Our Work

VNRC Moves to Intervene in Vermont Yankee Proceeding

February 9, 2010

As elevated levels of radioactive isotopes continue to leak into groundwater surrounding the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant – and potentially into neighboring drinking water wells – VNRC today filed a motion to intervene in the docket before the Public Service Board on Vermont Yankee. VNRC cited our interest in protecting the state’s groundwater – a resource legally held in trust for the common good of all Vermonters – and the critical need to assure the state interprets the new groundwater public trust law correctly.

Read VNRC’s memorandum in support of our motion to intervene here.

“Protecting Vermont’s groundwater is the responsibility of the state, and it is imperative to safeguard our state’s primary drinking water supply and an invaluable resource for farming, recreation and much more,” said VNRC Water Program Director and Legal Counsel Jon Groveman. “The recent news that underground pipes at Vermont Yankee are leaking increasingly elevated amounts of radioactive tritium into area groundwater spurred us to intervene. VNRC is deeply concerned that this radioactive material could contaminate drinking water supplies of neighboring communities as well as the Connecticut River.”

VNRC successfully helped lead a four-year effort that culminated in 2008 to statutorily declare Vermont’s groundwater a public trust resource. The public trust provision for the state’s groundwater – which was been afforded Vermont’s surface waters for more than a century – offers an important layer of legal protection to help safeguard the resource.

“Legal protection for Vermont’s groundwater is crucial, especially right now,” said VNRC Executive Director Elizabeth Courtney. “The source of the leak at Vermont Yankee continues to elude investigators. The contamination has rapidly increased. And the underground plume appears to be spreading. This is a startling and potentially dangerous picture.”

“VNRC and all Vermonters have a serious stake in how the state negotiates this issue,” said Groveman. “That’s why it’s incumbent upon the state to fulfill its obligation to protect and manage Vermont’s groundwater for the good of all Vermonters. In this case, that means the state has a responsibility to consider the impact of relicensing Vermont Yankee on groundwater. Clearly, with the serious and significant levels of radioactive materials leaking into Vermont’s water recently, this is an issue of grave concern and importance.”

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Vermonters have a huge stake — and, thankfully, a voice — in what will likely be one of the most significant decisions regarding public safety and our energy future that the state will ever face. That’s because Vermont is the only state in the nation in which the Legislature has authority over deciding a nuclear power plant’s future. In the coming months, lawmakers are likely to consider this important question.

Let your lawmakers know where you stand on this issue. Contact them today and encourage them to close the old, unsafe and unreliable plant – as scheduled in 2012 – or even before. For more information and to find out how to contact your legislators, click here.