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Trespassing At Vermont Yankee

Meredith Angwin's picture
Carnot Communications

Former project manager at Electric Power Research Institute. Chemist, writer, grandmother, and proponent of nuclear energy.

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Clay Turnbull
Photo by Meredith Angwin from post in 2010

A Trespassing Incident

On March 4, long-time anti-nuclear activist Clay Turnbull was cited for trespassing at Vermont Yankee. Turnbull is a trustee and staffer at the New England Coalition (NECN), a long-time antinuclear group that has been fighting Vermont Yankee for decades.

According to a Mike Faher article on the incident, Vermont Yankee security summoned the sheriff’s department because a “man with a camera was within the perimeter  hiding along the inside fence line.”  Turnbull claims he was not hiding, but merely crouching down to take photos.  Turnbull wanted to take pictures of the proposed dry cask storage area, to show it was more visible than Entergy claims.

Turnbull also claims that he did not know he was on Vermont Yankee property, since he had not crossed a fence. Turnbull also asserts that he has been on the site numerous times, and is “quite familiar” with the site.

Turnbull was not a lone wolf at the site.  He was alone,  but he had been sent to Vermont Yankee by his organization.  In an article by Robert Audette at the Brattleboro Reformer, Ray Shadis of the New England Coalition said that he was unsatisfied with existing pictures of the proposed dry cask storage area. Shadis said: “Clay got some photos at about 200 feet, through the old switchyard, which we assume will be gone with decommissioning, showing plainly that what Dodson (of Entergy) said was fiction. I asked Clay to return to see if there were clear views from any other vantage points along the fence. Apparently Yankee now features multiple lines of fence.”

So, a man is sent by his organization to take pictures at Vermont Yankee.  The man claims to be very familiar with the site, and also completely unaware that he is trespassing.

Vermont Yankee Reacts

Well, Vermont Yankee reacted at the time of the trespass.  Spokesman Marty Cohn was quoted in the Faher article at VTDigger: Cohn said that Turnbull’s actions put the plant into a high-security alert.  By the nature of security and security alerts, Cohn could not elaborate much more on the plant’s reaction to the trespasser.

Meredith Reacts

In some ways, this whole incident is just plain funny.  In other ways, not so funny.  These are grown men in an anti-nuclear organization. As part of their role in that organization, one of them tells the other to get better pictures.  Their actions cause a security alert.

This is not about a little boy trying to get down to the river to do some fishing.  This is not about a casual trespass. This action was discussed and planned, within the organization.

Meredith Makes a Suggestion

My suggestion is as follows.  On the day that Turnbull is found guilty of trespass, even if he gets nothing but a reprimand—on that day, Entergy should sue the New England Coalition for the expenses caused by the security alert.  Entergy shouldn’t sue for punitive damages or anything like that. That would look mean.  Entergy should  just sue for compensatory damages for the extra expenses caused by the alert.  At the same time, Entergy should ask for a restraining order against members of NECN approaching Entergy property.

I mean, the people from NECN admit that there was an organizational plan, discussed between two members of the organization, to take these pictures. Turnbull admits to being very familiar with Vermont Yankee. Then he trespassed.  In my opinion, Vermont Yankee has both the law and the facts on their side, and they should bring suit.

NECN should absolutely pay the cost of the security alert.
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A Little About the Two Players

In the section above, I mention Ray Shadis and Clay Turnbull.  Their names have appeared before in this blog.

In a blog post a few days ago, I shared a quote from Ray Shadis, a quote that originally appeared in the Rutland Herald.  In this quote, Shadis suggested that Entergy should buy a gravel pit across town from the plant, and store spent fuel underground at that gravel pit.

Clay Turnbull has also appeared in this blog.   In a post last year, Opponents Claim That Vermont Yankee is More Dangerous Than Ever, I quote Turnbull.  He had written that,  although the NRC plans no further meetings in Brattleboro after February 2015,  “Each time Entergy requests a licence amendment or exemption from regulations is an opportunity for the public to challenge that action with all parties under oath…”

Meredith Angwin's picture
Thank Meredith for the Post!
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