Nuclear Power Opponents Rally Against Vermont Yankee

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(Host) Nuclear power opponents from at least three states converged in Brattleboro for a rally Sunday.

They called for Vermont Yankee to stop operating immediately until the source of radioactive tritium leaking from the plant is found.

And they called for a permanent shut down when the plant’s license expires in 2012.

VPR’s Susan Keese has more. 

(Crowd sounds)

(Keese) Hundreds gathered for the march through Brattleboro’s downtown, waving banners and carrying signs.

Many of the protestors have been battling Vermont Yankee for years. On this occasion the mood was almost jubilant.

Bob Bady of the Safe and Green Campaign, one of the rally’s organizers, summed it up.

(Bady) "This is the beginning of the celebration of the closing of Vermont Yankee." (cheers) "It’s happened because of a unique set of circumstances. We shined enough sunlight on the situation, and now it’s going to happen."

(Brass band plays "Down by the Riverside.")

(Keese) There was even a brass band as the long procession wove through Brattleboro’s downtown.

The optimism is linked to an upcoming vote on Yankee. It comes at a time when state officials have had harsh words for its owner, Entergy Nuclear of Louisiana.

Plant officials apparently misled the state about underground pipes that are now leaking radioactive tritium into groundwater.

Entergy is seeking a 20 year extension on its operating license for Vermont Yankee. Vermont is the only state whose legislature has the power to vote on whether to relicense a nuclear plant.

Vermont Senate President Peter Shumlin, whose district includes Vermont Yankee, has called for a vote this coming Wednesday.

(Chang) " It’s amazing!"

Antinuclear activist Claire Chang was among the marchers. So was Peter Tusinksi, whose home in Leyden, Massachusetts is near the plant.

(Tusinski) "We’ve been protesting this thing since 1974 and hopefully the state of Vermont will vote  this thing down once and for all."

(Keese) Not everyone agreed with the protestors. A Brattleboro woman named Pamela – she only gave her first name – looked on disapprovingly.

(Pamela) "I think we have a lot of uninformed people who haven’t bothered to get a lot of the facts straight."

(Keese) In the forum that followed, speakers focused on challenges that lie ahead if lawmakers decide Vermont Yankee should be closed.

Those could include a court challenge over the power of a state legislature to close a nuclear power plant.

For VPR News, I’m Susan Keese.

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