Members of the New England Peace Pagoda marched toward the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant in Vernon just after noon Wednesday. They've been traveling the country by foot protesting nuclear power.
"Some of us came from New Jersey and some of us started around the Boston, Seabrook area. We walked up through Indian Point on the lower Hudson and then up through here," said Thomas Vanacore of Bridgeport.
Vermont Yankee's original 40-year operating license expires Wednesday. The plant has already received a new 20-year license from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. But it does not come with the state's blessing. Vermont's attorney general lost the first round in federal court in the state's push to close the plant. An appeal is pending.
"We are here to support the end of nuclear power across the globe. It's just not supportable, it's not economical, and it needs to be shut down," Vanacore said.
As protestors pounded drums in front of the nuclear power plant, balloons celebrating Yankee's 40th anniversary danced in the wind nearby; a reminder that not everyone is in favor of closing the plant. Supporters argue that Yankee contributes millions in taxes, hundreds of good paying jobs, and helps lower Vermont's carbon footprint.
"If anyone were to say Vermonters support closing the plant or all Vermonters want to keep the plant open, that's disingenuous," said Guy Page of the Vermont Energy Partnership.
According to the Windham County Sheriff's Department, seven people were arrested outside the plant without incident Wednesday morning. Police say they respect the right of people to protest as long as it falls within the law.
"Our biggest concern is the wild card. Someone who comes in who is not affiliated with those groups doing something that we weren't expecting," Windham County Sheriff Keith Clark said.
Yankee has dealt with protests in the past, but things are different this time around. The corporate headquarters in Brattleboro was guarded by sheriff's deputies Wednesday. The parking lot, which is usually filled, was empty.
Another difference is Yankee's relationship with Vermont utilities. Both Central Vermont Public Service, and Green Mountain Power's contracts with Yankee expire with its license, and they contracted with out-of-state plants.
"Persistence pays off. I've said it before and I will say it again. I think it is important for people to voice their opinions," Vanacore said.
Protestors placed Cranes-- symbolizing good luck-- in front of the plant. A facility fueling controversy today as it did when it opened 40 years ago.
Hundreds are expected to protest at the plant Thursday.
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