Reflections on the closing of Vermont Yankee

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  • Editor of the Reformer:

    A few times lately I’ve stood at the gates of Vermont Yankee as part of the daily vigils of the Safe and Green Campaign’s Countdown to Closure. We’re there as a reminder to Entergy (VY’s owner) that on March 21, the state’s Certificate of Public Good will expire and Vermont Yankee’s continued operation will be illegal. Entergy needs this reminder since it clearly believes that it can go against the wishes of the Vermont Legislature; Entergy refueled the VY reactor last fall, investing a great deal of money in something the corporation already knew was contrary to state mandate.

    Vigiling at the gates has been interesting. Many people wave at us and smile. Many show no reaction at all. Many give us a thumbs up or a thumbs down, and some people do things with other fingers. A couple of reactions really stand out for me.

    One time a dad and his young son walked by us, and the dad said “You people are despicable.” He made no eye contact. He just kept walking, and as he did he continued by saying “You don’t want anybody here to have a job.” He was still within earshot when one of us responded, “Yes, we do. We just want them to be safer and greener jobs.” He didn’t seem to believe us, or to think that was possible, since he said “Yeah, right!”

    I have been very sad about this ever since. Not because he was angry or called us “despicable.” I can totally get that people think that because we want VY to stop operating, we don’t care about their jobs. It’s not true, but I can understand it. What makes me sad is that this man would not stop to talk with us. The gulf between the two sides of this issue has become very wide, and it seems that we only communicate through our bumper stickers and lawn signs. I would like to find a way to talk together. I would like us all to stop thinking we know what the other is all about and create a chance to really listen to each other.
    The other vigil experience that really stands out for me happened just a few days ago. A woman drove by and opened her car window and yelled out “Why don’t you go home?” Again, too quickly gone for us to respond. But this is what I wanted to say: This is our home.

    The fact is that what happens at VY affects us all, whether we live in Vernon or Brattleboro or Colrain, Mass., or Hinsdale, N.H.. Know what I wish? I wish we had strong, creative leadership that years ago had started talking with all constituencies to plan what should happen when VY’s license was set to expire. Part of why we’re so polarized now is that we haven’t looked at this square on. Now we’re just scared, so we get mad.

    Ann Darling
    Brattleboro, VT
    Printed in the Brattleboro Reformer Wednesday January 4, 2012