Hundreds march against Yankee nuclear plant
By Susan Smallheer
Staff Writer | March 31,2013
Len Emery Photo
Led by the Expandable Brass Band, a crowd of more than 500 people marches down Main Street in Bratlteboro on Saturday as part of an event to protest the continued operation of the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant.
BRATTLEBORO — More than 500 people marched down Main Street in Brattleboro on Saturday, carrying banners and pledging to end what they claimed was a year of illegal operation of the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant by Entergy Nuclear.
The exuberant gathering, bolstered by Vermont’s famous Bread and Puppet Theater, chanted “shut it down, Vermont Yankee, shut it down, now” along the length of Main Street.
Several people from the street joined the parade, which occurred in the late afternoon on a sunny early-spring day.
“We’re here to mark one year of Entergy operating illegally,” said organizer Chad Simmons of the SAGE Alliance. “We’re not going to let them operate any longer.”
There were people in theatrical masks, dressed in suits and ties as corporate lawyers, with Bread and Puppet’s signature papier-mâché masks, proclaiming nuclear power is good. The lawyers carried whips.
They carried a sign that said “Down with Vermont.” and “Business as Unusual.”
Anti-nuclear groups have been stymied in the past year, as Entergy continued to operate, even without the state’s required certificate of public good. Hearings before the Public Service Board are currently pending.
“No more leaks, lies and lawyers,” more than one poster stated.
PSB has taken pains legally to point out Entergy is operating without the state permit, but it has allowed the company to keep operating the 640-megawatt reactor, which currently sells its output on the open market rather than directly to Vermont utilities.
The group later gathered at Latchis Theater for speeches, political theater and skits.
The group made the most of the lack of a state permit, saying Entergy could not be trusted to keep its word and was violating promises it made in 2002 when it bought Vermont Yankee from a group of New England utilities.
The Vocal Chordz Affinity Group, a local anti-nuclear singing group, entertained the gathering with “The 12 Lies of Entergy,” sung to the tune of the 12 Days of Christmas. The group borrowed 10 of the 12 “lies” from Gov. Peter Shumlin, who first made the list during a public speech in Brattleboro a year ago.
Singing in chorus, the group chimed in on “We’ll always obey Vermont law.”
Sen. Jeannette White, D-Windham, who introduced Act 160, the Vermont law that gave the Legislature power over the future operation of Yankee and which was set aside by a federal judge last year as unconstitutional, addressed the gathering.
White said former Gov. James Douglas supported Act 160 and so did Entergy at the time it was passed and signed into law by Douglas.
No one thought at that time that Vermont legislators would vote against Yankee’s continued operation, White said, “except for you.”
Opponents of Yankee argue that the 41-year-old plant, one of the smallest reactors in the country, is old and full of problems. Yankee is currently shut down for refueling, and in the past two weeks several problems had occurred during maintenance work at the Vernon reactor.
The rally and parade, titled “Leaks, Lies and Lawyers,” was sponsored by the SAGE Alliance, a group of anti-nuclear groups from Vermont, New Hampshire and Massachusetts.
Organizers Bob Bady and Leslie Sullivan Sachs said they were thrilled with the turnout, especially since it fell on a holiday weekend.
An Entergy spokesman said Friday the company was aware of the event but did not plan to watch.