Fifteen women arrested after advocating for solar power at Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant

Photo by Cindy Stahler. At the police station after their release pending a July 19 court appearance in Brattleboro’s Windham County Court.

Fifteen women, the largest ever contingent of the Shut It Down Affinity Group to date, were arrested Thursday afternoon, June 30, at the Entergy Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant.  The women were charged with trespass after advocating for replacing nuclear power with solar power.

Shut-It-Downers included three women in their nineties: Valerie Mullen, 90, of Vershire, Vermont; Frances Crowe, 92, of Northampton, Massachusetts, and Lea Wood, 94, of Montpelier, Vermont.

Smaller groups of the fifteen spray-painted the words “Go solar under the grid,” stretched caution tape across the Vermont Yankee driveway, locked the chain-link entrance to the power plant shut, and held a sign reading “Go solar under the grid” or placards representing carbon-free, nuclear-free solar power.

Vernon police officer Matthew Stains arrived on the scene soon after the women established themselves at the plant gate. Workers in automobiles intending to leave the plant at the end of a shift through the exit (which was not blocked by the demonstrators) were detained behind another gate by Vermont Yankee security. Shut-It-Downers chanted, “Let the workers go!”

The women read a statement citing dangers of nuclear power and indicting Vermont Yankee for harboring leaks, poisons, and lies. Then they chanted, “Shut it down now.”

Among those arrested Thursday were also two octogenarians, Jean Grossholtz, 82, of South Hadley, Massachusetts and Nancy First, 82, of Northampton. The day’s youngest participant was Julia Bonafine, 42, of Cuttinsgville, Vermont. Susan Spencer Smith, 60, of Burlington experienced her first-ever arrest for civil resistance during the demonstration. Smith is author of the much-produced play, Voices from Chernobyl.

Others arrested included Sandra Boston, 71, of Greenfield, Massachusetts; Nina Swaim, 73, of Sharon, Vermont; Betsy Corner, 64, of Colrain, Massachusetts; Ellen Graves, 68, of West Springfield, Massachusetts; Robin Lloyd, 72, of Burlington, Vermont; Hattie Nestel, 72, and Marcia Gagliardi, 63, of Athol, Massachusetts; Nelia Sargent, 55, of Claremont, New Hampshire.

The women were transported by Officer Stains and several Vermont State Police troopers to the Vernon police station where they were booked and released pending a July 19 court appearance in Windham County District Court, Brattleboro, Vermont. For eleven previous arrests at Vermont Yankee since 2005, Shut-It-Downers have never been prosecuted because the Vermont state’s attorney has dropped charges before a court appearance.

Following is the text of the statement read by the group, calling for solar power instead of nuclear power at Vermont Yankee:

“It is long past time to shut down Vermont Yankee, this inefficient, dangerously damaged, nuclear plant. We know we CAN have a safe reliable energy source that will protect and cherish our planet and help all living things to survive and even prosper. Events in Japan and here in Vernon make clear that nuclear dangers in all cases have been exacerbated by corruption of safety standards, lack of independent on site inspections, and failure to take into account the likelihood of natural disasters.

“The same combination of private corporations and political forces are at work all over the world. It remains to be seen if serious WHOLE HEARTED REGULATION AND INSPECTION ever could make such terrifying energy safe. But to date it has not happened. Our local experience watching Vermont Yankee licensed and relicensed despite numerous failures of the safety provisions, leaking radiation into our streams and rivers makes us ask ourselves, What would have happened if this deadly tornado that decimated the greater Springfield, Massachusetts, area had hit the Vernon area?

“Safety  standards have been seriously corrupted because there are no independent on-site  inspections and no recognition of natural disasters nor provision for what to do in the event of them. We saw the same thing in Japan and are seeing again in nuclear plants along the flooded rivers of the Midwest and elsewhere.

“Alternative energy must be a national project involving not only energy companies and engineers but also environmentalists, farmers, fisherfolk, factory workers, desk jockeys, and home owners. In short, all of us.

“Meanwhile, right here, right now we have the opportunity to lead the way. Let’s dig up all the nuclear-powered wires under this grid and build a solar energy field. We have the space. All we need is the will. Shut it down. Put solar under the grid.”