Greenpeace and Dr. Helen Caldicott underscores health impacts of Vermont Yankee

March 29, 2010

Jarred Cobb, Organizer-Burlington, (603) 770-8679
John Deans, Organizer-Rutland, (207) 319-6850
Molly Dorozenski, Greenpeace Media Officer, (646) 862-1509

Greenpeace and Dr. Helen Caldicott Highlight Health Impacts of Vermont Yankee
Community members, Dr. Helen Caldicott, and Greenpeace call for the closure of Vermont Yankee.

Burlington – This afternoon, Dr. Helen Caldicott, co-founder of Physicians for Social Responsibility and anti-nuclear activist, spoke in Burlington on the dangers of nuclear energy. She took specific aim at Vermont’s aging nuclear reactor in Vernon–Vermont Yankee–and the reasons why it is not safe to operate past its scheduled closing date in 2012. Dr. Caldicott was joined by Susan Ritz, a member of the Vermont Natural Resources Council board and a Montpelier resident, who told an impassioned story of her experience being in the fall out zone of Chernobyl. Jarred Cobb, a Burlington-based organizer with Greenpeace also spoke.

Vermont Yankee is one of the oldest and most dangerous nuclear facilities in the country. It has released tritium, cesium, manganese and zinc into the surrounding soil through its most recent leak, and 300,000 gallons of contaminated water will have to be taken care of at the next re-fueling outage.  It is clear that Entergy Louisiana can no longer be trusted to reliably operate Vermont Yankee past its scheduled retirement date of 2012.

Tritium has been of particular concern and is the primary contaminant in the recent leak at the plant. Despite Entergy’s assurances that the recent leaks pose no public health or safety risks and their attempt to pass off the substance as “low level,” the scientific evidence shows otherwise. “Tritium cannot be contained,” said Dr Caldicott, “It is highly mutagenic and can actually be incorporated into the DNA molecule.” Tritium is a radioactive isotope of hydrogen that, once absorbed, can stay in a person’s body for 650 days. It has been shown to affect DNA, cause cancer, and disrupt the development of fetuses.  Tritium was found in groundwater wells at Vermont Yankee at levels 37 times that of federal drinking water standards.

In February the state Senate voted 26-4 to not allow the plant to continue to operate past 2012, citing concerns over the plant’s safety and reliability and mistrust of Entergy. “Vermont is ready to move past this aging reactor and create a clean energy future that is truly safe and puts our money in the pockets of our friends and neighbors, not into those of out-of-state executives,” said Jarred Cobb, an organizer with Greenpeace.  “This week the House is expected to take up a bill that will deal with the costs of cleaning up the plant.  Greenpeace urges the House to echo the great work of the Senate and take the next step in protecting Vermonters by requiring Entergy to pay the full price of decommissioning and returning the site to a green field.”

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  • Micahel Godfrey

    I live in Virginia, in the South. The South does not have an engaged electorate willing to contest environmental degradation; New England does. The South’s rivers are ruined with vast useless impoundments in contrast with the Connecticut’s small, run-of-river hydro dams. The rest of the country looks to New England for environmental encouragement.

    Hurray for Vermont! God bless every flinty, gritty one of you. Make Entergy kill Vermont Yankee and haul it away — to Texas, along with the Hudson River’s PCBs.

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