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VERMONT YANKEE SURVEY: TRITIUM LEAKS PUSH TWO THIRDS OF VERMONTERS TO FAVOR CLOSURE OF REACTOR BY 2012, ONLY 9% WOULD PICK NUCLEAR TO POWER HOME

More Bad News for Vermont Yankee Expected from 14 Town Meetings Weighing Reactor’s Fate; National Implications Seen for 27 or More of 107 Reactors With Tritium Leaks.

MONTPELIER, VT.///March 1, 2010///Many or most of the 14 Town Halls across Vermont (including 12 on Tuesday) weighing the fate of Vermont Yankee are likely to result in a repeat of the vote last week in the state’s Senate for closure of the controversial nuclear reactor by 2012, judging from a new scientific survey of 802 Vermonters conducted by Opinion Research Corporation for the nonprofit and nonpartisan Civil Society Institute (CSI).

Based on polling that took place February 19-22nd immediately before the Vermont Senate vote took place, the findings resonate nationally in that a main driver of deteriorating public support for Vermont Yankee centered on the leaking of radioactive tritium, a problem that also is playing out at 27 or more of the nation’s 104 reactors across 31 states.

Key CSI survey findings reported by Opinion Research Corporation include the following:

About two thirds of Vermont residents (65 percent) say “reports about Vermont Yankee leaking radioactive tritium into testing wells and surrounding water” make them “more likely to support the 2012 closure of the reactor.” That includes 44 percent of Republicans, 80 percent of Democrats and 60 percent of Independents.
Overall, 71 percent of state residents are “less supportive now of Vermont Yankee, the nuclear reactor, than [they] were six months ago.” That includes 57 percent of Republicans, 82 percent of Democrats and two thirds of Independents.
Given a choice, fewer than one in 10 Vermont residents (9 percent) would ask their power company to use nuclear energy to power their homes, compared to 71 percent who selected “wind, solar and other clean-energy technologies.”
The fact that Entergy has been unable to find the source of the tritium leaks makes more than three out of four Vermont residents (76 percent) “less confident in the company’s ability to safely manage a nuclear reactor”.

Pam Solo, founder and president, Civil Society Institute, said: “These survey findings indicate that the Vermont Senate action to close Vermont Yankee by 2012 was very much in keeping with the views of the state’s residents. As a result, we are likely to see many of the 14 Vermont Town Hall meetings where this same issue will be deliberated arrive at a similar outcome. Nationally, there is a real message here for a U.S. nuclear power industry with literally dozens of other reactors plagued with similar tritium leaks: You can’t sell Americans on the notion that you are providing ‘clean and safe’ power at the same time that you are leaking a radioactive substance into wells and other bodies of water. Citizens in other states may not be able to intervene as directly in reactor issues as Vermonters can, but this survey suggests they are unlikely to remain silent about tritium leaks and other legitimate safety concerns.”

Solo noted that the Vermont Yankee is also a regional issue, since only about half of the employees are state residents and its location makes it an issue for both New Hampshire and Massachusetts, where the Civil Society Institute is headquartered.

Opinion Research Corporation Senior Researcher Graham Hueber, said: “It would appear from these survey findings that Entergy has dug itself a very deep hole from which it may not be able to emerge. For example, fewer than half of Vermont residents (46 percent) now trust Entergy to clean up the tritium leaks at Vermont Yankee. In fact, a very high two thirds of Vermonters now give Entergy a low rating for ‘trustworthiness’. Similarly, about three out five state residents (58 percent) give Entergy low marks for ‘competence’. In short, this is the picture of a corporation that has lost the support of the Vermont public and will be very hard pressed to rebuild its damaged reputation.”

Important note: The Civil Society Institute is the sole sponsor of this 100 percent independent survey, which is not being released for or with financing from any energy company, environmental group or allied organization. CSI has released more than 25 national and state-specific surveys and reports since 2003 on a wide range of energy and climate issues.

KEY SURVEY FINDINGS

Of those Vermont residents who heard about the radioactive tritium leak at Vermont Yankee, nearly four in five (79 percent) said they are concerned about it, including more than half (52 percent) who are “very concerned.” Only about one in five (21 percent) of this group said that they were not concerned, with just 6 percent saying they were “not concerned at all.” Even when the 20 percent of state residents who have not heard about the tritium leak are added, the percentage of all state residents who are concerned about the tritium leaks at Vermont Yankee still accounts for 63 percent of the state’s adult population.
About half of Vermont residents (49 percent) see nuclear power as a “power source of yesterday,” compared to compared to 94 percent for solar, 92 percent for wind and 78 percent for hydroelectric as “power sources of tomorrow” that should play a bigger, rather than smaller, role in the U.S. energy supply picture.
Nine out of 10 Vermont residents (89 percent) say that Entergy – not Vermont taxpayers - “should have to foot the bill for decommissioning Vermont Yankee.” That includes 83 percent of Republicans, 94 percent of Democrats and 90 percent of Independents.
68 percent of Vermont residents would support closure of Vermont Yankee in 2012 “assuming that a combination of increased energy efficiency, clean energy, such as hydroelectric, wind and solar and natural gas could be used to offset the electricity from the reactor.” That includes 48 percent of Republicans, 82 percent of Democrats and 63 percent of Independents.
71 percent of Vermont residents would support closure of Vermont Yankee in 2012 “assuming that many new jobs could be created through investments in new clean energy technologies, such as hydroelectric, wind and solar.” That includes 47 percent of Republicans, 86 percent of Democrats and 72 percent of Independents.
Only 46 percent of state residents trust Entergy to clean up the tritium leaks at Vermont Yankee, compared to 47 percent who do not.
Two thirds of Vermonters now give Entergy a low rating for “trustworthiness” –with 37 percent saying “very low” and 29 percent “somewhat low.”Only about one in four state residents (26 percent) give Entergy high marks for trustworthiness.
Nearly three out five state residents (58 percent) give Entergy low marks for “competence” –26 percent saying “very low” and 33 percent “somewhat low.”Fewer than one in three (29 percent) give Entergy high marks for competence.
Four out of five state residents (79 percent) have heard about the tritium leaks at Vermont Yankee. Only 20 percent have not.

For complete survey findings, go to http://www.CivilSocietyInstitute.org on the Web.

METHODOLOGY

The Civil Society Institute survey by Opinion Research Corporation was conducted February 19-22, 2010 among a sample of 802 adults comprising 399 men and 403 women 18 years of age and older living in the state of Vermont. Completed interviews are weighted by two variables, age and gender, to ensure reliable and accurate representation of the total state population, 18 years of age and older. The margin of error for results based on the total sample is plus or minus 3 percentage points.

ABOUT THE CIVIL SOCIETY INSTITUTE

Based in Newton, MA., the nonprofit and nonpartisan Civil Society Institute (http://www.CivilSocietyInstitute.org) is a think tank that serves as a catalyst for change by creating problem-solving interactions among people, and between communities, government and business that can help to improve society. Since 2003, CSI has conducted more than 25 major national and state-level surveys and reports on energy and auto issues, including vehicle fuel-efficiency standards, consumer demand for hybrids/other highly-fuel efficient vehicles, global warming and renewable energy. In addition to being a co-convener of CLEAN, the Civil Society Institute also is the parent organization of 40MPG.org (http://www.40MPG.org) and the Hybrid Owners of America (http://www.HybridOwnersofAmerica.org).

CONTACT: Ailis Aaron Wolf, (703) 276-3265 or aaaron@hastingsgroup.com.

EDITOR'S NOTE: A streaming audio recording of this news event will be available on the Web as of 6 p.m. EST on March 1, 2010 at http://www.civilsocietyinstitute.org.