The owners of the aging Vermont Yankee Nuclear Plant announced the plant’s shut down by 2014, citing that the plant was no longer financially viable due to the lower costs of natural gas. The president of Entergy, Bill Mohl, dismissed the fact that the plant, built in 1972, has been the target of anti-nuclear demonstrations and court battles.
The Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant has been the subject of one of the longest and most intensive anti-nuke campaigns in the region. Even before the plant was constructed on the banks of the Connecticut River in 1972, anti-nuclear activists demonstrated against Vermont Yankee with a fervor that bordered on religious conviction.
Anti-nuke groups formed – the New England Coalition, Citizens Awareness Network, Shut It Down Affinity Group and the Safe and Green Campaign – and environmental organizations like VPIRG, the Vermont Natural Resources Council and the Conservation Law Foundation took up the cause, too. From the 1970s and 1980s and again in the early 2000s, Vermont Yankee attracted a wide range of activists who pressed for one ultimate goal: closing the plant.
When a new out-of-state owner – Entergy Corp. – purchased the Vernon plant for $180 million in 2002, and the facility began to age and show signs of deterioration (including the collapse of a cooling tower, a transmission fire and tritium leaks from underground pipes), activists ramped up the outrage, and eventually politicians – the state’s Democrats and Progressives – took up the cause, too. In 2010, Sen. Peter Shumlin, a Democrat from Windham County where the plant is located, engineered a vote in the Senate to deny Entergy an opportunity to extend its license to operate beyond a predetermined shutdown date of March 21, 2012.
The long fight to close the plant has had its political impact, as well, ousting the long reign of Republican in the governor’s mansion. In 2012, the popular Republican lieutenant governor, Brian Dubie, who supported the nuclear plant was defeated by Democrat Peter Shumlin. In the wake of the ongoing nuclear crisis from the Fukushima reactor, whose design is identical to Yankee Vermont, this is seen as a first step in the shut down of the other reactors of similar design.