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TMD: Vermont Yankee Update

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So far, 24 municipalities have passed a resolution asking lawmakers to reject recertification of the Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Plant after its operating license expires in 2012.

The resolution that petitioners placed on town meeting day warnings for about 40 municipalities around the state also required that lawmakers hold Entergy Corporation, the owner of the plant, fully responsible for the cost of shutting down Vermont Yankee.

One town, Topsham, rejected the resolution; Walden tabled it and Bolton stripped out two portions of the proposal.

Entergy, the New Orleans-based company that purchased Yankee in 2002, has permission to operate the 37-year-old reactor until 2012. It is seeking a new license to continue operating the plant until 2032. The legislature must decide, under state law, whether to approve a certificate of public good for the plant’s license extension. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission would grant the 20-year license to Entergy. The town votes are non-binding, but they are, as the editorial in today’s Brattleboro Reformer put it, “the closest thing to a statewide referendum we will see” on the issue.

The plant, located on the banks of the Connecticut River in Vernon, has been plagued with safety problems over the last few years including leaky valves, missing fuel rods and the collapse of a cooling tower cell.  

Spokesmen for the plant, Larry Smith and Rob Williams, said last week that Entergy officials would not be present for the town meetings where the resolution is under consideration. Yesterday, Smith reiterated the company’s stance on the issue: “We’re concentrating on what we do best, which is making 30 percent of Vermont’s electricity.”

The following towns passed the resolution today: Brookline, Calais, Charleston, Charlotte, Corinth, Dummerston, East Montpelier, Greensboro, Guilford, Halifax, Hinesburg, Holland, Marshfield, Newfane, Plainfield, Putney, Richmond, Townshend, Warren, Westfield, Westminster, Windham, Woodbury and Worcester.

In most towns, the resolution was presented in three parts: The first asks the legislature to recognize that Vermont Yankee accounts for 2 percent of New England’s power supply and that the electricity the plant generates can be replaced with renewable energy sources, energy conservation and excess power already available in the regional market; the second asks lawmakers to deny approval of the plant’s continued operation beyond March 2012; and the third holds Entergy responsible for the clean up of VY after it is shut down.

The town of Bolton rejected the first two portions of the resolution, but passed the third unanimously, according to Dan Dewalt the organizer for Replace VY, the group behind the grassroots petition drive.
In Worcester, the majority of voters passed the resolution after supporters made two brief comments. No one spoke up in support of Vermont Yankee at the meeting.

Peter Sterling, who helped to put the issue on the Worcester town warning, said, “There’s no place to put the waste. I felt we should tell the legislature to shut it down and find a new form of energy.”

In a voice vote from the floor of the Doty Memorial School gym, the majority of the roughly 100 Worcester residents boomed out a resounding, simultaneous yea. The nays were, by comparison, a murmured afterthought.

Topsham, on the other hand, defeated the resolution 36-34, and Walden tabled the issue and ultimately decided not to vote on it.

Full town meeting day results and a more in-depth look at what Vermonters said about the resolution at town meeting will be posted later tonight.

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