Katz to Entergy: Shut it down now


Demonstrators against Entergy Corporation

Deb Katz wants Vermont Yankee closed down, and so should you. That was the message she brought to the campus on Wednesday Sept. 14, when she presented “Life after Vermont Yankee: Creating a Green Energy Future” in the Stearns Performance Space.

Katz was living in western Massachusetts, just a few miles from the Yankee Rowe Reactor, when lightning struck the plant on Father’s Day, 1991. This is why she is one of the activists who started Citizens Awareness Network (CAN) in 1991 in Rowe, Mass., to combat a nuclear meltdown.

According CAN’s website, www.nukebusters.org, “We were afraid of a meltdown, for the safety of our families and our way of life. We learned that the NRC [Nuclear Regulatory Commission] was allowing the reactor to run with a one in ten thousand chance of an accident rather than the required one in a million.”

At a meeting shortly afterwards with the NRC, attendees learned that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was dumping chemicals into the nearby Deerfield River. Residents were outraged when a chemist confirmed they had been dumping radioactive waste into the river for 31 years. “It stopped us in our tracks,” said Katz.

According to Katz, after an eight-year study of the Deerfield River, experts from Harvard School of Public Health, epidemiologists, and the United States Geological Survey (USGS) reached some shocking conclusions. “[Investigators] confirmed there was statistical significance in breast cancer, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and multiple myeloma. We had what amounted to a ten-fold increase in children with Down’s Syndrome,” said Katz.

While Yankee Rowe was officially deemed “decommissioned” in 2007, Katz and the CAN organization’s work continues. They are now aiming to close Vermont Yankee, Vermont’s sole nuclear power plant, located in Vernon and now owned by Louisiana-based Entergy Corporation. The plant was commissioned in 1972 and its license was renewed for 20 years by the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission in 2011 despite objections from the State of Vermont.

Most recently, in January 2012, Federal District Court Judge J. Garvin Murtha sided with Entergy against the State of Vermont, ruling that it does not have the authority to overrule federal approval.

CAN fears a Chernobyl or a Fukushima-sized disaster in New England. A flier for the organization states, “A terrorist attack or an accident at the Vermont Yankee Nuclear Reactor would expose vast areas of beautiful New England, and millions of people to dangerous levels of radiation for decades. One small airplane headfirst into the Vermont Yankee spent fuel pool and 25,000 square miles could become inhabitable, a 90 mile radius from the reactor.”

Katz says much is at stake, for both individuals and for Vermont as a whole. “I believe that people are so afraid of change at this point that it’s easier to say no to everything rather than take this very hard issue [of nuclear power] on,” she said. “And what’s most dangerous in that is if we don’t take it on then we will leave it to the corporations [Entergy] to determine our energy future. If we do not engage in this process and figure out what is best for our towns, counties, states and regions then corporations will decide it and most of their decisions they make, we will not like.”