MONTPELIER - The Vermont State Senate voted to close the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant Feb. 24 without a clear backup plan for the state's utility mix. The vote by senators will also add approximately 600 plant employees to Vermont's swelling unemployment lines when the plant is closed in 2012.
The vote, seen by many as a vote against the plant and its employees, also put an end to the Public Service Board's plan to consider 20 additional years of life for the plant. The plant went on-line in 1972.
"Get set for higher electricity prices, 600 more highly paid workers unemployed, and present and potential employers starting to edge nervously toward the door. On the other hand, some day southeastern Vermont will have a nice, new riverside park for anti-nuclear picnics," John McClaughry of the Ethan Allen Institute of Vermont told New Market Press Newspapers. "And the idea that Vermont Yankee's 230 Mw of base load power at 90 percent load factor can be replaced with a forest of wind turbines and square miles of solar PV panels-here or anywhere else-is likely to prove invincibly optimistic."
The 26-4 vote, which will close the plant in two years, is likely to have serious effects on Vermont's economy, according to long-time Vermont energy observer McClaughry.
"The national publicity about the Vermont Senate voting 26-4 to shut down a safe, reliable nuclear power station, is largely because the Senate President needs anti-nuke votes to win a hot Democratic gubernatorial primery later this year. The vote will lead to a renewed rash of 'nutty Vermont' jibes," McClaughry added.
The loss of Vermont's only large-scale, zero greenhouse gas power plant is expected to create a ripple effect that doesn't bode well for the state's struggling economy including large utility rate increases.
"This can not be good for the national perception of Vermont's economy and the nature of its legislature, that will likely be described as mindlessly liberal'," McClaughry said.
A Vermont legislator and U.S. Senate candidate have noted President Obama's recent decision to support the construction of new nuclear reactors on the sites of existing NRC-approved power plants; they have proposed that a new nuclear unit should be built on the Vermont Yankee site in Vernon, Vt. It is uncertain if there is enough support for renewed in-state nuclear capacity, however, if built, such a new reactor would likely be Vermont's largest construction project since the first reactor was built in Vernon.