Vermont looking to lessen it’s dependence on troubled nuclear plant

Vermont has the lowest total energy consumption of any state in America, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). As a matter of fact, Vermont consumes less energy than the District of Columbia and more than 70 times less than Texas. Those staggering numbers are thanks to the fact that about 75 percent of the energy generated within the Green Mountain State comes from nuclear power, more than any other state in the country. However, Vermont's primary source of energy has also been one of the state's main topics of debate as it looks to be even more environmentally friendly.

The Vermont Yankee nuclear plant, which has supplied the state with as much as 35 percent of its energy requirements, is in the final year of its operational license. While the Nuclear Regulatory Commission approved its own 20-year extension in March 2011, the Vermont Public Service Board's ongoing review of the license has been held up due to a variety of issues brought up by New England Coalition (NEC), a nuclear watchdog group.

Raymond Shadis of the NEC told The Associated Press in January that he feels as though there are problems with Vermont Yankee that need to be addressed before the extension is officially approved by the state. Shadis explained that in 2009, plant employees claimed there was no underground piping that carried radioactive materials. But, just one year later, the pipes were not only found to exist, but also be leaking tritium into the surrounding ground and water.

Because of this delay in the process, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has sued both the state of Vermont and New England Coalition for not bringing this issues forward during the five-year period they had to review the power plants' license extension request.

The case is ongoing, but regardless, Governor Peter Shumlin revealed in a comprehensive energy plan in December 2011 that the state intends to lessen its reliance on Vermont Yankee. If the governor gets his way, the state will receive 90 percent of its power from renewable sources by 2050, thereby reducing the burden of citizens whose health and safety are currently being put in jeopardy.

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