Voters in more than two dozen towns say Vermont Yankee should close in 2012

03/04/09 6:34AM By John Dillon
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(Host) Voters in more than two-dozen towns say they don't want the state's only nuclear power plant to run for another 20 years.

The towns voted to ask the Legislature to reject Vermont Yankee's request to operate after its license expires in 2012.

VPR's John Dillon has more:

(Dillon) Vermont has an unusual state law that allows the Legislature to decide whether a nuclear plant can operate beyond it scheduled shutdown date.

Cynthia Johnson in the Washington County town of Calais urged voters to keep this law in mind.

(Johnson) ``This is a historic vote, coming before our Legislature. No other Legislature in the history of our country has had this ability to have a say-so to shut down a nuclear reactor.''

(Host) The debate in Calais touched on issues of nuclear safety, and the argument by some that the state needs more renewable energy.

Johnson said the Vermont Yankee plant has a lengthy history of mishaps.

But resident Conrad Smith disagreed. Smith said he has visited the Yankee plant, and saw workers who were dedicated to safety.

(Smith) ``I'm not saying that it's risk free, it certainly isn't although I have to say I've been inside this plant and I have to admit I was pretty skeptical spending the hours I was in there. But it has a culture of safety more than I've seen any place else in my life. It's just one personal observation from one place, but I can tell you I was impressed.''

(Host) But voters like Smith were scarce in many of the towns where the resolution was debated.

In Middlesex, Gerry Carlson said he was particularly concerned about the Entergy Corporation, the company that owns Vermont Yankee.

(Carlson) ``The company promised that they would fully fund that decommissioning fund. Right now, it's $400 million short of what will be needed to decommission that plant.''

(Dillon) The resolution urges the Legislature to require Entergy to show it has enough money set aside for decommissioning.

East Montpelier Democrat Tony Klein chairs the House Natural Resources and Energy Committee, which is debating the decommissioning bill. And Klein says he heard the voters' concerns.

(Klein) ``And that's a clear, loud message that I think that will help me deliver the message in the Statehouse that decommissioning is extremely important to the people of the state, and that they do understand it.''

(Dillon) Vermont Yankee spokesman Rob Williams said most Vermonters believe nuclear energy has to be part of the mix.

For VPR News, I'm John Dillon in Montpelier.

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