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Nuclear's Demise, From Fukushima to Vermont

ColumnAugust 29, 2013All Columns ⟶
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By Amy Goodman with Denis Moynihan

Welcome to the nuclear renaissance.

Entergy Corp., one of the largest nuclear-power producers in the United States, issued a surprise press release Tuesday, saying it plans "to close and decommission its Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Station in Vernon, Vt. The station is expected to cease power production after its current fuel cycle and move to safe shutdown in the fourth quarter of 2014." While the press release came from the corporation, it was years of people’s protests and state legislative action that forced its closure. At the same time that activists celebrate this key defeat of nuclear power, officials in Japan admitted that radioactive leaks from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear catastrophe are far worse than previously acknowledged.

"It took three years, but it was citizen pressure that got the state Senate to such a position" nuclear-energy consultant Arnie Gunderson told me of Entergy’s announcement. He has coordinated projects at 70 nuclear plants around the country and now provides independent testimony on nuclear and radiation issues. He explained how the state of Vermont, in the first such action in the country, had banned the plant from operating beyond its original 40-year permit. Entergy was seeking a 20-year extension. "The Legislature, in that 26-to-4 vote, said: 'No, we're not going to allow you to reapply. It’s over. You know, a deal’s a deal. We had a 40-year deal.’ Well, Entergy went to first the federal court here in Vermont and won, and then went to an appeals court in New York City and won again on the issue, as they framed it, that states have no authority to regulate safety." Despite prevailing in the courts, Entergy bowed to public pressure.

Back in 2011, Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin, who called Entergy "a company that we found we can’t trust," said on "Democracy Now!": "We’re the only state in the country that’s taken power into our own hands and said that, without an affirmative vote from the state legislature, the Public Service Board cannot issue a certificate of public good to legally operate a plant for another 20 years. Now, the Senate has spoken ... saying no, it’s not in Vermont’s best interest to run an aging, leaking nuclear-power plant. And we expect that our decision will be respected."

The nuclear-power industry is at a critical crossroads.

Click to read the rest of the column published at The Guardian.


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