Windham County towns split on Vermont Yankee resolution

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(Host) Voters in 16 Windham County towns weighed in this week on the long-term future of the Vermont Yankee Nuclear power plant. They voted on a resolution on whether the plant should be allowed to seek an extension, when its license expires in 2012.

The result was mixed, as VPR’s Susan Keese reports:

(Keese) A ‘yes’ vote meant voters want to shut down Vermont Yankee when its license expires in nine years. A ‘no’ vote meant voters could allow the nuclear plant to seek an extension of its license. In the nonbinding vote, 10 Windham County towns said they want to bar Vermont Yankee from renewing its license in 2012. Five towns voted ‘no’ on the resolution, which asks the state legislature to bar Yankee’s relicensure immediately.

In Brattleboro, the largest of the 16 towns that considered the measure, it was defeated by a mere 20 votes. In Rockingham, which voted Monday night, it was defeated by 29 votes. The tiny town of Athens ended up with a tie, 24 votes for and 24 against.

The greatest margin was in Vernon, which is home to Vermont Yankee. There the measure was defeated 756 to 74.

The unofficial 16-town tally was 2,579 for the scheduled shutdown and 2,849 for allowing a renewal. On Tuesday night, both sides were claiming victory. Ed Anthes is a member of Nuclear Free Vermont, the group that initiated the vote:

(Anthes) “This was a nonbinding vote, but town by town people want Vermont Yankee to close down in 2012 when its license comes up for renewal.”

(Keese) Entergy, Vermont Yankee’s owner, spent $200,000 on its campaign to defeat the measure. There was a free ham supper in Rockingham and a pancake breakfast in Vernon. Workers from the plant spoke in Yankee’s defense in most towns. Entergy supporters warned the region would suffer from the loss of cheap power and the 600 or so jobs Yankee provides.

Speaking in Dummerston, Putney State Representative Stephen Darrow disputed those claims. Darrow said the purchase of power dams on the Connecticut and Deerfield Rivers could help make up the difference:

(Darrow) “I heard some ads on the radio describing what it would take to replace Vermont Yankee Power that Vermont uses. And I can tell you, it wouldn’t be that complicated. My long-term view of nuclear power is that two or three generations of us are producing a waste that is so deadly, that thousands of generations will have to pay in storing it for tens of thousands of years. And that price is not worth the price of energy that we’re using today.”

(Keese) Entergy’s Spokesman Brian Cosgrove also claimed victory:

(Cosgrove) “I think the way the article was written, what we see is that people were thinking of two different things. One, obviously, that they continue to support Vermont Yankee producing power here in Vermont. The other is, I think they support the expansion of renewable energy and I think that’s a good thing. So in that respect, I think it’s a win-win.”

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Susan Keese in Brattleboro.

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