An affinity group of eight anti-nuclear activists with the New England-based Safe And Green Energy (SAGE) Alliance, were arrested yesterday inside the headquarters of the New Orleans nuclear corporation, Entergy. Entergy owns the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant in Vernon, VT which had been on schedule to close on March 21, 2012 when its 40-year license expired. However, Entergy applied for, and was granted, a 20-year license extension despite the plant’s history of fires, radioactive leaks, structural collapses, and cover-ups. Entergy also owns reactors in Arkansas, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Nebraska, and New York.
Entergy chose to ride roughshod over the will of the people and government of Vermont in continuing to run the plant. The Vermont government had voted in February 2010 to close the reactor on schedule. Entergy sued the state in federal court and won. Most outrageously, the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission – with the track record of a lapdog rather than a watchdog – issued the license extension on March 21, 2011, ten days into the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan. Vermont Yankee is the same GE Mark I Boiling Water Reactor design as the four Fukushima Daiichi reactors that exploded and melted down in the ongoing nuclear crisis in Japan.
Initiated by Renny Cushing, a founding member of the Clamshell Alliance, the original New England-based anti-nuclear movement created in the 1970s, eight individuals, some members of Cushing’s original affinity group, traveled to New Orleans to mount a surprise occupation inside the Entergy offices. Hanging banners and applying yellow police crime scene tape to the glass entrance, the eight refused to leave when ordered by police and were arrested.
But who are the real criminals here? As Cushing pointed out in a statement made earlier on video: “Entergy is on a course of defying democracy that makes it really a corporate outlaw and we are here today not to commit a crime but to prevent a crime and that’s Entergy’s assault against the people of Vermont and of New England.”
As Nancy Braus of Putney, VT added: “Our simple trespass is our statement of resistance to Entergy’s corporate trespass with the continued illegal operation of this nuclear waste factory.”
“We have a responsibility to our families and our communities to resist Entergy’s recklessness, arrogance and greed,” said Cushing in a press statement. “The corporation’s management and shareholders need to recognize that if Entergy won’t shut down that Yankee Plant, then as citizens we will work together to shut down Entergy.”
While the New Orleans 8 submitted to arrest, five more protesters were also arrested at Entergy’s White Plains, NY offices while an estimated 900 marched from downtown Brattleboro to Entergy’s Vermont offices three miles away. The corporation, which has refused to engage in public discussion, had chosen to close its Vermont offices that day in anticipation of the protest.
Why has it come to this? As Paul Gunter of Takoma Park, who was arrested alongside Cushing in New Orleans and was also a Clamshell Alliance founder, observed: “It’s got to the point where if we really want to change anything, we’ve got to stand up and be counted. The Occupy movement has shown us that. We aren’t go change anything through Congress, the federal agencies or even, unfortunately, the White House. It will be up to us and I feel we are poised for a big change now. We have the momentum.”
Perhaps not coincidentally, the nuclear industry’s trade group, the Nuclear Energy Institute, launched a saturation advertising – or more accurately, propaganda – campaign this week, a sure sign that they are feeling the sting of nuclear energy’s growing unpopularity. Among other falsehoods, the ads claim that nuclear energy is “home grown” when in reality 94% of uranium – essential to make reactor fuel – is imported. It also claims to create thousands of jobs. However, the example of Germany shows the renewable energy sector is far more efficient in job creation with 370,000 German jobs in that sector compared to 30,000 in nuclear energy and 20,000 in coal.
Also this week, President Obama campaigned on his bankrupt “all of the above” energy policy which ensures that the dangerous energy dinosaurs of oil, coal and nuclear will continue, while an insufficient commitment to the renewable energy sector will guarantee a failure to provide the clean, green energy future it is capable of.
It’s tempting to call the White House approach to energy policy unenlightened and gutless. But it’s worse than that. It is globally irresponsible. Protests are mounting worldwide, with 60,000 ten days ago in France and tens of thousands more in Germany, Japan, India and around the world publicly demonstrating their desire to get rid of nuclear power before it gets rid of us. “Never doubt that a small group of people can change the world,” wrote Margaret Meade. When it comes to anti-nuclear activism, that small group is finally getting a lot bigger.
Linda Pentz Gunter is a founder of Beyond Nuclear and its international specialist. For more, see www.beyondnuclear.org.