Nuclear Waste Threatens Our Future

Nancy Braus of the Safe & Green steering committee has an excellent editorial in today’s Brattleboro Reformer. It is useful reading for anyone (hopefully YOU) planning on making a comment to the NRC Public Hearing on decommissioning on February 19.

You can read Nancy’s OpEd in full here.  She opens:

As Vermont Yankee is closing, local people are learning the ugly truth of nuclear energy — that the sites hosting nuclear reactors for four or five decades will probably be hosting high-level waste forever Those of us living in the region around the reactor should have a voice in the manner in which this waste is stored. However, according to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Entergy, a corporation with no long-term commitment to our region, will be making all the choices.

She goes on to explain the limited choices available to US nuclear sites and their disadvantages. It is discouraging that other countries have more secure methods.

Far more technically sophisticated casks are used in Germany, France, and Japan — casks with a thicker metal wall, and allowing for real time remote monitoring to alert those in charge of the waste should there be a pressure change , or another worrisome development. Why are these casks not even in use in the United States?

Entergy isn’t even using the best available US technology. Arnie Gundersen of Fairewinds Associates and Leslie Sullivan Sachs of Fairewinds and Safe & Green included a critique of Yankee’s dry casks in their comments on Entergy’s decommissioning report:

Entergy had the opportunity to buy earth bermed canisters. To save money, Entergy did a “fleet buy” of canisters that are designed to sit aboveground.  When Vermont Yankee Uprated its power, the fuel enrichment increased from 3-4% enriched fuel up to 5+%, higher enrichment fuel. In both cases, Entergy profited, but Vermonters were and will be impacted by higher radiation risks. High burn up fuel presents serious storage problems that were not analyzed when Entergy bought the cheapest casks.

The canisters Entergy has are not strong enough for HBF fuel rods to ride out an accident. If they leak, or if the DOE doesn’t pick them up in 30 years, there is no way to move spent fuel rods into new canisters without using a fuel pool. We would love to knock that building down but it may have to stay. What is Entergy’s Plan B if containers leak and there is no fuel pool?

The Keene Sentinel Editorial, Spent Nuclear Fuel is a Costly Proposition, looks at spent fuel in New England. With VT Yankee closing, “…there are nearly 6,000 spent nuclear fuel rod assemblies sitting around in New England from shuttered nuclear plants. And that doesn’t even count the waste from the active Millstone, Pilgrim and Seabrook plants.” And there is still no long term plan from the DOE for its final disposal.

onedaysonallthiswillbeyoursDry cask storage DONE RIGHT is one of Safe & Green’s talking points for Yankee Decommissioning. This is from our list of issues:

  • Getting the best dry casks available for the long term for the 910 tons of waste in the fuel pool and reactor core. Two others nukes are also looking at dry cask storage, San Onofre in California, and Pilgrim in Mass. They determined that a superior system is used in Germany, France, and Japan.
  • See Reports: Dry Cask Storage Issues, and Top 10 Reasons to Buy Thick Casks; and
  • a presentation to the NRC’s Waste Conference 11.19.14 (YouTube video) comparing the thin canisters we’re stuck with to the German version, which are monitored for radiation 24/7 and are fully enclosed in a secure building – not left out on a pad in the flood plain.
  • CAN info on waste storage:


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Adapting to Change

Nina Keller, a long-time anti-nuclear activist, is the author of this letter published in the Greenfield Recorder last week. We have heard the same questions and sentiments in the movement, but few have expressed them publicly. Thanks for getting it in print, Nina!

October 2012Letter: Adapting to change

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

On the same day, the Vermont Yankee Reactor was “unplugged,” the train through Greenfield was re-enstated. This is interesting irony.

When I read of Vernon officials, nuke workers and business owners complaining about how to adapt to the anticipated loss of revenue, I object. A judicious parent will teach a child to economize even a small allowance and how to plan spending and saving for some desired treasure.

We have known the reactor was to shut down for years. Can the town of Vernon plead innocent of that fore-knowledge? After 40 years of tax bounty, have the financial master minds of that town not planned ahead with rainy day funds? Have nuclear workers, paid far above the minimum wage, not done the same with their savings accounts and considerations of job changes? Farmers confront the unpredictability of crops and seasons every day. They have learned how to diversify so a chicken farmer begins to think creatively and opens a farm stand, initiates a compost service, a petting zoo, maple syrup products, woodworking talents, catering business …

In our changing environmental society, we can adapt and diversify, create different ways to use our skills, or belly ache when we don’t know how to fit in to a changing economy.

I truly empathize with any family that must relocate when they have established ties and comfort in a community. It is far easier to invent a new logo for a local T-shirt than to bemoan the loss of a radioactive logo currently sold at a Vernon shop. They have had a long time to think creatively. I hope they will not boast “High Level Radioactive Waste Capital of Vermont.”


Millers Falls

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NRC Hearing 02.19.15

At the request of the State of Vermont, the NRC has changed the date of its public meeting on Vermont Yankee decommissioning to February 19, from 6-9pm at the Quality Inn in Brattleboro. [1380 Putney Road. Take I-91 to Exit 3, head north on Route 5 and it is on your left.] Clarification by New England Coalition: NRC will be holding a Public Meeting, not a Public Hearing. In a meeting there is no test of truthfulness. In a hearing everything NRC says in under oath and on the record. NRC regulations require them to come hold this one public meeting on the PSDAR. 

Written comments should be submitted by March 23 to: Cindy Bladey, Office of Administration, Mail Stop: 3WFN-06-A44M, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Washington, D.C. 20555-0001, or via using Docket No. 50-271.

According to the Rutland Herald:

Sheehan said while the NRC does not formally approve the PSDAR, it will review it, the state’s comments and the public comments to make sure Entergy’s plans are “consistent” with federal regulations about decommissioning nuclear power plants.

He said the scope of the Entergy report was “sweeping,” covering topics as diverse as the condition of the Connecticut River to the cost of shipping its low-level radioactive waste.

“There’s a lot of ground to cover in that report,” he said, saying people coming to the hearing should have specific comments on the report…

Safe and Green, with the Citizens Awareness Network, will host a forum in February 9 to educate citizens in the issues for public comments, at Marlboro Graduate Center, Brattleboro. Click here for more info.

Please go to our Decommissioning Resources page for issues we have identified to date.

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Party On!

Wow! What a night! About 150 folks braved the wicked weather, filled the dance floor, hugged old friends, congratulated each other, and took to the dance floor in celebration of 42 years of working to shut down Vermont Yankee. If the weather hadn’t been so wicked bad, we are not sure how everyone would have fit!  If you missed it … or even if you didn’t … you can listen to a bunch of us sharing our stories on “Nuclear Hotseat,” a weekly national non-nukes radio show. Via cell phone, host Libbe LeHavy interviwed revelers from the Activist Alcove. The Nuclear Hotseat edited version is here, — Yankee UnPlugged interviews start at 12 minutes, after the weekly nuke news.  Libbe has given us her unedited, hour-long version which you can download and listen to as an MP3 podcast. What a gift! Enjoy!

The Greenfield Recorder had a reporter at the party. His story is here. Cecelia Tusinski is quoted saying, “We’ve worked so long, but it wasn’t just work. It was building community, these people actually like each other,” she said. “These are people who don’t just talk, they ‘do.’”

VY UnPlugged CakeThanks so much to all who do! 8 of us planned this shindig — our gratitude goes out to:

  • To the two dozen folks who set up the hall and Activist Alcove, hanging decades of banners and signs, getting food and drink out, babysitting the keg, manning the door, creating beautiful signs, creating the humming Activist Alcove, and schlepping lots and lots of stuff from the snowy parking lot into the halls.
  • To Harvey Schaktman for his fabulous slide & light show, taking us back in time
  • To Simba and John Sheldon for playing, schlepping equipment and braving the storm to bring us such joy
  • The Raging Grannies for opening the whole shebang with gusto
  • To the speed-speakers from CAN, the uranium mining country, Japan, Indian Point, Pilgrim, NEC, Beyond Nuclear, & NIRS
  • To folks who braved the weather, from Montpelier to the Berkshires to Cape Cod to NYC to DC and beyond, and all who hosted them overnight.
  • To all who closed the party singing “Auld Lang Syne” and “Bye Bye VY”
  • Amy’s Bakery Arts, People’s Pint, Klondike Sound, and Putney Coop for all their years of support, deep discounts, and overall yumminess
  • To all who donated at the door, for tee shirts, for Lionel’s book, and to the SAGE Alliance – thanks to you, we broke even!
  • AND a huge bear hug to all two dozen volunteers who stayed did a whirlwind job of cleaning up. No matter where you live, it was a long cautious drive home — you all are the heroes of the night.

The whole evening was a testament to how decades of working together has pays off. Folks stepped up and did what needed to be done, to create something we all said we wanted to happen.

 SO – we all know what needs to get done next, right? Time to switch from “shut it down” to CLEAN IT UP.


The snow won’t keep us down. Join us at the VT Yankee UnPlugged Party Tonight (01/03/15) in Greenfield, Mass to celebrate the shut down! Starts at 7:30pm at St. James Episcopal Church, 8 Church St. Dance your joy to music by Simba and John Sheldon, schmooze in our quiet “Activists Alcove.” Dessert & finger food pot luck, brews from the People’s Pint. $5-$20 donation to cover the party costs.

 The forecast is for snow starting around 7pm, going until midnight, then a wintry mix. So join us early – ending it early is our worst case scenario.

Between the dancing, from 9-9:30, speakers will bring us two minutes messages of solidarity …

* Paul Gunter, Beyond Nuclear

* Diane Turco from Cape Downwinders – fighting Entergy at the Pilgrim reactor in Plymouth, MA

* Leona Morgan of Dine No Nukes, New Mexico’s abandoned uranium mines

* Yuko Tonohiro, with messages from Japan

* Alfred Mayer from NY Physicians for Social Responsibility, calling for closure of Entergy’s Indian Point & Ginna reactors

* Kevin Kamps from Beyond Nuclear

* Tim Judson from NIRS

* Carol Levin, New England Coalition

* Chris Williams & Deb Katz of the Citizens Awareness Network

In the Activist Alcove:

Tabling by, New England Coalition, Dine No Nukes, Beyond Nuclear, Cape Downwinders, Mass. Stop the Pipeline, Safe & Green Campaign, Citizens Awareness Network and more.

Be part of an oral history  – talk by our cell phone with Nuclear Hot Seat, a weekly podcast, for a special edition on the successful fight to shut down Vermont Yankee

Lionel Delevingne has donated 50 of his books, To the Village Square, to support the cause. Visit with Anna Gyorgy, who wrote the intro, in the Activist Alcove and buy your copy for just $10!

Doug Ten Rose, activist/author, will be selling “Fearless Puppy on an American Road” and “Reincarnations from Common Sense”

VY Memorabilia: Tee Shirts, Bumper stickers & Lawn Signs

See you there!


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12:12 pm on 12.29.14

Vermont Yankee has officially powered down and is off-line …. forever.

Just let that sink in.Bye Bye VY Cake

Hundreds of articles, blog posts, and OpEds have been published about Yankee closing. Here’s a selection:


Entergy Press Release

The Guardian: “VT Shutters Nuke Plant to Make Way for Renewable Energy”

EcoWatch by Harvey Wasserman

Common Dreams by Jim Riccio, Greenpeace

Forbes: Why VY Closing Won’t Raise New England Power Bills by economist Mark Cooper

Greenfield Recorder collection of articles & OpEds, including “Closing Celebration” on VY Unplugged party

Keene Sentinel’s collection of articles & OpEds

National Geographic: VY Shutdown Punctuation New Reality for Nuclear Power

Newsweek VY Shut Down: US Still has No System for Waste

NY Times: VY Nuclear Plant Begins the Slow Process of Closing 01.05.15

CountPunch:  VT Yankee & All the Rest by JohnLaForge

If a Nuclear Plant Closes in VT, Does It Matter in Plymouth?

Socialist Workers: Good Riddance to VT Yankee by Steve Ramey

VPR on VT Yankee History & Legacy


Entergy full page ad 12.29.14

Entergy VY Close Full Page Ad



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Legacy of Lies

Every day we read misstatements in newspapers and blogs that make the poor nuclear industry and Entergy look like the victims in the decision to close Vermont Yankee. “The state sued Entergy” (fact: Entergy sued Vermont). “Vermont Yankee provides 1/3 of Vermont’s power” (fact: zero power for at least two years). “High electric rates due to Yankee closure” (fact: Yankee was 1% of the regional grid). Lately a new lie has emerged: “the government” shut down VY (fact: Entergy corporate gave it the pink slip because it was losing money).

Each time one paper or industry hack spins these lies, they are perpetuated by another reporter or blogger too lazy to do their own research.

Reporter Susan Smalheer of the Rutland Herald has covered Vermont Yankee news responsibly for decades. In this Sunday’s paper, she again does a public service by correcting these misconceptions in her article, “VT Yankee Set to Pull the Plug.”

P.S. On Monday, Ms. Smalheer will public a correction of one small error of her own: Leslie Sullivan Sachs still [enthusiastically] works for the Safe and Green Campaign. Leslie also is a proud member of the Fairewinds Energy Education crew.

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The End in Sight

In 48 hours, Vermont Yankee will no longer be smashing atoms. Entergy confirmed that it will shut down between 8am and Noon on December 29th (lots of news links below). Still crossing our fingers (who can trust their word?) but folks … it is looking good!

We will be Counting Down to Shut Down with VYDA in Montpelier tonight (12.27.14) at their pot luck party in Barre. Then on Saturday January 3rd, we will ring in a Nuclear Free New Year with you all at Vermont Yankee Un-Plugged in Greenfield. Two fabulous bands, fantastic slide shows, side room for activists tabling & talking, skits & songs, desserts and drinks. $5-20 donations welcome at the door. Many thanks to Lionel Delevingne, who has donated copies of his new book to help raise $ for the party. Volunteer: .

Entergy hosted the press Monday at their training center. The Brattleboro Reformer article reports on the chronology from shut down to Safstor, which begins January 19 when the reactor fuel is done moving into the pool, and the next round of employees is laid off or move to other reactors. The Commons has a story which quotes Entergy spokesman Marty Cohn: “VY is looking to become a model for decommissioning. ‘We’re literally writing the book.’” (He later says they’ll end evac planning early because that’s what all the other reactors have done. Guess that’s just a new edition of the same old book, Marty). The Times Argus touches on the emergency planning issue. WCAX-TV gives a video tour (looking like a techno step back in time). A New York Times OpEd on the shaky financial future of nuclear power led with Vermont Yankee closing. Greenpeace celebrates “one less General Electric Mark I reactor, the same design as those that melted down and exploded in Fukushima, threatening New England.

The NRC’s public hearing on decommissioning is January 28 (just five weeks away). So while we have lots to celebrate, there is still lots of work to be done. You can read our bullet point notes from the NDCAP meeting here from 12.18.14. The Times Argus article on NDCAP focused on money, and The Reformer noted that Entergy’s PSDAR decommissioning report wasn’t much different from its 2012 report. One highlight: The state of Vermont will actively oppose cutting off evacuation planning before all the fuel is moved out of the fuel pool. The Town of Brattleboro opposed in its comments on the PSDAR, and Gill and Greenfield are organizing to oppose it, with letters from their town officials. Do you live in the evacuation zone? We have Gill’s letter in the link above, if you want to use it as a model for your town.

Daniel Sicken re-wrote this “We Three Kings” for our Countdown to Closure caroling. As we sang it December 23, 2011, we hoped his last line would be true. At last, it is.

We who come from distant and near

Witness the threat to what we hold dear

With courage flowering and actions empowering

We will persevere!

Ohohh … nuke of cancer, nuke of blight,

Nuke that gives our children fright.

Structures creaking, always leaking

Now we see your end in sight!


Leslie Sullivan Sachs

For the Safe and Green Campaign






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One Quick Take on NDCAP 12.18.14

Last night’s meeting of the Nuclear Decommissioning Citizen Advisory Panel (NDCAP) was chock full of good news – and bad. First, the good news.

  • Chris Recchia, chair of NDCAP and Commissioner of the VT Dept. of Public Service, said that the state would be “actively opposing” Entergy’s request to the NRC for an exemption.
  • Two Massachusetts towns have taken action on the EPZ. Town officials in Gill and Greenfield are opposing the exemption request. Organize some friends, draft some language, and ask your town officials to sign a similar letter or pass a resolution. The letter submitted by Gill and contact info for Greenfield are in our “Towns take action of the EPZ post here.
  • The state’s Health Department, Agency of Natural Resources, and Public Service Department all submitted strong and thorough comments on Entergy’s Post Shut Down Decommissioning Activities Report (PSDAR). Our fears that the state would not have the time or resources to do so were put to rest. You can download the documents here. 
  • It is clear from the written comments, and intensity of the comments made at the meeting, that the state has woken up to how dangerous it will be as spent fuel is moved from the spent fuel pool into dry cask storage.
  • We were particularly surprised, based on decades of past experience, by the vigor with which Bill Irwin, state radiological health officer, criticized Entergy and the PSDAR. In detail, he noted the lack of radiological monitoring, need for an inventory of materials, and lack of attention to key issues such as fire risk while moving the spent fuel. He questioned what kind of oversight the state will have.
  • Both the state and Windham Regional Commission (WRC) are following changes by the owners of the Texas/VT low level waste facility, and propose that the Compact’s next meeting be held in Windham County, near Vermont Yankee.
  • Windham Regional Commission is  actively collaborating with its counterparts in NH and MA, and they were in attendance at the meeting. The WRC’s involvement over the years has been excellent and we hope MA and NH jump in with equal strength.

Now the bad news.

  • The NRC has set January 28 as the date of the public hearing in Vermont on the PSDAR. The clock starts ticking today on the 90 day public comment period, when Entergy submits the PSDAR to the NRC. Considering the complexity of the subject and volume of information, 90 days is little time, and January 28 is only 6 weeks away.
  • Entergy’s Mike Twomey said “thank you for your comments on the PSDAR” and made sure the Panel and State understood they were in no way obligated to use any of them and were simply acknowledging them out of respect. Out of about 500 comments, it made 42 changes to the PSDAR.
  • After four meetings, NDCAP is still disorganized and has no resources. It needs independent, third party experts to educate the members. It needs an administrative assistant to support communications and logistics; it is a misuse of the state nuclear engineer’s time and paygrade to be doing so. While the state committed to full participate in the NRC review process, without resources we question its effectiveness.
  • Vernon’s elementary school is 1500 feet from the reactor, and Hinsdale’s school is just across the river. The state gets how dangerous this is and some NDCAP members appeared horrified by potential consequences.
    • Steve Skibowski, retired Yankee worker and Town of Vernon rep on NDCAP, said Yankee workers have children in the schools and would not do anything to put them at risk. Vernon has an active emergency response group. and Entergy has been very helpful.
    • Deb Katz of CAN strongly urged action, and recommends that the children go to other schools while the spent fuel moves from the pool into storage.
    • Howard Schaeffer preached the industry gospel about how safe radiation really is, and that the real probelm is fear mongering.
  • Fairewinds’ Arnie Gundersen submitted comments, and is preparing a full report for the NRC public comment period.
    • There is no reason to wait more than 5-7 years to decommission – there is very little financial gain, the risk of underground contamination increases each day, and the radiation exposure risk to workers will be low enough by then.
    • Entergy did a bulk buy of cheap dry casks that probably can’t handle the high burn up fuel it started using with the uprate; the dry cask storage pad must be placed further from the river, or mud from a flood could plug up air cooling holes.
    • There is no reason to wait to clean up buildings and grounds that have previously been identified as contaminated, like the AOG building.
    • The evacuation plan needs to stay in place until all the fuel is moved out of the pool, even if we have to pay for it out of the trust fund.
  • Trust is still a huge issue.
    • Bill Irwin quoted an NRC official who said, about radiation, “it’s not about dose, It’s about trust.” One bad day at Vermont Yankee and regardless of dose, the economies of Vermont, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts could be ruined.
    • Senator Mark McDonald reminded us of the many times since buying the reactor that Entergy lied and mislead VSNAP (predecessor to NDCAP). He sees nothing different in Entergy’s pattern now. “Entergy has a record of not telling the truth, and they make money every time they lie.”

The next meeting is scheduled for Thursday, January 22 (one week before the NRC Public Hearing on the PSDAR).

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Towns take action on EPZ

A town-by-town effort to speak out against Entergy’s plan to abandon the citizens and environment of the emergency planning zone has begun.

Just over the Vermont border from Yankee,  Gill, MA selectboard have signed a letter opposing Entergy’s exemption requests to the NRC on the EPZ.  Greenfield, MA has taken similar action with a resolution submitted to its Town Council. To support the resolution, or to bring one to your town in MA, contact Sandra Kosterman

Citizens from Gill and Greenfield submitted their towns’ materials to the December 18th meeting of Nuclear Decommissioning Citizens Advisory Panel (NDCAP). Chris Recchia, chair of NDCAP and Commissioner of the VT Dept. of Public Service, said that the state would be “actively opposing” Entergy’s request to the NRC for an exemption.

Here is the Gill letter.

Date: December 15, 2014

To: US Senator Edward Markey
US Senator Elizabeth Warren
US Representative James McGovern
State Senator Stanley Rosenberg
State Representative Denise Andrews
State Representative-Elect Susannah Whipps Lee
The Honorable Allison M. Macfarlane, Chairman, Nuclear Regulatory Commission
Commissioner Christopher Recchia, Vermont Department of Public Service
Kurt Schwartz, Director, Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency

Re: Continued Funding for EPZ at Entergy Vermont Yankee Gill is one of 18 towns in Massachusetts, Vermont, and New Hampshire to have some or all of the town within a 10 mile radius of the Entergy Vermont Yankee nuclear plant in Vernon, Vermont. This means that we are within the plant’s Emergency Planning Zone (EPZ) – an area that has in-place, maintained, and predetermined protective action plans designed to avoid or reduce potential exposure of radioactive materials. These action plans include sheltering, evacuation, and the use of potassium iodide where appropriate.

Entergy Nuclear, the parent company of Entergy Vermont Yankee, has applied to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) for an exemption that will allow it to end funding for the EPZ.

Additionally, Entergy Nuclear has asked the NRC for an exemption that will allow the plant a four-fold increase in the amount of time it has to notify surrounding towns of an emergency. Currently the plant must notify towns within 15 minutes. Entergy Nuclear seeks an exemption to increase this to 60 minutes!

The Gill Selectboard opposes both exemption requests. We ask you, our elected representatives and public officials, to assure that EPZ funding is continued until the spent fuel pool is emptied and all the highly radioactive spent fuel is moved to dry cask storage, and to assure that towns continue to receive the earliest possible notice of emergency situations at the plant.


Randy Crochier, Chair

Gill Selectboard

Cc: Gene Beaubien, Gill Emergency Management Director



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“You Done Good”

An Oped by former VT Governor Tom Salmon has been widely published in recent days. Leslie Sullivan Sachs of Safe & Green quickly scribbled a response when she heard the local weekly paper was also publishing it. We have posted both on our Letters to the Editor page. Salmon’s twisting of history should irritate activists and citizens alike. Here’s Leslie’s response:

There is plenty to criticize in Tom Salmon’s ode to Vermont Yankee, but two paragraphs are particularly odious. He writes, “Eight years ago…I began to notice the heat being turned up on Vermont Yankee. A rather fierce ideological battle from the hard left ensued. Some were Vermonters, but the vast majority lived in other states…However, in Windham County, a hardy band of citizens said, “We want to be heard on these issues.” And so the nonprofit Vermont Energy Partnership was founded to advocate on behalf of public policies that facilitate affordable, safe, reliable, clean power…”

The Vermont Energy Partnership was founded by a “hardy band” of the most powerful corporations, few from Windham County, including IBM, Casella Waste Management, and Pizzagalli Construction, plus business associations like the Vermont Fuel Dealers Association. And, of course, Entergy.

Despite being a former governor, Mr. Salmon conveniently forgets democratic process – unless he believes that our own legislature and towns were infiltrated by the folks living downstream from the reactor. In Town Meeting votes across the state over the years on referenda on the future of Vermont Yankee, 51 towns voted to close Vermont Yankee and only 3 towns voted down the resolution. The Vermont Senate said shut it down in February 2010.

To paraphrase Sen. Randy Brock, a Republican who reluctantly voted against Vermont Yankee, if anti-nuclear activists had infiltrated Entergy’s board of directors, they couldn’t have done more damage to Vermont Yankee’s reputation that Entergy did to itself.

Leslie Sullivan Sachs

Brattleboro, VT


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