VERNON — Two men who wanted to “go exploring” at the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant were arrested and charged with trespassing as they were trying to get into the restricted area at the closed plant.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission and Entergy Nuclear said the trespassing by the two area men did not constitute a security breach.

The men, Zacharie E. Hart, 22, of Springfield; and Tyler Welch, 20, of Hinsdale, N.H., were detained by Vermont Yankee security and arrested by the Windham County Sheriff ’ s Department on July 9, shortly before 6 p.m.

The Sheriff’s Department issued a news release about the trespassing Monday, two weeks after the incident.

Sgt. Chris Norton of the Sheriff’s Department said Monday the two men had heard that the nuclear plant was closed down.

“They wanted to explore it. They went past the front gate and climbed over another fence,” Norton said.

Neil Sheehan, a spokesman for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, said the men were apprehended by plant security as they were trying to “squeeze through” a section of the fence.

Entergy is in the process of transferring Vermont Yankee’s spent nuclear fuel from the plant’s spent fuel pool to a storage pad on the northern end of the plant grounds.

The two men walked past the main gate, thereby trespassing onto the site, Sheehan said.

“There are ‘no trespassing’ signs advising those who proceed past the main gate without authorization to not proceed farther. They were detected by site security when they attempted to squeeze through an outer fence separating the ownercontrolled area from the protected area,” Sheehan wrote in an email.

“This means they were still outside any sensitive areas at the facility,” he said. “At no point did they pose a threat to the plant.”

“At no time was there any impact on the safety or health of our employees or the public,” Entergy spokesman Joe Lynch added.

He said the two men were observed by security trespassing on the “clearly marked private property” and law enforcement was notified.

Sheehan noted Vermont Yankee does not staff the main gate at the entrance to the plant, and is not required by the NRC to do so.

“The NRC continues to conduct security inspections at Vermont Yankee, consistent with a plant that is in a decommissioning status,” he said.

Last year, anti-nuclear activist Clay Turnbull of the New England Coalition was arrested and charged with trespassing as he was doing research about the proposed site for the storage of spent nuclear fuel. The charges against Turnbull, who was accompanied by his dog Chiclett, dragged on for months before being dropped.

“Zacherie and Tyler’s Big Day Out! The main gate is practically an attractive nuisance,” said New England Coalition spokesman Ray Shadis, who said he witnessed — during a tour at Yankee a few weeks ago — visitors driving right past the gate house instead of stopping at the Gov. Hunt House, the information center for Vermont Yankee.

“They did not realize they had gone past the Gov. Hunt House until they hit the funnel of vehicular barriers,” he said. “(Entergy) really should post a few no-trespassing signs at whatever boundary they don’t want trespassed.”

susan.smallheer @rutlandherald.com

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