Nuke opponents vow to fight on

Environmental groups gathered today at the Statehouse for what was supposed to be Vermont Yankee’s “retirement party,” hosted by VPIRG. Instead, legislators and citizens promised to continue their efforts to shut down the nuclear power plant.

Rep. Tony Klein, chair of the House Committee on Natural Resources and Energy, tried to put a positive spin on what he described as an uphill battle for the state.

“The happy thing I can say is that we have been as successful as we could in terms of having a state speak for itself and determine its own future when it comes to issues like this. So we have done our job,” Klein said to the group of about 30 in the Cedar Creek Room in the Statehouse.

“Was there disappointment? Yes. There was disappointment. Was there surprise? No. There was no surprise that the federal courts would rule in our favor. I never entertained real hope that that was going to occur.”

The Public Service Board will be the likely focus of activists’ future efforts because its approval is necessary for the plant’s continued operation, though its corporate owner Entergy won the most recent round of court battles in the state’s attempts to shut it down.

Tonight the plant’s certificate of public good expires, and it will be in legal limbo if it continues to operate. However, federal Judge J. Garvan Murtha said Vermont Yankee may continue operations as the PSB deliberates on whether to renew its license for the next 20 years.

Jamey Fidel, general counsel and forest and biodiversity program director at the Vermont Natural Resource Council, said the VNRC is aiming to reopen the certification proceeding because of new evidence of groundwater contamination and thermal discharge leaks into the Connecticut River.

Chris Williams, a member of Vermont Citizens Action Network, said another hope for nuclear-free Vermont could lie in Entergy’s board of directors if it found the costs too high to continue operating Vermont Yankee.

“Most of the reactors that have been retired in this country have been retired by the directors of the corporations, and they’ve been retired for the most part for economic reasons,” Williams said.

Williams estimated almost half a billion dollars in costs to keep the Vermont Yankee reactor running, which includes upgrading its condenser and emergency response systems, as well as the cost of its new license.

Ned Childs, a member of the anti-nuclear group New England Coalition, who took a more negative view of Entergy, said best bet would be if the regulatory and legal process were “allowed to proceed without excessive meddling from industry or corrupt regulators.”

“No one can argue that the public has been repeatedly misled, lied to, and extorted by a bullying industry … This is not only a David and Goliath story; it is really the story of Faust, where a deal was made with the devil on all of our behalfs while an innocent nation in fact slept.”

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