Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences

, Volume 2, Issue 2, pp 131-142

First online:

The role of media actors in reframing the media discourse in the decision to reject relicensing the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant

  • Richard WattsAffiliated withTransportation Research Center & Community Development and Applied Economics, University of Vermont Email author 
  • , Jonathan MaddisonAffiliated withFarrell Hall, University of Vermont

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This paper examines 8 years of news media discourse on the operation of the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant leading up to a 2010 vote by Vermont legislators to reject relicensing the facility. Nuclear power license decisions are usually solely under the purview of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission; but Vermont legislators required the facility to also seek approval from the Vermont Legislature, presenting a unique case where state legislators have a direct vote on a nuclear power plant. Over the 8 years of the case study, we find that opposition narratives highlighting an aging, unsafe facility managed by an untrustworthy corporation increased while pro-Vermont Yankee narratives of reliable energy, technical competence, and economic progress decreased. We analyze the changes in the media discourse through examining changes in media frames, the media actors, their sponsorship activities, and the narrative integrity of the frames. These findings are instructive in understanding the factors contributing to changes in the media culture around news coverage of nuclear power.


Nuclear power Media discourse Vermont