The Shutdown Jamboree

The Nuclear Free Jubilee, a parade and rally to close the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant, is set for Saturday, Oct. 25, in Brattleboro. Nerissa and Katryna Nields, about whom the Washington Post has written, "Their harmonies are tight, their spirits unflagging," will perform at the rally, as will folk singer Charlie King.

Among the speakers at the rally will be Vermont Senate President Peter Shumlin, Speaker of the Vermont House Gaye Symington, and investigative journalist and author Harvey Wasserman. The parade will be led by the Bread and Puppet Theater. The noon rally will feature a Green Energy Fair, among other attractions.

"We have this moment in which we can turn away from expensive nuclear power and nuclear waste and use conservation and renewable energy instead," said Ellen Kaye, an organizer of the event. "Vermont can be an example for the nation."

Vermont Yankee is three miles from Massachusetts and a stone's throw from New Hampshire. Most of the electricity the reactor generates is used outside Vermont. The Vermont Legislature will make history in a vote expected as early as January on whether to allow Yankee to continue operating after 2012. Never before has a state taken such a vote. The purpose of the Nuclear Free Jubilee is to rally public opinion to press the Legislature for a vote against the plant's continued operation.

Vermont Yankee is owned by Entergy Corp. of Louisiana. At a public hearing held in Brattleboro Oct. 14 by the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission, many speakers criticized Entergy for recent problems at Yankee, including the collapse of a cooling tower last year (see photo).

Earlier this month, Vermont officials announced that the stock market-based fund set aside for cleaning up Vermont Yankee when it closes had lost more than $40 million between March and September. On Sept. 31, the fund was worth $397 million, while the cost of dismantling the plant and cleaning up the site is estimated at about $800 million. Entergy is seeking regulators' approval to sell Vermont Yankee to a new spinoff company with fewer assets than Entergy.

On Oct. 8, a Vermont legislative committee held a hearing on increased levels of radiation being released from Vermont Yankee. In 2006, Entergy increased the reactor's power output to 20 percent higher than the plant was designed to generate. Yankee began generating power in 1972. It is now among the nation's oldest nuclear power plants.

The nuclear waste generated by Vermont Yankee is so deadly that it must be guarded around the clock for the next 1 million years, according to the National Academies of Science. A major accident or act of sabotage at Yankee could kill thousands of people.

If New Englanders took the money they now pay Entergy for electricity from Vermont Yankee and instead spent it on energy-efficiency programs, Vermont Yankee could be closed, consumers' electricity bills would go down and there would be a net increase in jobs. That's according to a study by Amory Lovins published in the journal Nuclear Engineering International.

The meeting point for the parade is at the corner of Flat and Elm streets at 10:30 a.m. The noon rally will be at the Brattleboro town common. More information on the parade and rally is available at www.NuclearFreeJubilee.org or by calling Kaye at (802) 254-9098.

photo by Eesha Williamsphoto by Eesha Williams

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