In yet another blow to the mythical “nuclear renaissance,” Entergy Corporation announced Tuesday that Vermont Yankee, its troubled Fukushima-like nuclear plant on the bank of the Connecticut River in Vernon, Vermont will close in late 2014.
Vermont will now be a nuclear-free state.
This is a victory for activists who mounted a four-decade campaign of resistance to the plant, since it first split atoms in 1972. Greenpeace joined the battle in the 21st century, but the battle in this case was truly won by the people united. Citizens Awareness Network, the New England Coalition, the Vermont Public Interest Research Group (VPIRG) and hundreds of individual citizen activists, marched, rallied, submitted expert testimony and fought for a clean, sustainable future for their children in the courts, the state legislature, on the streets and in the hills and hollows of Vermont.
As much as Entergy, based in New Orleans, tried to buy or bully support, it never worked. In February 2010, the state senate voted 26-4 to close the plant, a legislative determination later overturned by a federal judge as overreach (a decision affirmed by a federal appeals court earlier this month).
Activists can’t take all the credit. Low energy prices, resulting from a glut of cheap, fracked natural gas played a role, as did ham-handed management by Entergy (the company responsible for this year’s Super Bowl blackout). Having just spent $5 million in court fees defending Vermont Yankee, Entergy is now shutting the plant down and taking a $181 million charge on its balance sheet. (If Entergy can’t even make money, why should they be trusted with the most dangerous substances on the planet?)
The news of Vermont Yankee’s shutdown comes on the heels of layoffs across Entergy’s nuke plants: fewer hands on the control rods because the bosses in New Orleans (Entergy’s HQ) can’t manage to make a profit. At least the folks in Vermont will sleep easier if we can get through the next 14 months of this Fukushima-style reactor without another cooling tower collapse (2007), transformer fire (2004) or lost radioactive fuel rods (2010).
Homer Simpson: call your job counselor. Vermont citizens: rejoice. The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.