Future for Vermont’s only nuclear power plant uncertain

Nuclear energy is perhaps one of the most controversial issues in Vermont and around the country.

            Over the past few months, however, this issue has been highlighted by the trial surrounding Vermont Yankee, Vermont’s only nuclear power plant, according to an article in VT Digger. 

Vermont Yankee, located in southern Vermont since 1972, supplies power to nearly one-third of the state and generates 80 percent of Vermont’s energy, according to their website. 

The controversy involving Vermont Yankee is the fact that the plant’s 40-year initial contract is set to expire in March 2012.

            Though the Nuclear Regulatory Commission approved Vermont Yankee’s contract for another 20 years, Vermont legislatures did not agree with this decision and are arguing in court for the plant to be closed, according to an article from VT Digger. 

Students at UVM have differing opinions on nuclear power, and spoke out about their concerns.

“I think there are advantages and disadvantages to having nuclear power,” junior Jeremy Ebelt said.  “That being said, I think the plant should be closed.  Nuclear power may be better on carbon emissions than other forms of energy but it’s a very risky process. Vermont Yankee is similar to the reactor in Japan, and obviously it’s very dangerous to have that kind of plant operating.”

Perhaps one of the most important issues surrounding the potential closing of Vermont Yankee is whether or not Vermont residents and students will be affected.

“I don’t think students will feel the effects much,” Ebelt said.  “Since students are only here for a few years, I don’t see them being affected in the long run.  Even if we have to pay a little more for electricity, what good is paying less if you’re putting people in danger?”

            Students living in Burlington may not feel the effects of Vermont Yankee’s potential closing at all.

            “We [Burlington Electric] haven’t received power from Vermont Yankee since 2002,” said Mary Sullivan, Burlington Electric’s Communications Coordinator.  “So those students living off campus in the city of Burlington will not be affected by the closing of Vermont Yankee.”

            Although students residing in Burlington won’t be impacted financially if Vermont Yankee remains opened or closed, off campus students living elsewhere could potentially have rising energy costs.

            “Green Mountain Power has a contract with Vermont Yankee through March 2012,”Green Mountain Power’s Marketing Director Dorothy Schnure said.  “I think all of New England will see a change in energy costs if Vermont Yankee does close.”

            Despite the fact that some students could face slightly increasing energy rates, many individuals in the UVM community are still hesitant about Vermont Yankee.

            “I think right now we need to have nuclear energy,” junior Caleb Demers said. “My knowledge isn’t that broad on the subject, but I know it’s dangerous.  I don’t think Vermont Yankee should remain open, but if it does, I think people will need to be very careful if the contract is extended.”

            Some students said they have a very strong opinion on nuclear energy and Vermont Yankee, others said they can see both the pros and cons of this alternative energy.

            “I can go both ways on the nuclear energy topic,” junior Elyse Kurtul said.  “I think it’s kind of ironic that they’re closing something that is a form of renewable energy.”

Junior Alex Judge said that he supports nuclear energy, but against Vermont Yankee.

“Vermont Yankee is just too dangerous,” Judge said. “I just don’t want the plant to explode or something. I would also like my kids to not have seven arms as a result of Vermont Yankee.”