Sunday, September 29, 2013

Challenging Those Who Celebrate Vermont Yankee's Closing

Nuclear Opponents Celebrate Plant Closing

Vermont Yankee opponents are celebrating the announcement that the plant will close in 2014. Their celebrations make it appear that everyone is happy with this outcome.  In my opinion, nuclear supporters must be honest, visible and upfront with our feelings:  We are not happy that the plant is closing. We know that Vermont Yankee's closing is a bad thing for the state of Vermont.

Here comes the party

The day that Entegy announced the plant shutdown, my local newspaper called me for a quote. They interviewed me and Howard Shaffer, and they interviewed plant opponents.

The Valley News put the article on the front page: Vermont Yankee Opponents Cheer, Supporters Lament.  The article started with an opponent's reaction: When Sharon resident Nina Swaim heard the news Tuesday morning, she was so excited that she screamed. The article ended with more of the opponent's reaction:  First, though, Swaim said, “I just think we all should party for a while.”

Howard and I are well-represented in that article: as a matter of fact, the pull-quote on the front page was from me. But the article started and ended with the opponents' celebrations.

Count me out of the party

Jack Gamble and his wife work at Oyster Creek in New Jersey.  Opponents have tried hard to shut that plant down, and they have partially succeeded.  Oyster Creek is scheduled to close in less than ten years, despite having a NRC license good through 2029.

Jack saw the Valley News article (I had linked to it on Facebook) and he wrote a letter to Valley News: Count Me Out of the Party. His letter starts: About 600 people will lose their jobs, and Nina Swaim is throwing a party...The entire town of Vernon is about to be devastated. Restaurants, retailers and every other local business just lost 600 customers. The same is going to happen to our town of Forked River. But Swaim is going to party... I urge you to link to Gamble's letter and read it.

A few days later, the Valley News published a letter by Brian Cain: Where the Blame Belongs.   Cain started by listing Three Mile Island, Fukushima, etc.  He referred to Gamble's letter, and he finished his own letter with comments that I consider snarky: The world is moving toward safe, clean, sustainable energy, and nukes are not part of that equation. Good luck to you (Gamble) in your job hunt. I don’t have a job either, but I am going to the party.

(Actually, of course, Gamble has a job now, but will lose it when the plant closes. Cain equates "will lose our jobs" with "don't have a job."  Oh, I am SUCH a nit-picker!)

The party expands by adding quotation marks

Chad Simmons volunteers with an anti-Vermont-Yankee  activist campaign.  He was offended that some people have said that activists are insensitive when they gloat over Vermont Yankee closing. In The Commons, Simmons wrote a letter titled On Joy and Justice. To give him credit, he tackles the jobs question straight up:
Chicken Dance

THE “JOBS” ARGUMENT is, in my opinion, a fear-mongering ploy by the wealthy to scare communities into submission......Do Entergy “jobs” make our lives better and its “charitable giving” add to the sustainability and happiness of our communities?

Well, maybe not straight-up.  There are those quotation marks...

Cheryl Twarog, a Vermont Yankee supporter and wife of a long-term employee, wrote several good comments at the end of Simmon's letter.  I urge you to read them.

Answering the Gloaters and Party-Goers

In politics: "A Charge Un-Answered is a Charge Believed."  If  someone is accused and doesn't answer, then people think the accusation is true.

In my opinion, it is the same with the party-goers. If people are celebrating and we don't say anything about it, we are implying their celebrations are appropriate.

We should point out that the people-who-party are enjoying the misfortunes of others. Yes, these people are under the impression that they, personally, will be far safer if these others suffer misfortune (Chernobyl! Fukushima!). They are still enjoying the misfortune of others.


Two people have written very effective rebuttals to the gloaters.

Cheryl Twarog wrote two excellent letters.  In No High Fives, she answered Simmons directly, in The Commons:  The reality of impending job losses is anything but fear-mongering in any VY household at the moment. Perhaps it is Simmons’ sense of reality that is skewed.

In The Sentinel and other newspapers, she wrote: Vermont Yankee Workers are Great.
Thank you for remembering what is important, even at a time like this, when so many are jubilantly celebrating the impending job losses.

You continue to go to work each day with the safe operation of the plant as your top priority, shutting out the ignorance of others. You are a highly skilled, dedicated and caring group of people, and you deserve all of the good that can come your way.Wishing each one of you the best. 

At Canadian Energy Issues, Steve Aplin described the situation: Jobs and livelihoods destroyed, lives disrupted, increasing carbon emissions: an anti-nuke's life's work.  Aplin writes about the difficulties of being unemployed in this economy. Aplin references Gamble's letter, and adds about his own experience attempting to protect union jobs against a government policy that would eliminate them:

In my initial discussions with the new union clients I sensed a quiet, very restrained, but palpable anger about the policy they had asked for advice opposing...I put everything I had into that case, and my client succeeded in at least delaying the implementation of the policy. What struck me throughout...was the callousness, on the part of those who supported and continue to support that policy, toward the thousands of people who will lose their jobs because of it.  I am supposed to be a brass-balled consultant, providing objective advice...But...I found it difficult to be detached about people who would soon be dealing with unemployment.

Party-Time Rhetoric

In my opinion, we must combat the "party time" rhetoric just as we have combated the "huge-dangers" rhetoric.

In the case of party-time, the opponents can give the impression that everyone is dancing in the streets about the Entergy announcement. There's no street-dancing and no high-fives, except among the dedicated opponents.  Nuclear supporters must continue to express our sadness that Vermont Yankee is closing.  We must continue to express our knowledge that Vermont Yankee and its employees were a great asset to the southern Vermont communities, and indeed, to the whole state.

The Sin of Envy
I cannot know the motivations of the people who oppose Vermont Yankee.  However, I do know that the median income in Windham County is $41K, and in Vermont as a whole it is $53K  (see my previous post on A Poor Area Will Become Poorer.)  In contrast, the average salary at Vermont Yankee is usually stated as "around $90K."

Envy is one of the motivations of some (many?) of the opponents.  I know my evidence for this is anecdotal evidence, but the stories are also true. I think some (but not all) plant opponents are at least partially motivated by envy.

In Dante's Purgatory, the punishment for the envious is to have their eyes sewn shut with wire because they have gained sinful pleasure from seeing others brought low (from Wikipedia). If you prefer a more modern word than envy, Schadenfreude means basically the same thing.


jimwg said...

I'd like someone in Vermont to confirm this off the social nets, but if it's true that schools there are joining in the "celebration" in mentions of relief about the issue, then this is very wrong. I know the media was in the antis' pocket from the get-go (and shouldn't wiggle off the hook for bias either), but to have schools insinuate that nuclear power was a monster lurking behind the hills ready to pounce them is a corruption of fair and accurate education and fair-minded information. Sadly, outside a White House executive order declaring nuclear reactors a vital global-warming curbing asset, nothing can assuage the more enlightened VY residents but our sympathies and prayer, but perhaps there's a way they can contribute to supporting and advising other beleagued VYs in the making to help socially and politically head off the antis and FUD and media at the pass. VY's painful lessons must not be lost and best be passed on to help buttress us all from the madness of ignorance and fear.

James Greenidge
Queens NY

Meredith Angwin said...


Schools are not joining in the celebration as a school, but some individual teachers are certainly celebrating and telling their classes how happy they are that the plant is closing. (anecdotal evidence only, I'm afraid).

You remember this incorrect AP story about iodine pills. This was a rumor that may have been started by a teacher who is opposed to Vermont Yankee.

Tom Clegg said...

Hi Meredith, I know this is kind of off the subject but this I thought was the best post to put this on. This confuses me. I was on the NEI web site and came across a post about Alec Baldwin doing a dinner fund raiser for Joe Mangano better know en for the tooth fairy project. What really gets to me is this. Now Alec Baldwin is a big star on 30 Rock. 30 Rock is on NBC. NBC is owned by GE, The same GE that makes BWR power plants, and supplies them with fuel and other things. So how come GE doesn't pull the plug on this BUM.

Meredith Angwin said...

I heard that some teachers in the area used class time to tell the classes how GREAT it was that VY was closing. I am sure they did, and they made some of their students very uncomfortable. We all (quite rightly) have huge regard for the wonderful teachers in our lives. We have to acknowledge, however, that some teachers see their classes as a captive audience for their own views and who is to stop them? I have only anecdotal evidence of this, however.

GE is a big company, and many areas are no doubt constantly at cross purposes. So there you are.

Also, once someone is "unique" would be very hard to tell them what to do. A chemist (like me) can be swapped-out for another chemist, if I worked for a big company and got out of line. A TV star...not so easy to swap!