Renewable energy group to hold forum on Vermont Yankee

MIDDLEBURY — A public forum about the future of the Vermont Yankee nuclear power station will be held on Monday, June 20, beginning at 7:30 p.m. at the Middlebury Congregational Church in downtown Middlebury. Sponsored by the Citizens Awareness Network (CAN) — a New England-based nonprofit dedicated to a renewable energy-focused economy — a panel of experts and activists opposed to nuclear power will outline how citizens can get involved with the shutting down and cleaning up of Vermont Yankee.
CAN, which was involved with the decommissioning of the Connecticut Yankee nuclear reactor, has held several public forums across Vermont this year to explain how the state can control its energy future if it is proactive. The network has a strong background in public advocacy and policy enforcement, having previously won a lawsuit against the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
“We won a lawsuit against the NRC for not following their own regulations (at Yankee Row nuclear power plant in Row, Mass.),” said CAN Executive Director Deb Katz. “They didn’t have full documentation about what they were going to do as part of the cleanup, and they didn’t do a national environmental policy review that has to do with national standards for cleanup.”
If the state of Vermont wins its lawsuit against Entergy Nuclear Vermont Yankee LLC, the owners of Vermont Yankee, to shut the plant down, Katz is concerned about how nuclear material will be dealt with. She has little faith in the NRC’s ability to keep the public safe from nuclear disaster.
“The state government really has to be involved, but there are limitations about how and when they can be involved and that’s part of what we want to communicate,” she said.
“The state can’t be involved with decommissioning choices (how a reactor is dismantled falls under the NRC’s jurisdiction), but they can set stricter standards for site cleanup … There are ways that the state can be involved to protect the people of Vermont, but they need to deal with this ahead of time to be prepared for the process … what we have here is an opportunity to actually drive the process in terms of making Yankee accountable.”
If Entergy waits years to clean up Vermont Yankee, Katz warns, “there’s a potential that taxpayers could get stuck with the bill and that nuclear waste could be there for decades or even centuries.”
Katz concedes that there is an issue of replacement power that Vermonters will need to address, but she believes that there are many environmentally healthy alternatives.
“Most of the technology is there to make it happen, but the nuclear industry is subsidized, the coal industry is subsidized and the oil industry is subsidized much more than the renewable energy industries are,” said Katz.
“There has to be a revolution in the way that people think about (energy) and the way that the government does business, which is not just to give into powerful lobbyists that fund their campaigns.
“In Vermont it doesn’t happen that way, which presents an enormous opportunity to make this revolution happen.”
Reporter Andrew Stein is at [email protected].

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