Starting Thursday, 3/22, the Vermont Yankee Nuke has been Operating Illegally

Entergy’s Vermont Yankee nuclear plant’s license expired Wednesday night, after 40 years. 40 years of leaks, collapsing cooling tower, tritium in the water, unexpected outages…in short, 40 years of a very poor safety record.

I’m looking at the first page of the official Atomic Energy Commission report on Abnormal Occurrences for the 1973–the last year a full report is available, because after that the AEC (which then became the so-called Nuclear Regulatory Commission, or NRC). Only a year into its use cycle, when it should have shaken out all the problems and long before radioactive corrosion, old age or other more recent stress factors, Vermont Yankee reported 39 separate incidents–that’s nearly one per week. Page one of the report, reprinted in the classic book No Nukes, by Anna Gyorgy and Friends (page 107 in my 1977 edition), shows that the first six included:

  • A switch in the Emergency Core Cooling System that failed to activate (potentially extremely serious)
  • Four miscalibrated radiation monitors
  • Power supply failure of a gamma radiation monitor on the perimeter
  • Discovery that some instrument sensor tubes were connected wrong, because the plant’s designers produced faulty drawings
  • Unplanned shutdown following an explosion that fractured the air ejector rupture disc, and release of radiation
  • A second air ejector rupture disc fracture and release of radiation

Again, these are just the first six of 39, during a single year of the plant’s 40-year operation.

Meanwhile, as a condition of operation, Entergy agreed a few years ago to be bound by approval of the state legislature to continue operation past its license expiration. Yet, when the state senate voted 26-4 in 2010 to close the plant, Entergy (which had expected at the tine it signed the agreement to win the legislative approval) reneged, sued the state, and actually found a judge–John Murtha–who issued an idiotic decision in the company’s favor, saying the legislature was clearly concerned about safety and nuclear safety was reserved for the federal government–specifically, for the NRC, which has so far NEVER to my knowledge turned down either a new or renewal license. (They should rename themselves the Nuclear Rah-Rah Cheerleaders)

So much for democracy, state’s rights, etc. The legislature, the governor, and a large majority of the state’s population (not to mention numerous government officials in both Massachusetts and New Hampshire, both of which are within four miles of the plant) all want to see this monstrosity shut down.

The state is appealing, but somehow, there’s no injunction to keep the plant from operating until the suit is resolved.

Along with about 1600 other people, I went up to Brattleboro, Vermont today to protest Yankee’s continued operation. Some 130 people got arrested. I didn’t, but my 93-year-old friend Frances Crowe did. I first met Frances, a Northampton, Massachusetts hero and living treasure, in 1977, when we were both incarcerated in the Manchester, NH National Guard Armory when 1414 of us were arrested at the construction site for the Seabrook, NH nuke. I saw a number of people today who I remembered from that and other Clamshell Alliance actions in the late 1970s.

Nuclear is a really dumb idea. I wrote a whole book on it. From a safety, economics, fuel efficiency, or even carbon footprint point of view, nuclear power is a disaster. And the GE Mark I design used at 23 US reactors including Vermont Yankee–the same one used at Fukushima–is particularly bad. Why are we mortgaging our future for no benefit?

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