Senior women arrested in Vermont protest

VY protesters disappointed

By BOB AUDETTE

 

BRATTLEBORO -- The four women who were arrested Monday for 

entering the gates of Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant to protest 

the plant’s operation were cited for unlawful trespass and released 

shortly after being taken into custody.

 

Even though some of the women have been arrested at the gates 

up to seven times, those charges were all dropped prior to a court 

hearing. Arrested were Harriet "Hattie" Nestel, 70, of Athol, Mass., 

Ellen Graves, 69, of West Springfield, Mass., Frances Crowe, 90, 

of Northampton, Mass., and Patricia "Paki" Weiland, 66, also of 

Northampton.

 

Nestel said having the charges dropped against them is 

"very frustrating."

 

"We want to be able to testify in court on the reasons we were 

there and why what we did is really a preventative action," she 

said, during a telephone interview on Tuesday. "To save lives. 

We want to be able to say that up front in court."

 

The Windham County State’s Attorney’s office, which decides

 which cases should proceed to the courts, has declined to 

press charges because it doesn’t want the court to be used 

to make political statements.

 

In the past, Nestel and others have been arrested for spray-painting 

anti-nuclear slogans on the pavement leading up to the security 

gate and for chaining themselves together to prevent people 

from entering the plant grounds.

 

They have been protesting at the site since 2005, said Nestel.

 

"There’s a great urgency and a great need for people to go there

 and shut it down," said Nestel. "This is very serious and dangerous. 

Nothing will change there until there is enough of a public outcry."

 

Even though all of the women are from Massachusetts, said Nestel, 

they have a right to protest at the gates of the power plant. After all, 

she said, the plant is only a few miles from the Massachusetts border.

 

"We are much more endangered by Vermont Yankee than most 

everybody else in the state of Vermont," she said, describing the 

10-mile emergency planning zone around the plant as 

"completely arbitrary."

 

Any plume of radiation that would come from the plant if an accident 

were to happen would be guided by the wind and would have no 

respect for the 10-mile emergency preparedness zone.

 

"Nobody is really safe from this plant," said Nestel.

 

Emergency radios are issued for free to residents in the EPZ, she 

said, and sirens are located in all of the towns in the EPZ. But if 

you live 11 miles away from the plant or 111 miles away, she said, 

you really have no idea what to do if there is an accident at the plant.

 

"We have no protection," said Nestel.

 

She also said people from who live outside of the EPZ have a

 right to protest at the plant because of the heated water that 

Yankee discharges into the Connecticut River. 

 

"Only four and a half miles of the river is in Vermont," she said,

 with the rest being in Massachusetts and Connecticut. "We get the dead fish."

 

Bob Audette can be reached at raudette@reformer.com, or at 802-254-2311, ext. 273.