Imagining a Vermont without nuclear power
Vermont Senate votes to close VT Yankee Nuclear on time in 2012.
Wednesday, February 24, 2010 - 19:40
PAST PRIME: An old clunker represents aging power plant, Vermont Yankee. (Photo: DFHoughton/Flickr)
On Wednesday, February 24, the Vermont Senate voted 26-4 against supporting the Vermont Yankee extension plan that would continue to run Yankee for 20 more years. This is a great win for those worried about the environment, but a great flaw in decision making as seen by those who are worried about the increase in energy costs this will cause and the dismissal of some 600+ jobs.
Vermont is the only state that allows legislature to direct the outcome of nuclear reactor licenses. This being said, it's possible for the "chamber to reverse itself" later on after elections in November. If not, it will be the first time in around 20 years that a reactor had been shut down in this fashion, says NYTimes.com.
Yankee has also been recently discovered to have been leaking the isotope tritium, contaminating surrounding areas. This brings to light the bad sides of nuclear, the fact that nuclear waste as of yet has no known way to break down, can be radioactive and harmful to the environment and humans, and is currently being stored underground somewhere in middle America. The good side of nuclear power is that it releases no greenhouse gas emissions. See here for more information on nuclear power.
Nuclear power is tricky, especially for a place like Vermont. Yankee is a boiling water reactor that supports around 1/3 of all of Vermont's energy, as well as supporting jobs for lots of people in a state where work is relatively hard to come by. How will the potential closing of Yankee affect Vermont?
Although the loss of jobs and in-state power would be a struggle, I feel that as a state we could come up with a myriad of ways to rebound from the loss.
What about training those who would lose their jobs in new, green energy practices like wind turbines? A hot debate in Vermont due to their large size and the paradigm that they are loud and ugly, turbines have been contemplated in many areas, including my own hometown. How will wind power, if Yankee is in fact decommissioned, be used in Vermont? Hopefully they'll be accepted as a new and striking way to bring power into our state. Other ideas include alternative heating systems, such as geothermal, biomass or using compost to heat areas in houses. These would take time to construct and time for businesses to develop, but hopefully they will realize that they have the potential to grow exponentially in Vermont in the case of the closing of Yankee Nuclear.
The fact is that Vermont would be in need of power in the absence of VT Yankee, even if the amount of power being used is decreasing slightly. The plan to close in 2012 is close; I graduate from UVM then, and it's only two years away! Yet in a time when global warming is becoming more prevalent and the green movement has shifted into fifth gear, I don't doubt that in the case of Yankee's official closing, Vermont would be ready to take on the challenge of utilizing clean practices to make energy for all who live here.
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