(Vernon, VT — August 19, 2015) – Residents throughout Vermont and the Northeast were thrilled when Entergy, the owner of the Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Station, announced plans to shutter the facility and begin its long-term decommissioning process.
But not everyone is basking in the afterglow of the decision.
Vermont Yankee, which began operation in 1972 and at one point provided more than 75% of Vermont’s home-produced electricity, shut down for the last time on December 29, 2014. The decommissioning process, overseen by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), is expected to take until 2073.
Environmentalists long complained about having an operating nuclear power plant in their backyard, pointing out the potential damage the power-generating and radiation-emitting behemoth could do to the local environment by poisoning the water, the soil, and the local habitat.
Of specific concern regarding water contamination: The plant’s operation produced heavy water – D2O – which was mixed with the “regular” water – H2O – found in the Connecticut River.
Yet some environmentalists are now convinced that the presence of D2O wasn’t such a bad thing after all.
“Many people think that the heavy water actually attracted wildlife,” said an environmental scientist, speaking on condition of anonymity. “The D2O is warmer than the naturally-occurring Connecticut River water, and that attracted all sorts of wildlife. Birds, fish, wombats – you name it, they all came to Vermont Yankee. Where will they go now?”
Thanks to an agreement between Entergy, the NRC, and the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), some of the site’s wildlife won’t have to worry about moving any time soon. Vermont Yankee’s cooling tower will remain in place for decades, allowing many species of birds who have taken up residence since 1972 to keep their home.
“We think this is win-win,” said a FWS spokesman, speaking on condition of anonymity. “The NRC says Vermont can’t do anything with the land for almost 60 years. What’s the hurry in removing an aviary environment?”
Of course, there are skeptics who believe that Vermont Yankee’s residual radiological footprint will cause problems for years to come.
“The site won’t be safe in 60 years,” said an environmental activist, speaking on condition of anonymity. “It won’t be safe in 600 years, or even 6,000 years. Just look at the incident in Texas involving Armadillozilla. Where do you think Armadillozilla came from?”