Vermont senate votes to close nuclear plant

The liberal Vermont State Senate voted to close the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant Feb. 24 without a clear backup plan for the state's utility mix. The vote by senators will also add approximately 600 plant employees to Vermont's swelling unemployment lines when the plant is closed in 2012.

The vote, seen by many as a vote against the plant and its employees, also put an end to the Public Service Board's plan to consider an 20 additional years of life for the plant. The plant went on-line in 1972.

The 26-4 vote, which will close the plant in two years, is likely to have lasting effects on Vermont's economy, according to some observers such as John McClaughry of the Ethan Allen Institute of Vermont.

The loss of Vermont's only large-scale, zero greenhouse gas power plant is expected to create a ripple effect that doesn't bode well for the state's struggling economy including large utility rate increases.

A Vermont legislator and U.S. Senate candidate have noted President Obama's recent decision to support the construction of new nuclear reactors on the sites of existing NRC-approved power plants; they have proposed that a new nuclear unit should be built on the Vermont Yankee site in Vernon, Vt. It is uncertain if there is enough support for renewed in-state nuclear capacity, however, if built, such a new reactor would likely be Vermont's largest construction project since the first reactor was built in Vernon.

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