Poll Says Public Has Lost Trust In Yankee

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(Host) A new poll shows Entergy Vermont Yankee has lost the trust of a majority of Vermonters.

The poll says a radiation leak at the plant has severely eroded public support for the plant to operate after 2012.

VPR’s John Dillon reports:

(Dillon) The poll of 802 Vermont residents was commissioned by the Civil Society Institute, a Massachusetts-based non profit that says it opposes nuclear power.

The survey was taken just days before the Senate voted overwhelmingly to block Entergy Vermont Yankee’s request for a 20-year license extension.

Pam Solo is founder and president of the institute. She said the poll showed the public supports the position taken by the Senate. She said the Vermont results has national implications as well.

(Solo) "Nationally there is a real message here for the US nuclear power industry with literally dozens of other reactors plagued with similar tritium leaks. You can’t sell Americans on the notion that you’re providing clean and safe power at the same time you’re leaking a radioactive substance into wells and other bodies of water."

(Dillon) Opinion Research Corporation of Princeton, New Jersey conducted the poll for the Civil Society Institute.  Senior Researcher Graham Hueber said Vermonters have appeared to have lost confidence in Entergy Vermont Yankee.

He said 71 percent of state residents say they are – quote – "less supportive now of Vermont Yankee, the nuclear reactor, than [they] were six months ago."

(Hueber) "It would appear from these survey findings that Entergy has dug itself a very deep hole from which it may not be able to emerge. For example, fewer than half of Vermont residents, 46 percent, now trust Entergy to clean up the tritium leaks at Vermont Yankee. In fact, a very high two thirds of Vermonters now give Entergy a low rating for trustworthiness."

(Dillon) Residents in at least 14 towns will vote at their annual meetings on non-binding resolutions calling for Yankee to close in 2012.

Entergy spokesman Larry Smith said the company knows it has to work hard to improve its image and regain public confidence.

(Smith) "I’m not going to comment on the specifics of the survey, but we are aware that we have to rebuild trust among Vermonters, and I think we’ve taken several actions to address that. Quite obviously, we have got to find and solve and stop the tritium issue. We’ve pledged to go forward with accurate information and do it in a more transparent manner. And I think in time we’ll restore the trust of Vermonters and they’ll learn the value of Vermont Yankee to Vermonters."

(Dillon) The poll also showed that if given a choice, 71 percent of the state’s residents preferred wind, solar or other renewable energy sources over nuclear power.

But the survey did not ask any questions about the relative cost of alternative energy technologies, or their impact on Vermonters’ electric bills.

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

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