Book Review: Public Meltdown

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Ben Plotzker

The Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Plant.

The focus on the public’s view of nuclear plant operator Entergy (NYSE:ETR) sets Public Meltdown: The Story of the Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Plant, by Richard Watts apart from other nuclear energy books.  The book avoids pro or anti-nuclear positions, and focus on scientific aspects of the plant, and instead tells the story of one nuclear plant’s journey through history.  That plant is Vermont Yankee, a General Electric (GE) boiling water reactor type, the same type of reactors which were involved in the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster.  Vermont Yankee has a 620 megawatt rated capacity, and is located located in Vernon, VT, near the corner of the state with New Hampshire and Massachusetts.

The science behind nuclear energy is one thing, but the management of a nuclear plant is another. Public Meltdown outlines the management of a nuclear power plant owner in the United States. You will learn so much from this book. It is very important to understand what is allowing my night light to be on or my laptop to charge. There are usually mixed sources of sources for electricity, but which sources are more controversial?

In 2010, Vermont legislators voted to shutter a nuclear power plant, putting the state at odds with the federal government and the plant’s ownerthe Louisiana-based Entergy Corporation (NYSE:ETR).  Public Meltdown explores the debate that roiled Vermont, including the lawsuits and court action that followed. The story starts out with the early days of the plant back in the 1970’s, and draws on more than 1,000 news articles to approach the highly controversial issue with non-bias towards nuclear energy. It is hard to find a book out there that does so like Public Meltdown. Every American citizen who consumes electricity from nuclear generation should read this and understand what is going on with that nuclear power plant.

In rich, well-researched detail, Dr. Watts tells a story that spotlights the role of state governments, citizens and activists in decisions about the nation’s aging nuclear power fleet.  A story that continues today as both Entergy, the nation’s second largest nuclear operator, and the state of Vermont have appealed the case to the U.S. Court of Appeals.

Entergy owns 10 nuclear plants in the U.S., so the issues raised in this book have wider implications beyond just Vermont Yankee.

The book details a series of missteps by the Louisiana-based Entergy Corporation which owns Vermont Yankee, from inadequate follow-up after one of the plant’s cooling towers collapsed to misleading statements to state regulators about tritium leaks from underground pipes.

Each chapter outlines the important aspects of Entergy’s fight to keep the plant open, even though many speed bumps arise. This non fiction book has some cliffhangers of its own because of how history played out. Anyone interested in energy issues or state’s rights is highly recommended to read this book.

Public Meltdown is available on Amazon. You can find more info at


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