MY TURN - February, 2007
By Hattie Nestel
Navigation Bar

  Entergy's aggressive media blitz throughout Vermont portrays Vermont Yankee's energy as clean, green and reliable. Full-page ads and paid public relations consultants are everywhere.

  However all the ads in the world and all the glib PR spokespersons don't make any of it true.

  Nuclear power is dangerous. Every nuclear reactor releases radioactive substances into the air, water, and biosphere. "Each day, a nuclear reactor releases more than 100 chemicals into the air," states Joseph Mangano, national coordinator of the Radiation and Public Health Project, RPHP. Some of these chemicals are radioactive like Iodine 131, strontium 90 and cesium 137. These radioactive emissions accumulate in the biosphere and remain highly toxic for hundreds of thousands of years. There is no level of exposure to ionizing radiation at which the human body is said to be safe. (National Academy of Science BEIR V11 report). Radioactive releases can do damage to our cells, and such cellular mutations can be passed down from generation to generation through sperm, ovum, mother's milk or the food chain.

  The words, "low-level radiation" do not appear on Entergy's ads and are not mentioned by their PR promoters. However, we need to understand what low level radiation is and what it means for our health and the health of our children. "Even more than the cancer is the threat to future generations. That's what you ought to be really afraid of. It's the genetic damage, the possibility of sowing bad seeds into the gene pool from which future generations are drawn. There will be a buildup of defective genes into the population. It won't be noticed until it's too late. Then we'll never root it out. Never get rid of it. It will be totally irrevocable," stated Alice Stewart, a British medical doctor and epidemiologist whose published studies raised awareness about the effects of low-level radiation on genes. (See Gayle Greene's The Woman who Knew too Much; Alice Stewart and the Secrets of Radiation)

  Every nuclear power plant originates with mining uranium to fuel the reactor. Mining, processing and transporting uranium and building the facility are fossil fuel dependent. Decommissioning the radioactive building and storing and managing the highly radioactive waste will be fossil fuel dependent. It is folly to say that nuclear power creates no fossil fuel emissions.

  As the uranium undergoes the fission process in the reactor core it becomes one billion times more radioactive. Vermont Yankee now has over 35 million curies of cesium 137 in its spent fuel reactor pool seventy feet in the air, outside containment under a simple tin roof. Compare that to 2,000 curies of cesium 137 released by the Hiroshima bomb and the danger becomes much easier to grasp. A single spent fuel rod is so radioactive that a person standing near it will receive a lethal dose of radiation within seconds.

  Twenty years of planning and $9 billion dollars have been poured into creating a radioactive waste repository at Yucca Mountain in Nevada. However, it is well acknowledged that Yucca Mountain has too many geological problems to store this dangerous waste and is not a viable option. Therefore, Vermont must deal with its own waste for the foreseeable future.

  Water poses another major problem for Vermont Yankee which, like every nuclear reactor depends on an immense supply of water to cool the reactor and spent fuel pool. Each day Vermont Yankee takes in about 20,000 gallons of water a minute from the Connecticut River. Only 5,000 gallons of that return to the river. The other water is emitted as steam from the cooling stack. The heat level of water returned to the river threatens fish and fauna downstream. A court case is underway-challenging Vermont Yankee's releases of high temperature water into the Connecticut River.

  How can we be certain that the effects of global warming will not compromise the water quantity available to Vermont Yankee from the Connecticut River? Will agricultural or drinking water needs in future years have to be sacrificed so that Vermont Yankee can cool its reactor cool and avoid a catastrophic disaster? Without millions of gallons of water required to cool the reactor, Vermont Yankee can not continue to operate. This is hardly a reliable or dependable source of energy.

  What about accidents? No nuclear power plant can be certified as accident free. Risks of human and mechanical error are always a possibility. Vermont Yankee at 34 years old is antiquated. As equipment corrodes, cracks and wears out, the accident risk increases greatly. Most old reactors have already closed down.

  Aware of the inherent risks of nuclear reactors, no insurance company will provide insurance for our homes or businesses due a nuclear accident. If an accident should occur hundreds of thousands of us will have to flee with nothing but the clothes on our backs.

  Let's get real. If we want electricity, why not fund sources that do not pose the dangers inherent in nuclear power? Sustainable green sources like wind, solar and small hydro are viable options that need state subsidies to be affordable and available to the average person. Carbon dioxide emissions are mainly caused through the transportation industry. Lets subsidize energy efficient cars and mass transportation. Conservation of homes, schools and businesses can create local industries and cut our needs for much of the fossil fuels we use to heat our homes and municipal buildings. Energy efficiency can decrease usage by between 25 per cent and 45 per cent. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory report shows that 99 per cent to 124 per cent of the nation's electricity can be supplied by renewables by 2020. Wind power is now a sophisticated industry, growing worldwide from 25 per cent to 35 per cent per year. The United States is lagging behind much of the world because wind, solar, and energy efficiencies are barely funded in this country. We need to change that.

  Instead of spending billions of taxpayer dollars to subsidize the nuclear industry while it rakes in multi-millions in annual profits, let's fund safe, truly sustainable alternatives and create local, cost effective energy. Having sustainables in place will assure that our needs will still be met when Vermont Yankee is decommissioned on or before its license expires in 2012.

  Decommissioning Vermont Yankee, managing millions of curies of radioactive spent fuel rods on-site and securing it for the next million years is more than enough of burden for future generations to inherit.

  Hattie Nestel, a member of Citizens Awareness Network,, lives in Massachusetts twenty miles south of Vermont Yankee.


To download an RTF copy click here.

Site Indexes
FootPrints For
Peace Home
Site Search










Submit Feedback
 It would be wise to edit your text in a .txt work file and then copy and paste it into the form text box. You could lose it if you forget to include the required fields or have some sort of blocking software that will not allow you to post to this form.

 Your name may be used but your email address will not be published.
Your Name (required)

Your Email:

Your Feedback Text (required)