This blog was written by Sara Barczak, former Regional Advocacy Director with the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.Guest Blog | February 27, 2010
The so-called “Nuclear Renaissance” touted by proponents hit a brick wall recently when the Vermont State Senate voted 26-4 to prevent the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant from operating past 2012. This bi-partisan blow occurred just a week after President Obama announced $8.3 billion in controversial nuclear loan guarantees for Southern Company’s proposed two new reactors at Plant Vogtle in Georgia.
Vermont law requires that both the House and Senate must approve whether the plant can operate past the original closure date of 2012. As reported in the New York Times article, this is the first time in 20 years that the public or it’s representatives have voted to close a nuclear plant. Entergy, the plant operator, applied for a license renewal from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission to extend the operating license by an additional 20 years. But the aging Vermont Yankee plant, one of the oldest operating, has suffered a series of serious setbacks — radioactive contamination leaking into the environment, structural problems, a severely underfunded decommissioning reserve and safety concerns. The leaking of tritium, which can harm human health, in particular increased public opposition against the plant — a problem experienced by many operating nuclear reactors across the country. On the same day as the Vermont Senate vote, NRC Chairman Gregory Jackzo issued a stern statement about the NRC investigating further into Entergy’s licensing activities.
The Administration says more taxpayer-financed nuclear loan guarantees are going to be announced and hope that $36 billion more will be approved for the controversial program, bringing it to a total of $54.5 billion. But perhaps this setback in Vermont will give Congress and others pause on whether it’s wise to reward a mature and plagued nuclear industry.