Maine voters have not seen the last of Tuesday's statewide referendum aimed at shutting down the Maine Yankee nuclear power plant. Although the referendum was defeated by a nearly 3-to-2 vote, Ray shadis, the activist behind the anti-nuclear effort, went to the secretary of state's office in Maine Wednesday to clear the way for a new petition drive.
By press time, returns showed that some 230,000 voters -- asked at the polls Sept. 23 to ban the generation of electricity by nuclear fission because it "presents an inherent and unreasonable to risk of economic, physical, and mental harm" -- were against the ban. Some 160,000 were in favor.
The ballot drew a record turnout in Maine for a single-issue referendum. The voters represented nearly half of Maine's roughly 700,000 registered voters. Other special elections have seen as few as 15 percent of the voters.
Rep. James Tierney, majority leader in Maine's House of Representatives, says , "The vote was the most extreme anti-nuclear vote in the country. This thing simply said we're going to pull the plug tomorrow. Of every 10 Maine voters, four said the plant should close down, six thought it should stay open."
he expects a bill to be introduced in the next legislative session to prohibit new nuclear plant construction.
Mr. Shadis aims to restart the defeated drive against the Maine Yankee by collecting the 30,000 signatures needed outside polling places on Nov. 4.
One the signatures are in hand, it is uncertain how soon the matter can return to the ballot since the Legislature must first consider the petition and a four-to six-month waiting period is then required for a special election.
However, it could be considerably longer, since a pending amendment to the state constitution would require that all initiative measures be on a regular or special-election ballot rather than at other times. This could stave off the anti-nuclear referendum for another year and perhaps until november 1982.
Donald Fontaine, lawyer and adviser to the Maine Nuclear Referendum Committee , says, "As months and years go by nuclear plants aren't going to get more popular. The more the people learn, the less they like it."
But the Central Maine Power Company, which owns the largest share of Maine Yankee, drew a different conclusion:
"[Voters] confirmed that Maine Yankee is an important part of their energy future and that we must continue to operate as a safe, clean, and economical source of electricity . . . . We view this expression of the epople's choice as nothing more and nothing less than an endorsement to keep Maine Yankee operating . . . ."
Maine Yankee achieved its victory with the help of campaign support from such out-of-state companies as Westinghouse, who contributed $50,000: General Electric Company, which sent $30,000; and Stone & Webster, a nuclear engineering firm in Massachusetts, which gave $20,000.