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Bob Moon: Just last week, we reported on the federal government’s $8 billion vote of confidence in the nuclear power industry. Now comes a very different message from lawmakers in Vermont. State senators voted overwhelmingly to retire the state’s 38-year-old Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant.
Marketplace’s John Dimsdale reports the vote is likely to slow the momentum behind the recent nuclear renaissance.
JOHN DIMSDALE: Vermont Yankee’s owner, Entergy, has applied to extend its operating license another 20 years. Vermont is the only state where the legislature must sign off on a nuclear power license renewal.
State Senate President Peter Shumlin says it’s time for the moth-balls.
PETER SHUMLIN: There’s no question that this plant is finished. It’s old, it’s tired. We don’t want to be tethered to an aging nuclear power plant, which is owned by a company who’s word we can’t trust.
Investigators recently discovered that plant officials covered up leaks of tritium — a cancer-causing chemical. Shumlin says senators also worried about billions in financing for a spinoff Entergy has proposed to run the old plant.
SHUMLIN: Our judgment in Vermont is this makes Lehman Brothers and AIG and the other shenanigans on Wall Street look like kindergarten play.
The Vermont vote reverses some of the Obama administration’s push for nuclear power as a cleaner energy source. But Steve Kerekes at the Nuclear Energy Institute, an industry trade group, says the vote should speed up the licensing of new nuclear plants.
STEVE KEREKES: No facility is going to run forever. And so we need to plan now to meet that rising demand and to do it with carbon-free sources. And that’s one of the reasons nuclear energy is such a big part of the discussion today.
Entergy says Vermont Yankee is safe and reliable, and the spinoff would be good for Vermont’s financial and energy future. But, State Senator Shumlin says the legislature plans to switch away from nuclear power, and aggressively develop renewable energy sources.
In Washington, I’m John Dimsdale for Marketplace.
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