LEARNING TO ORGANIZE!

This blog is posted on behalf of Connor Gibson, student at University of Vermont and Greenpeace Organizing Term Alumni:

Although I live in Vermont, it took a campaign trip as a part of last spring’s Greenpeace Organizing Term http://www.greenpeace.org/got

to finally see my states highly controversial nuclear power plant, Vermont Yankee.

This plant is very controversial: it’s a big source of jobs and a fairly large supplier of energy in my tiny little state.  The plant is up for expiration in 2012 and the VT legislature has the power to either shut it down on its 40th birthday or let it run for another 20 years.  I should probably also mention that the place is falling apart- it has experienced a cooling tower collapse, a transformer fire, and countless other safety hazards over the last few years.  In fact, it probably has sprung another leak since you started reading this.  Seriously.

This is where we came in.  From Washington DC, we drove north to aid local anti-nuclear organizations and build public pressure to show the legislature that they need to retire this place on time.  In Brattleboro, one town over from where the plant is located, we heard the opinions of people who live in close proximity to VT Yankee.  Overwhelmingly, these people expressed concern and frustration over the possibility of leaving such a dangerous facility open for another two decades.  Hearing the stories of direct stakeholders only stiffened our resolved to act.

We petitioned.  Hard. Hundreds of names were databased and contacted.  We threw a kick-off party at my beloved University of Vermont that attracted nearly 100 people, giving them a chance to hear about the issue from experts, network with other activists, and attend short workshops to help them become more involved.  It was beautiful [and inspiring].

After my summer internship with Greenpeace winds up, I’m heading back to the University of Vermont and will again fight the [dirty, dangerous and expensive] VT Yankee.  It’s going to be a tough battle, but we have a real shot and everyone is on the edge of their seat about it. As an organizer, that makes me even more excited to get back to work

If you have to have an experience like me, check out http://www.greenpeace.org/got for more info and to apply for the upcoming Fall semester of the Greenpeace Organizing Term.

3 Responses to “LEARNING TO ORGANIZE!”


  1. 1 Howard Shaffer Jun 25th, 2009 at 11:58 am

    Dear Connor Gibson,

    As you drove to Vermont you were in a vehicle and system that distinguishes between safety-related and non-safety related, just as does the regulation of nuclear power plants. For your car, safety-related is that which is inspected when you take the car in for its State Inspection. Most states do emission tests, and the Operator (you) is supposed to inspect some things continuously: for example headlights. You can’t drive aropund with a headlight out and wait for the next annual inspection. Regulation of nuclear power, airplanes etc. follow the same philosophy.

    As a former nuclear submarine engineer, startup engineer at Vermont Yankee and engineer in support of nuclear power plants my whole career, as well as a Licensed Professional Engineer in Vermont, in nuclear engineering, I’d like to ask you how you became so knowledgeable about nuclear power. (Sarcasem intended).

    Did you talk to any residents of Vernon, Vermont where the plant is located, or did Greenpeace steer you to just the anti-nukes in Brattleboro?

    I respect Greenpeace’ right to be against nuclear weapons and against nuclear power as social policy decisions. As a student it might be interesting to reflect on the proposition that nuclear weapons have fulfilled their purpose.

    Using nuclear weapons against Japan casued the Emperor to command the population to stop fighting and accept the occupation. Historical review proved the Japanese military and population had a large segment that were planning a suicide defense, similar to the ones already performed on Siapan and other islands. Hundreds of thousands of lives were saved. Perhaps you may meet someone, a I have, who was in training for the invasion of Japan when the bombs were dropped, and the US estimates were for one million casualties to Allied forces. They have a very appreciative perspective on this issue.

    The Berlin Wall came down without a shot, and the Soviet Union dissolved because the US and some of its allies have nuclear weapons.

    Perhaps you can also inquire into Congress’ original decision to have a nuclear electric program.

    Hope to meet you in Vermont this fall, as I am active in the campaign to keep VY going.

    Howard Shaffer PE
    Nuclear Public Outreach
    Enfield, NH

  2. 2 Clay turnbull Jun 25th, 2009 at 2:54 pm

    John……Thank you for your energy and enthusiasm in Vermont. I’m in hopes one of our Trustees will contact you soon to see what your up to now. New England Coalition is the only intervenor in the VT Public Service Board hearings fighting to have the health, environmental, safety and reliability consequences of extended operation included in the considerations as Entergy pushes their profit motives on the people of Vermont and the entire region.

    Again, on the Federal level, New England Coalition (www.NECNP.org) is
    the only intervenor…THE ONLY GROUP standing in the way of Entergy
    receiving NRC approval for another 20 years of extended operation.
    We, through our expert witnesses and lawyers representing NEC’s constituents,
    have for the past three years be forcing Entergy into court to address
    our contentions that MATAL FATIGUE is not being addressed by Entergy.

    Metal Fatigue is real stuff. It cannot be ignored. Steel reactors bombarded
    with neutrons and exposed to incredible vibration for 40 years experience
    METAL FATIGUE. Important stuff.

    Looking forward to more contact. Look for a Trustee to be contacting you shortly.

  3. 3 Jarred Cobb Jul 13th, 2009 at 2:23 pm

    Mr. Shaffer,

    Thanks for your perspective. I heard Arnie Gundersen, who is also a nuclear engineer and working on oversight of Vermont Yankee, speak in Waitsfield last month. He detailed the many structural problems with the plant that have contributed to cooling towers collapsing, condenser leaks, etc. He has been pretty astute in predicting failures at Vermont Yankee (http://7d.blogs.com/blurt/2009/06/senator-shumlin-on-the-nuclear-offensive.html).

    I think what is clear is that thousands of people all over Vermont are sick of having such an old and dangerous power plant in our state. I think it is great that Connor is standing up with them to show our legislators that the time for a renewable energy future is here. Awesome work Connor and we look forward to having you back in the northeast!

    -Jarred Cobb
    Burlington, VT

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About John


John Deans is a Greenpeace campaigner working on Toxics issues, but he got his start in activism working to stop climate change and still participates when able.

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