Meredith Angwin, who publishes the excellent blog Yes Vermont Yankee, is currently running a series of very interesting articles, all written by Vermonters who care deeply about whether the state’s only nuclear plant, Vermont Yankee, continues to generate electricity. The writers represent a diverse range of views and backgrounds, but are all in favour of keeping the plant running. When you read the articles, you will immediately note the intelligence and quiet passion with which the writers present their views. To me, this is no surprise. Meredith embodies the western critical intellectual tradition at its best. She is extremely well informed, and writes with confidence, conviction, and humility. When she is unsure of something, she says it up front. Her judgement, honed by iterative examination and reexamination of fact and context, is nuanced and formidable. People like her naturally bring out the best in others. I know: I had the pleasure of travelling through France with her and other nuclear advocates in 2010.
Flamanville new-build project, Normandy, France, June 2010. From left to right: me (standing apart from the group because I’m the only Canadian and the rest are American), Rod Adams (publisher of Atomic Insights), Jack Gamble (Nuclear Fissionary), Meredith Angwin (Yes Vermont Yankee), Gwyneth Cravens (author of Power to Save the World), and Jarret Adams of Areva.
Meredith has been fighting a relentless and resourceful campaign to keep Yankee open. In this, she reminds me a bit of the formerly obscure but now famous baseball outsiders who revolutionized thinking about the sport and who were immortalized in Michael Lewis’s brilliant book Moneyball: the art of winning an unfair game. Like major league baseball, nuclear advocacy in Vermont is definitely an unfair game: Yankee opponents are wired to the mainstream media and were successful years ago in defining the rhetorical frame in which the nuclear plant’s existence is debated in the public sphere. But like the Moneyballers, Meredith’s intelligence will win in the end. Like I said, she is relentless.
The articles currently showing on Yes Vermont Yankee are in advance of an interactive public hearing to be held by the Vermont Public Service Board, which regulates in-state utilities including electricity, on November 19. The articles follow a public meeting on November 7, in which, Meredith reports, plant supporters actually outnumbered plant opponents. That does not happen often. How did she do it? Have a read and find out.
For those who have observed the similar fight in Toronto over the GE-Hitachi CANDU fuel-pellet plant at Lansdown and Dupont, the Vermont Yankee fight might provide examples on how to use intelligence and reason—faculties available to all humans—to overcome medieval superstition. I am happy to note that at least one writer, a Toronto blogger named Randy McDonald who publishes A bit more detail, has reviewed, in person, the GEH opponents’ case, and has found it unconvincing.
I don’t know Randy McDonald and before today had never read his blog. A quick tour through it indicates that his interests are wide and various, that he writes well, and that he approaches his subjects with discernment, vigour, and agility. Here’s what he says about the campaign to close the GEH uranium fuel pellet plant at Lansdowne and Dupont:
Not only am I fine with the safety procedures at the plant, I’d suggest that making the plant move will only contribute to the deindustrialization of downtown Toronto and the consequent displacement of well-paying jobs from the downtown core. This is not a process that should be encouraged in any urban setting, least not one like Toronto that has fared relatively well compared to many of its North American peers.
It appears this guy has simply evaluated the facts of the matter, and drawn his own conclusion. What a refreshing contrast to the anti-nuclear side, whose willingness to trot out the same old uninformed nonsense time after time sometimes makes me wonder how we humans ever emerged from the Dark Ages.
To see intelligent people north and south of the 49th parallel weighing in on an issue of paramount importance to the world is, for me, extremely encouraging.
[AFTERWORD: I should note that Moneyball, while very interesting and a great read, was decidedly Oakland Athletics-centric and focused on only one school of “new” thought in baseball. In the year it was published, 2003, another major league team had won something like 11 consecutive division championships. That amazing winning streak extended to 2005. The team was the Atlanta Braves. While the Athletics are celebrated because of Moneyball, the Braves are a far more spectacular success story.]