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Vermont Yankee Shutdown Vote Underscores Folly of Obama’s Nuclear Expansion Plans

Feb. 24, 2010 

Vermont Yankee Shutdown Vote Underscores Folly of Obama’s Nuclear Expansion Plans

Statement of Tyson Slocum, Director, Public Citizen’s Energy Program

The Vermont Senate’s vote today to close the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant underscores the folly of the Obama administration’s plan to help the nuclear industry build new reactors throughout the country.

As evidenced in Vermont, many things can go wrong with nuclear plants, particularly as they age. At Vermont Yankee, which is 38 years old, radioactive substances leaked underground, and a cooling tower collapsed in 2007.

Expanding the federal nuclear loan guarantee program from $18.5 billion to $54 billion, as the Obama administration wants to do, is incredibly bad policy, not only because of the safety risk of nuclear plants, but because of the financial risk as well. The chances of a nuclear utility defaulting on a loan are more than 50 percent; even Wall Street thinks reactors are too risky to back. You could call taxpayer loan guarantees for the nuclear industry “the next big bailout.”

The Vermont vote shows another thing: that local governments should have the ability to determine the energy future of their communities. Vermont is the only state in the U.S. with a law giving the state legislature the ability to allow a nuclear power plant to be relicensed. But all states should have the ability to decide whether nuclear reactors, and the dangerous waste they generate, remain in their backyards.
With so many cost-effective energy alternatives available, such as wind and solar power, continued support for expensive, flawed and dangerous nuclear technology is unacceptable.