The State of Vermont has scheduled a trial the week after Thanksgiving for civil resistance at Entergy Corporation’s Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant in Vernon. The actions of six women arrested August 30, 2011 for unlawful trespass when they padlocked the main gate will be weighed by a jury beginning November 27.
The state’s action represents the first time that anyone has been brought to trial in seven years of demonstrations at the Vernon nuclear power plant.
All part of the Shut It Down Affinity Group arrested 22 times for trespass or unlawful mischief at the Vernon nuclear facility, the six women acted in the immediate wake of Hurricane Irene and a then recent earthquake to demonstrate the imminent danger posed by a potential meltdown at the nuclear plant.
The women face penalties for unlawfull trespass, if convicted, of up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $500 each. The women say they were obliged to lock the power plant gates because the catastrophe from a nuclear accident at Vermont Yankee would far exceed the individual burdens they may face if found guilty of trespass at the plant.
Those to be tried are Frances Crowe, 92, Paki Wieland, 68, and Nancy First, 81, of Northampton, Massachusetts; Betsy Corner, 64, of Colrain, Massachusetts; Ellen Graves, 69, of West Springfield, Massachusetts; and Hattie Nestel, 73, of Athol, Massachusetts.
Supporting the group during their action were Marcia Gagliardi, 63, of Athol; Mary-Ann Palmieri, 73, of New Salem, Massachusetts, and Sandra Boston, 71, of Greenfield, Massachusetts.
Assistant State’s Attorney Steven Brown will prosecute the women. A spokesman for the clerk of the superior court criminal division said that jury selection will occur Monday, November 26, followed by the trial November 27 and 28.
Only Crowe has previously faced a trial, despite the women’s 22 actions. Her case involving charges of unlawful mischief were dismissed by the judge when she maintained that she was not mischievous but instead acting seriously and responsibly with concern for potential consequences of a meltdown at Vermont Yankee.
During the August 30, 2011 incident, the women carried a banner reading, “VY Pollutes All / Shut It Down.”
The six, all from Massachusetts, expressed concern that pollution in the Connecticut River affects them more than Vermonters because the plant’s location in Vernon is just over the border. Massachusetts elected officials at all levels have expressed worry about Vermont Yankee’s radioactive discharges and record of leaks and maintenance failures.
Further, said Nestel, Vermont Yankee irresponsibly and untruthfully represents itself as clean, safe, and green. “Vermont Yankee leaks radioactive pollutants into the environment,” Nestel said. “The nuclear power plant poses profound risks to citizens of Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, and New York in the event of a nuclear accident like the meltdown like Fukushima. It is hardly green: its every process relies on damaging the environment by exploiting minerals and fossil fuels with considerable carbon discharge into the environment.
“Recent earthquakes, hurricanes, and flooding are the canary in the mine warning us that future disasters can result from vulnerabilities of this nuclear power plant built according to exact specifications of reactors at Fukushima,” Nestel continued.
The group presented a statement to Vermont Yankee personnel:
“Tritium leaking into the Connecticut River from Vermont Yankee. Strontium-90 found in Connecticut River fish not far from Vermont Yankee. Earthquake detectors failing to register during a 5.8 earthquake. Floods. What more do we need to shut down Vermont Yankee? Another Fukushima? Shut it down now.”
Photos by Mary-Ann DeVita Palmieri: