VERNON—Thursday morning marks the first day of the rest of Vermont Yankee’s life.
With the expiration of the original 40-year operating license from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), as well as the expiration of the original Certificate of Public Good (CPG) from the Vermont Public Service Board (PSB), the nuclear power plant in Vernon enters a new phase of its operations.
The plant’s owner, Entergy, got a 20-year license extension from the NRC last March. The new CPG has yet to be issued by the PSB. And a final determination on whether the state of Vermont has the authority to shut the plant down is up to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and possibly the U.S. Supreme Court.
For the plant’s opponents, Thursday marks the beginning of a new phase of protests aimed at shutting the plant down.
A protest is planned at Entergy Nuclear Vermont Yankee’s corporate offices on Old Ferry Road that day, according to the anti-nuclear group Safe and Green Alliance, but nothing is planned that day in Vernon.
For the people inside the plant, Thursday is expected to just another day, according to Entergy spokesman Larry Smith.
“We greatly appreciate the backing of our supporters and respect the rights of opponents to peacefully protest,” Smith said in a news release. “Inside the gates, our 650 employees will not be distracted. As they do every day, their focus on safety is laser sharp. Anything that occurs outside the property will be coordinated by local and state law enforcement authorities.”
At a public meeting at the Vernon Elementary School last Thursday, about 100 residents heard from town officials about preparations for any potential civil unrest.
Despite assurances at the meeting by Randy Kehler and Bob Bady from the Safe and Green Campaign that there will not be a formal protest in Vernon on Thursday, the town is preparing for the possibility of a large-scale event.
Selectboard Chair Patricia O’Donnell, who moderated the meeting, said the goal was to ease the concerns of residents who fear a massive disruption of their daily lives if there are big anti-nuclear protests in Vernon.
Police Chief Mary Beth Hebert said her department has been planning for years for this week, and that there is a plan in place.
“We’ll see more demonstrations, but that’s nothing new to us,” she said.
Vernon Police will be working with Brattleboro Police, the Windham County Sheriff’s Department, and Vermont State Police to keep the peace.
She also said that her department has worked with Safe and Green, and other anti-nuclear groups. She said all have carefully detailed their plans to her and have been fully cooperative.
“From our experience, we have had zero incidents,” Hebert said. “Absolutely zero.”
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