Vermont’s Nuclear FAIL

Flickr/<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/thiswasmeantforyou/">(M)factor</a> (Creative Commons)


In his State of the Union address last night, President Obama praised nuclear energy as a promising renewable option to help solve the country’s energy crisis. But rising radioactive chemical levels at a nuclear plant in Vermont give us another reason to be queasy about the idea… as if we needed one.

In response to leaks of tritium (radioactive hydrogen) at nuclear plants in Illinois and New York, the Vermont Yankee plant began monitoring the harmful chemical in 2007. In recent weeks, tritium levels have spiked in water sources surrounding the plant, prompting Vermont lawmakers to question whether they should extend Vermont Yankee’s operating license, which expires in 2012. The New York Times reports:

Vermont’s governor, Jim Douglas, a longtime supporter of the plant, said on Wednesday in a statement that recent events had “raised dark clouds of doubt” about the reactor’s safety and management. He suggested that the Legislature put off any decisions on the future of the plant, located in the town of Vernon.

If the nuclear plant were to be denied an extension, it would be the first such move by the public or its representatives since 1989, when residents in Sacramento voted to close the Rancho Seco nuclear plant, owned by their municipal utility. No state legislature has ever voted to close one.

Despite the environmentally harmful waste and potential dangers associated with nuclear energy, applications to build new reactors have surged in the past three years. But as the need for increased renewable energy production expands, so does the perceived necessity of nuclear power. And nuclear lobbyists hope to capitalize on this trend by securing massive federal loan guarantees for new reactors from the Climate bill currently being debated in Congress.

But nuclear energy isn’t the homerun that the NEI and congressional politicians want you to think it is. And chemical mishaps like the tritium scare in Vermont should make Congress pause before it prioritizes the industry over cleaner, safer renewable options like wind and solar. 

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate

Share your feedback: We’re planning to launch a new version of the comments section. Help us test it.