I've seen a few mentions lately of Vermont's state senate voting to not renew the operating license for Vermont Yankee, their major electricity producer for the state*. It's been hinted that this is because it's a similar design to the Fukushima Daiichi reactor that's having major problems since the earthquake and tsunami played with it.
I could *almost* buy into that. It's the kind of reactionary do-something-itis I've come to expect from the wingnuts of the world.
Fortunately, on this here intertubes, verifying information is easy.
Turns out the senate voted to close VT-Yankee two weeks before the Japan 'quake, "citing radioactive leaks, misstatements in testimony by plant officials and other problems." ("Other problems" would include a 2007 collapse of a sluiceway supplying one of the cooling towers.)
I understand the fear of radiation many people have. It's not a topic covered in great depth during any high school class. The concept of something that is invisible, tasteless, odorless, and able to kill you - either dramatically and painfully in the short term, or lingeringly and painfully in the long term - is tough to grasp. Germs? Germs we can see with a decent microscope. We can sanitize, sterilize, wipe down, wash up, and otherwise effectively prevent.
Radiation - not so much. People are afraid because they don't understand it. I will freely admit to a deep-seated unease about radiation. I tense up for something as simple as a dental X-ray, and a CT-scan is simply miserable. ("What if they didn't cover ____? What if the machine malfunctions? What if...?")
Of course, the flip side is - we are a power-hungry society. It has to come from somewhere. Wind power on a large scale is a boondoggle**, hydro requires a reliable high-flow water source, coal/gas/oil are finite resources with dirty byproducts (remember the coal sludge spill in Tennessee?), and biomass is a losing proposition. I believe nuclear power is, at the present time, the only long-term viable option. New plants, in places as carefully sited as possible to avoid environmental hazards. (New Madrid Fault - bad thing...)
* - VT-Yankee produces >70% of the energy in Vermont, but supplies only about 35% of their state usage. Not sure where the balance comes from, other than "the grid".
** - large wind farms are a losing proposition, since they only make power (and therefore money) when the wind is blowing. A small (1-5kW) home set to offset an individual utility bill makes a lot more sense to me.
3 months ago