating this dangerous and unnecessary nuclear reactor for another twenty years.

Jim Riccio

By Jim Riccio

Jim Riccio served as Greenpeace’s Nuclear Policy Analyst from 2001 to 2017 and has over two decades of nuclear activist experience. He has been quoted in the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, and Boston Globe, and has appeared on ABC News, NBC News, Al Jazeera, CNN, the Discovery Channel and the History Channel.

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