Vermont Yankee nuke target of shutdown protest today

VERNON, Vermont – In a perfect world, the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant here would have shut down on schedule last March, the decommissioning fund would have been fully funded, and everyone in Vermont would be living green and happily ever after.

But it’s not a perfect world – Vermont Yankee, with a design life of 40 years, started its 41st year of operation on March 22, despite earlier promises to shut down, despite an act of the Vermont Legislature requiring it to shut down, and despite almost 40 years of public protest which will continue this weekend.

On Sunday, July 1, following a rally on the Brattleboro Commons, a contingent of protestors will caravan by bike and bus for six miles to the gates of Vermont Yankee here, where some will engage in non-violent civil disobedience, risking arrest and delivering a surprise “gift.” This action is organized by the Safe and Green (SAGE) Campaign of Brattleboro, who have trained hundreds of people in non-violence techniques in preparation for the July 1 political theatre designed to disrupt business as usual.

An anti-Vermont Yankee sing-a-long in April featured Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin, a longtime critic of Entergy Nuclear, the owner of Vermont Yankee. He aroused the crowd by reciting a long list of broken promises made by Entergy since the company bought the nuclear plant. In April failed to make its lawfully required payment of $625,000 to Vermont’s Clean Energy Development Fund, which subsidizes renewable energy projects.been fully funded

to the $1 billion-plus level it is expected to cost to mothball the plant eventually. While the fund has fluctuated in value near the $400 million mark, Entergy has been chronically behind in its payments and the NRC has accepted the company’s promise of a “guarantee” in lieu of cash. When the Vermont Legislature passed a bill in 2008 that would have required Entergy to provide something like full funding, then-Governor James Douglas vetoed it.

Since June 18, Vermont Yankee has been operating at less than half power because of equipment failure about which reliable information has been scant. In Washington, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission spokesman Neal Sheen said the failure was a large industrial motor that was part of Vermont Yankee when it was built in 1972.

This was not confirmed by spokesman Rob Williams for Entergy Nuclear, the Louisiana-based company that owns Vermont Yankee. He refused to say whether the motor was part of the original construction, adding, “We’re not going to get into that level of detail.” He did say that the motor was about half the size of a small bus.

The motor is one of a pair for the recirculation system at the nuclear plant, with one working and the other serving as backup. Now one has been moved off site for repair and the plant is running with the second unit, which suffered as-yet unexplained electrical malfunctions last September. With only one unit, Vermont Yankee is required to run at a reduced power level, but officials say the coolant pumps are not safety equipment.

Vermont Yankee has been leaking radioactive Tritium for at least the past two years, as a result of such aging equipment factors as badly corroded pipes and plugged drains. Tritium levels on site were measured as much as 45 times higher than what the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) considers safe in drinking water, although these levels have continued to decline.

According to the Vermont Dept. of Health, measurements taken in late April show Tritium in the Connecticut River at only one twentieth the concentration the EPA considers safe. The Health Dept. said its measurements indicate that the plume of underground water contaminated with Tritium continues to move toward the river.

With waste storage space almost used up at Vermont Yankee, long term operation of the plant is more problematical, unless Entergy persuades the state of Vermont to approve expanded storage. This possibility suffered a setback on June 8, when the federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., ruled against the NRC and sent the agency back to re-draw waste storage rules and “properly examine future dangers and key consequences.”

While both sides continue to await court action on their appeals of a federal court decision in January that threatens to strip Vermont of any authority over the only nuclear power plant in the state, protestors look forward to July 1, when, they say, “We plan to WOW Entergy with a special ‘gift’” and declare independence from Entergy.

“Shrinking government” actually means expanding it

David Swanson on why the rhetoric about shrinking government actually means a bigger, more intrusive government, with both parties complicit.

Shrinking government” means a larger and more oppressive but less representative and less useful government. The military gets the money and gets privatized (employs non-competitive corporations working exclusively for the government). Education and public services get slashed and get privatized. Vote counting gets privatized. The privatized money gets to flow into election campaigns.

Republicans want to ‘shrink’ social services while expanding the military, police, and surveillance. This of course does not make government smaller. Democrats are equally complicit, but in a different way. Their unspoken assumption is that big government is basically benign and helpful, something which rather clearly is not true. So they blindly support ever-expanding governments, more social services, and for the most part, more war.

And so, we talk about the “shrinking government” because nobody will talk about the breaking government from the left. Not just groups, but individuals as well, have embedded their souls in the Democratic Party. They can only bring themselves to criticize the Republican Party while maintaining that, after all, the government is doing a pretty good job, even when the government is dominated by Republicans and right-wing Democrats who are at least as far to the right as the Republicans. This incoherence is created by liberal civilians, not presidential broken promises or pre-compromises or lack of resolve.

Yet progressives who ought to know better continue to support the Democratic Party because, after all, they aren’t Republicans.Actually, many Democrats are indistinguishable from Republicans. Further, the underlying bedrock assumption of Democrats, liberals, and most progressives is that big government is needed, is our friend, and should continually be expanded.

This belief in the efficacy of big government leads to such inanities as hurricane recovery being under the Department of Homeland Security (um, hurricanes aren’t terrorists) and NYPD sternly ordering people to get back inside even after the storm had clearly past, a truly noxious nanny government excess.

I was talking to a retired cop last night who has 40 years of service in various big city police departments. He’s of the opinion that our federal government is corrupt and what we need is a hundred million people rising up to protest against it. I agree. And didn’t even ask what his politics are because it wasn’t relevant. Our government and elected officials are no longer beholden to us. That’s the problem. This has nothing to do with which political party is in power. But they’re certainly content to pit us against each other, because this keeps us from focusing on them.

David Swanson: Occupation of Freedom Plaza in DC modeled after Tahrir Square and Mass European Protests

People everywhere just want to be free

Something is taking place at an archetypal level, across the world, across class and social lines, across religious and political divides, all characterized by popular uprisings against authoritarian high-handedness across the world.

Governments are cratering in the Middle East and elsewhere. Just recently, the government of Canada fell and the ruling party in Germany got clobbered by Greens in an important regional election. The government of Japan, which most thought was highly competent, well organized, and technocrat to the core has instead shown itself to be incompetent and duplicitous. The Tea Party is on a rampage here in the U.S. but so are unions as witness the massive protests in Wisconsin. Increasingly people are furious at being ripped off by the banksters with the government enabling the theft.

But no one offers any explanation, or even the suggestion of an explanation as to why this homogenous response has taken place, aimed at quite different forms of governance: the people versus the powerful.

Isn’t that odd?

Global revolt? Could happen. Let’s hope it is. And let’s bring it on home here.

Babylon burning, and they got no water. Protests in Europe

Spain and Greece are experiencing major protests and serious unrest, England too. In Greece, buildings were burned and molotovs thrown at police.

“For me, it’s the spirit of ’68. First the students moved, then the workers. This is exactly what’s happening here but this time it will be on a much bigger scale, right across Europe,” said Prof. Chris Knight in London

Via Suburban Guerrilla.