by Hattie Nestel
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  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 VII report). Radioactive releases, which travel freely in the air or water can kill or mutate our cells. Cellular mutations cause diseases, mental retardation, infertility, leukemia and serious birth defects. Genetic mutations pass from generation to generation through sperm, ovum, mother's milk or the foodchain.

  Entergy's ads do not mention low-level radiation releases into our air and water. However, credible scientists like Rachel Carson, Linus Pauling and Andrei Sakharov knew about the dangers posed by exposure to radiation and have tried to warn us through their writings for decades. Alice Stewart, a medical doctor and epidemiologist raised awareness about the effects of low-level radiation on genes through extensive surveys she conducted in Great Britain states, "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 never root it out. Never get rid of it. It will be totally irrevocable." See Gayle Greene's The Woman who Knew too Much; Alice Stewart and the Secrets of Radiation)

  Entergy's ads neglect to mention how the entire nuclear chain, beginning with the mining of uranium to fuel the reactor is fossil fuel dependent. Building the reactor with massive quantities of concrete and steel is, of course, fossil fuel dependent. Decommissioning the radioactive building, storing and managing the highly radioactive waste requires fossil fuel. It is folly to say that nuclear power creates no fossil fuel emissions. Carbon dioxide emissions produced by mining uranium in the southwest and transporting the materials around the country are certainly NOT green!

  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. Spent fuel is so radioactive that a person standing near it will receive a lethal dose of radiation within seconds.

  Wanting to get rid of the on-site waste is wishful thinking. 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 radioactive waste and is not a viable option. Vermont Yankee, along with every other reactor in the country, must deal with its own waste, on-site, for the foreseeable future.

  Every nuclear reactor depends on an immense supply of water to cool the reactor and spent fuel pool. 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 hot 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. Of course, Entergy omits water dependency in their PR.

  Can we be certain that the effects of global warming will not reduce the water supply in 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 to cool the reactor, Vermont Yankee cannot 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.

  Nuclear accidents are not covered by our homeowners policies. An accident will send hundreds of thousands of us fleeing with nothing but the clothes on our backs.

  Let's get real. If we want electricity, why not fund safe sustainable, renewable sources like wind, solar and small hydro?

  Carbon dioxide emissions are mainly caused through the transportation industry. To cut CO2 emmissions energy efficient cars and mass transportation are urgently needed. Conservation for homes, schools and businesses can create local industries and cut our needs for much of the fossil fuels we use to heat our 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 percent 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 and guarding it for the next million years or so, creates a significant burden for future generations. Enough is enough! Lobby your legislators to vote a resounding No for twenty-year relicensing of Vermont Yankee.

  Hattie Nestel, a member of Citizens Awareness Network, CAN, lives in Athol,Massachusetts twenty miles south of Vermont Yankee. She participates in a non-violent campaign and has been arrested several times with others at Entergy headquarters and the Vermont Yankee facility with her SHUT IT DOWN affinity group. CAN is available to speak to interested communities about this issue.


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