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Vermont No Longer Has a Nuclear Power Plant — but Still Uses Nuclear Power

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Published April 27, 2022 at 10:00 a.m.
Updated April 27, 2022 at 10:19 a.m.


The Vermont Yankee plant - COURTESY OF NUCLEAR REGULATORY COMMISSION
  • Courtesy of Nuclear Regulatory Commission
  • The Vermont Yankee plant

Readers of the venerable New York Times surely spotted the paper's recent feature on Burlington-based electric aviation company Beta Technologies.

The initial version of the story, though, may have tripped up Green Mountain State readers, who came upon the curious claim that Vermont uses the most nuclear power of any state. That hasn't been true since the 2014 closure of the Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Station in Vernon, and the Times quickly corrected the record. 

But anyone who thinks they're now enjoying nuclear-free electrons should think again. 

A few years before the plant closed, Green Mountain Power, the state's largest electric utility, inked a deal to buy power from the nuclear power plant in Seabrook, N.H. A handful of small local power utilities followed suit. 

GMP's deal, which expires in 2034, means 32 percent of the electricity its customers use is from nuclear power. Statewide, that figure is 28 percent. 

So how much green energy does the Green Mountain State really use, anyway? 

The state's electricity portfolio is considered 94 percent carbon-free, in part because nuclear energy, for all its faults, is one of the lowest-carbon energy sources available, on par with wind but far more reliable. That's why some climate advocates, including Bill McKibben, are rethinking their past opposition to nuclear power.

But while it's carbon-free, nuclear power is not considered renewable because generating it relies on a finite supply of uranium. Just 69.5 percent of the state's electricity is considered renewable, according to Vermont's 2022 Comprehensive Energy Plan. Some even question the legitimacy of that claim, given how much of the state's energy comes from dams in Canada that displaced Native people, as well as from inefficient wood-burning power plants in Burlington and Ryegate. 

But when GMP transitions to 100 percent renewable energy by 2030, it'll have to wean itself — and us — off its potent Seabrook juice. 

The original print version of this article was headlined "Going Nuclear"