Photo via NRC
Just a week ago, Obama announced that the first nuclear reactor to be built in the US in over 30 years was receiving an $8 billion loan guarantee. Today, Vermont has voted to shut down its only nuclear plant because of revelations that it was leaking radioactive tritium into the ground, and that the plant's operators lied to regulators about its safety. The fate of the plant seems to have little to do with the ideological debate over nuclear power, however--the vote to let the plant's 20-year license expire in 2012 was due mostly because its operators were negligent, and the reactors had become a health risk.
The AP notes that with "the Vernon reactor leaking radioactive tritium into groundwater and its owners accused of misleading state regulators about underground piping at the plant, even senators who might have supported the license extension said they would have a difficult time doing so now."
In other words, all the 'carbon-free' clean energy arguments in the world aren't going to save a plant that's leaking radioactive waste into the groundwater. And it's certainly a blow to the nuclear industry, since these kind of issues play into the public's long-ingrained fears of nuclear power. It's hard to overcome a stigma that nuclear facilities leak radioactive waste--even if the cause in this case was negligence, and not a systemic problem.
As one Vermont Republican told the AP, "If the board of directors and management were infiltrated by anti-nuclear activists, I do not believe they could have done a better job destroying their own case." Sen. Randy Brock had "supported an amendment calling for building a new reactor in Vernon before he voted against the extension."
Via the HuffPo Green
More on Nuclear Power
Nuclear Power : Climate Fix or Folly?
25 Percent of U.S. Nuclear Power Plants Are Leaking Radioactive Waste
Why There's $54.5 Billion for Nuclear Power in Obama's Budget