Documentary details citizen effort to close Vt. Yankee via Times Argus

The documentary filmmaker heard in January 2010 that a group of activists were going to walk from Brattleboro to Montpelier — in the winter — to protest the continued operation of the Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Plant.

Leppzer, 58, of Wendell, Massachusetts, already had a film and public radio production to his credit about nuclear power, and he was intrigued about the dedication of people who would make such a 126-mile walk in the dead of winter.


Just as the group of anti-nuclear activists was halfway through its snowy trek came the news from Entergy Nuclear that Vermont Yankee was leaking high levels of radioactive tritium from an unknown source — and the tritium was showing up in monitoring wells on the banks of the Connecticut River.

Gov. Peter Shumlin, one of Yankee’s biggest critics, who was interviewed for the movie, will be on hand at the screening. Leppzer sold the television rights for “Power Struggle” to HBO and the film is slated to be broadcast sometime next year.

Leppzer hopes to raise $200,000 needed to complete the last technical work on the film — sound mix and color correction — as well as pay for a national tour promoting the film. Funding so far has come from Leppzer, HBO and NHK-Japan. Leppzer had earlier finished a shorter version of “Power Struggle” for the Japanese broadcast company.


In 2011, came the Fukushima, Japan, nuclear disaster, and Leppzer’s film about grass-roots democracy and nuclear power became of intense interest to NHK-Japan, the Japanese national public broadcasting network.

The Japanese broadcast company was fascinated by the Vermont grass-roots democracy story — that citizens could and did directly lobby their legislators about their concerns about the aging Vermont Yankee plant, Leppzer said.

Ironically, a day before the Fukushima disaster, the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission had granted Entergy permission to operate Yankee for another 20 years.

A year later, on the day Yankee’s original 40-year license expired in 2011, thousands of people demonstrated in Brattleboro, but the plant kept operating, a major setback for the state and the thousands of activists who had worked for decades to shut down the Vernon reactor.

Despite the closely watched court decision, within weeks, Entergy itself pulled the plug on Yankee.

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