N.H. group says Vermont Yankee's days are numbered

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VERNON -- As the year 2011 wound down on Saturday, a newly-formed New Hampshire group, opposed to the continued operation of the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant, gathered at gates of the plant to ring in a "nuclear free new year."

According to its members, the group, Nuke Free Monadnock, was formed as a way for New Hampshire residents to have a voice in the opposition of the nuclear plant, owned and operated by Entergy.

In April, Entergy filed a lawsuit against the state of Vermont stating the decision to deny the plant an additional 20-year operating license was based on radiological safety, the sole purview of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

The Federal District Court Judge J. Garvan Murtha has yet to rule on the suit but those in attendance on Saturday remained confident that Vermont would prevail.

Armed with noise makers, party hats, signs and songs, the crowd of nearly 30 toasted the plant's possible shutdown on March 21, 2012, by counting down the 82 days left until its original operating license expires.

One of the event's coordinators, Kendra Ulrich, said her New Year's resolution was to be at the plant on March 21 to ensure the plant is shut down.

"I want to make this a nuke-free tri-state area and eventually a nuclear free country," Ulrich said.

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Steve Chase, professor of environmental studies at Antioch University in Keene, N.H., who helped form the anti-nuclear group and its event, said he's been concerned about nuclear power for many years.

"We wanted to come out here to toast Vermont and show our support," he said. "I think we as a society have a lot more power than we let on ... and it's time we use it."

Chase, a long-time supporter of social change, said he was inspired by his mother after she called him into the living room in the 1960s to watch live as fire hoses were being sprayed at African-Americans standing up for their right to vote.

"She turned to me and said, ‘these are God's people' that's when I knew what I wanted to do. I wanted to fight injustice," he said.

Although he hasn't been arrested before for civil disobedience, Chase said he's willing to use non-violent methods to support the plant's shutdown.

"If we assume things can change for the better and act accordingly, it keeps open the possibility of real change," he said. "But if we assume nothing can be done and act accordingly, nothing will be done. It's a self-fulfilling prophecy."

Josh Stilts can be reached at jstilts@reformer.com, or 802-254-2311 ext. 273.


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