View from Vermont

September 27, 2010, 10:00AMANS Nuclear CafeMeredith Angwin

Announcing the Energy Education Project

The landscape in Vermont has not seemed friendly to pro-nuclear advocates recently. Nuclear opponents have had a lock on forming "citizens groups" around here.

Or at least, they did until today.

Today we launch the Energy Education Project of the Ethan Allen Institute.

I am chief cook and bottlewasher for the project.

We plan to affect Vermont's future energy supply by providing people in the state accurate and timely information about the sources of electricity.

The Desperate Need for Accurate Information

Peter Shumlin, president pro tempore of the Vermont Senate, appeared on Fox News last spring and told the entire nation that "Germany gets 30 percent of its juice" from solar. Naturally, I put the video clip on my Yes Vermont Yankee blog.

Shumlin has led the charge against relicensing Vermont Yankee. Clearly, his understanding of energy sources is pretty weak. He was making energy decisions for the state with completely erroneous ideas about the ability of solar  to provide power in a northern climate. Germany gets about 1 percent of its power from solar.

Shumlin is not alone in his misconceptions. National surveys, including those done by Bisconti Research, show that people overestimate the contributions of solar and wind to the current and future electricity supply. This is also true in Vermont, but this is not by chance. Dedicated anti-nuclear groups are always on hand with glossy brochures with wind turbines on the front and scare stories about nuclear inside. The state is blanketed with such brochures.

What Can We Do About It?

For a long time, I had been writing letters to the editor, going to public hearings with Howard Shaffer, an expert in public outreach and a member of the American Nuclear Society's Public Information Committee. Howard is also a regular contributor to this View from Vermont blog column.

Howard and I appeared at so many hearings that many people thought we were married. (We are, but not to each other!) Still, everything we were doing didn't seem like enough.

In January of this year, I started blogging at Yes Vermont Yankee.

GlobeThis has been helpful. The Yes Vermont Yankee blog has been a good resource for plant supporters and for the press, but it also hasn't been enough. With seven "local groups" raising funds and fighting Vermont Yankee, the usual news report "he-said, she-said" looks like this:

Joe of Save Our State from Nuclear accuses Vermont Yankee of (fill in the blank).

A plant spokesman denies it.

Not a very satisfying exchange.

The Energy Education Project

The Ethan Allen Energy Education Project plans to change false perceptions about nuclear energy in Vermont.

We have a clear plan of action, consisting of Education, Support, and Fellowship.


We will have straight, no-nonsense information about energy reality and energy options. It may not be glossy, but it will be accurate.

Our first meeting is at the Montshire Museum of Science, on Thursday, September 30.  Please consider attending this Open House event!

There will be two presentations:

  • Understanding ISO-NE (the local grid dispatcher)
  • The history of Vermont Yankee


For a small fee, you can become a member of the Energy Education Project and support education and outreach about energy, and especially about nuclear energy.

We accept donations of other amounts as well.

Please go to the Membership page of the Energy Education Project and join today!

The Energy Education Project is a charitable, educational not-for-profit.  All donations and memberships are fully tax-deductible.

Why do we need this? Let me give you a personal example.

I went to my town meeting with materials to explain the benefits of Vermont Yankee. Howard and I had written the material and copied it at our own expense, which we are used to doing. We had received some good material from national organizations, but it was not specific to Vermont Yankee. We were faced with stacks of glossy "Shut Down Yankee" brochures filled with anti-nuclear rhetoric that sacrificed scientific fact for science fiction.

This should not continue. Help us tell people the truth about nuclear energy.


I didn't have glossy brochures at the town meeting, but I did have a good time.

Some people hugged me for being there. Many people support nuclear! In fact, national surveys show that a majority of U.S. citizens support nuclear ... but surveys also show that individuals do not think that their friends and neighbors support nuclear energy. We need to spread the word!

People at the town meeting had never seen anybody show up at a meeting with something pro-nuclear, even something as thin as our little handouts. Some said, "I've always been for nuclear." Others explained, "My brother was in the nuclear Navy."

These pro-nuclear people had nobody to encourage and strengthen their support. We will have get-togethers that help people be comfortable supporting nuclear energy. In fellowship there is power, because you don't feel alone.

If anti-nuclear groups can serve coffee and brownies to their adherents, so can we. I think that as an industry, we have underestimated the importance of this.

The Future

We are starting a grass-roots organization to support nuclear energy. With any luck, it will help Vermont Yankee win the public perception battle.

If Vermont Yankee doesn't get its license, the opponents, flushed with victory, will move down to the next plant facing relicensing. Then they will move further south. They have stated this already.

That is why the Energy Education Project in Vermont is so important right now.

We are starting something new here.

Something that can make a difference.

Something that can be a model for other states.

Please think about joining. Or at least, wish us luck!

Meredith Angwin

Meredith Angwin is the founder of Carnot Communications, which helps firms to communicate technical matters. She specialized in mineral chemistry as a graduate student at the University of Chicago. Later, she led geothermal research projects and was a Project Manager in the geothermal group at the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI).  She is an inventor on several patents.  Angwin serves as a commissioner in the Hartford Energy Commission, Hartford, Vermont

Angwin is a long-time member of the American Nuclear Society and Coordinator of the Energy Education Project.

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