Newfane, VT .
A classic David vs. Goliath battle is taking shape in the courtroom and in the streets and fields of Vermont as Entergy Nuclear of Louisiana tries to overturn Vermont law in the federal courts.
The state has thoughtfully and repeatedly voted no to the extension of Entergy’s Vermont Yankee nuclear reactor’s license, which is due to expire on March 21, 2012. Results of Town Meeting votes, a 26-4 vote by the Vermont Senate, and a pivotal gubernatorial race all have shown that the state does not see Vermont Yankee as a reliable or economical partner for its energy future. Forty years’ accumulation of radioactive waste on the banks of the Connecticut River is enough.
Entergy was stunned when their corps of high-priced lobbyists failed to prevail at the statehouse, but they are counting on their high-powered legal team to carry the day for them in the favorable atmosphere of the federal court system–packed as it is these days with judges named by Reagan and two Bushes. And even though the Supreme Court claims to support the concept of states’ rights, it is not clear that that bias will over-ride their love for corporate personhood/rights. Meanwhile, their distaste for so many things that Vermont, (as personified by its socialist Senator Bernie Sanders), stands for and represents are likely to override any professed passion for states’ rights, which tend to coincide with right-wing issues. So although the state government has taken all appropriate action (and continues to do so in the courts), it ultimately may have to be the power of the citizens who will have to shut down this leaky, decrepit reactor as scheduled.
Secretary of Energy Steven Chu made clear on NPR what it is that citizens need to do, when he explained that the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste dump project was abandoned because of “concerted, growing, local opposition”.
Vermonters are not taking a wait-and-see approach. With their neighbors from New Hampshire and Massachusetts, they are organizing a movement. They promise to close down the plant by direct action if it continues to operate past March 21, 2012. Activists are discovering that support for direct citizen action is growing throughout the region. From senior citizens to harried single moms, people are volunteering and vowing to get arrested or whatever else it will take to close down the reactor. Non-violent civil disobedience training sessions are being conducted throughout the region and organizers are working in a variety of ways to build a region-wide movement.
The September 17th Positively Charged Music Festival is just one manifestation of that effort. In order to bring thousands of people together to sign up for and support the coming campaign of direct action, seven well known bands from three states are gathering near the Vermont Yankee evacuation zone for a day of music and truth telling.
The entire event is the beneficiary of volunteer labor, from the music, to the sound, publicity, website, graphic design, even the contractors building the stage. This concert is the product of a community working together to take back our power. This community will continue to grow. And it will be of sufficient size to ensure that Vermont Yankee shuts down as scheduled.
Our friends in New York are battling the Indian Point reactor, a similarly rickety, leaking nuclear facility just north of New York City on the Hudson River that is well past its sell-date and whose owner is attempting to extend its license.
The ongoing serial meltdowns at Fukushima in Japan were a huge wake-up call. So was the recent 5.8 earthquake in Virginia, which exposed the fact that many U.S. reactors were not built to survive even relatively small tremors.
Across the entire nation, from New Jersey to California, reactors are leaking tritium and strontium 90, cracking, and contaminating their environments. This is a national issue now being played out on the Vermont stage. We are one part of the fight against the rule of corporate greed, just like our neighbors in New York and Pennsylvania, who are battling the insanity of the gas fracking, or citizens from across the land who are battling local ills that arise from the obscene imbalance of wealth and power. Now is the time to reach out to each other, see where we all are, and stitch all this good work together.
Dan DeWalt is an activist and journalist based in Newfane, Vermont. He wrote this article forThisCantBeHappening!, the new independent, collectively-owned, journalist-run, reader-supported online alternative newspaper now in its second year of daily publication.