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Voices / Viewpoint

I am not Spock

For a pro-Vermont Yankee blogger and advocate, Entergy’s decision to close the plant goes beyond cold and rational discussion. Her main emotion now? Sorrow.

Meredith Angwin, the coordinator of the Ethan Allen Institute’s Energy Education Project, has written the Yes Vermont Yankee blog since 2009. She is a frequent contributor to the American Nuclear Society’s ANS Nuclear Cafe blog, where this piece first appeared in October.

Wilder

When arguing in favor of nuclear power and especially Vermont Yankee, I sometimes felt I was channeling Spock.

VY’s opponents appealed to emotion: “I am so afraid.” As a pro-VY blogger, I appealed to facts and common sense. Sometimes I wanted to scream: “Nuclear energy is the only way to keep our civilization without destroying our world!”

I never screamed it. I was Spock.

When Entergy announced that it would close Vermont Yankee, my inner Spock continued even as the opponents celebrated all over the place. They chanted: “Ding dong, the witch is dead.” They threw parties. They wrote op-eds: “On joy and justice” [Viewpoint, Sept. 4]. And so forth.

And what about me? In my blog, I wrote a careful analysis of the causes of the shutdown. I tried to understand Entergy’s decision and its implications for other nuclear plants.

I think I was still Spock.

* * *

It’s been several months since the announcement, and my attitudes have changed.

I am not Spock.

I am sad. I am sad, and I cannot rationalize my way out of that feeling. Everything is not for the best, and this is not the best of all possible worlds.

I am sad, and I feel quite powerless. No matter what I do, the plant will close. No matter what I do, the people I know at the plant will be dispersed to other jobs.

I’ve read only one solid human-interest article about the plant closing: “Vermont Yankee family faces uncertain future,” published in the Keene Sentinel.

When the plant closes, Vermont Yankee employee John Twarog will be laid off. John expects he will have to leave the area, and his teenage sons will have to complete their high school education in a new town. To me, this was the only article that is real because it was focused on what is actually happening. Also, I admit it: I know the Twarogs.

Of course, lawsuits and opponent meetings and so forth continue, despite the announcement. Opponents will attempt to raise the cost of decommissioning in the hopes of giving nuclear energy a black eye.

I don’t want nuclear energy to get a black eye, but once the plant is closed and the teams of contractors appear to dismantle it, the decommissioning issues of “how expensive” and “how long” just aren’t that interesting to me. I am interested in operating plants, not cost savings on decommissioning.

I am not Spock, and my main emotion right now is sorrow.

* * *

My current advice to myself is to stop pretending to be Spock. I find it hard to know how to move forward, which is itself a typical emotion related to the bigger emotion of sorrow. Also typical of sorrow: I am full of self-doubts. (I know a lot about nuclear energy; why did I decide to concentrate on one power plant? Wasn’t “Yes Vermont Yankee” a silly name for a blog?)

Entergy has decided to close the plant for economic reasons, not because plant opponents won their case in court or in the legislature. But still, the bottom line is that my side lost. We lost.

The people who wanted the plant to close have something to celebrate. The people who wanted the plant to stay open have something to mourn.

I guess my only advice to myself is to allow myself to acknowledge this sadness. I know that, given time, a way forward will present itself.

In the meantime, I plan to continue writing about Vermont Yankee. Some people, including VY employees, look to my blog as a bit of their voice. I don’t want to abandon my readers. Also, in the course of blogging, I have learned a fair amount about energy choices in New England. I want to write about that, too.

Continuing to write about Vermont Yankee might not be a logical use of my time, but I am still going to do it.

I am not Spock.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #230 (Wednesday, November 20, 2013). This story appeared on page C1.

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